Monday, October 8, 2007

The one in which I realize I am a secretly a victim of society

A (relevant) preamble- Unlike seemingly most women my age, I do believe I am not fat. Sure, there are a few wobbly bits I would prefer were a little more, um, solid, and I may focus on my stomach in photos more than anyone else does. Sure, I have put on the seemingly requisite female early-20s extra poundage (no one tells you about it, but it is a damn fact!). However, in my case, that is not necessarily a bad thing, as I was really, really skinny in high school. Like 100 pounds with no ass skinny. While I do have to watch what I eat a little more, and I miss the days of guilt-free donuts, I generally believe that having an ass is a good thing, and I've never been on a diet. I have hovered around a size 6 for the past few years, and my BMI (as faulty of a measure as that would be) is smack dab in the healthy range.

This apparent confidence doesn't extend as far below the surface as I believed. Yesterday, after giving my grandfather a hug when he came over for Thanksgiving dinner, he proclaimed loudly, with a chuckle, that it appeared as though I had gained weight.

I had never been called fat (or has such things implied) before, and I wasn't prepared for its sting. While I tried to shoot off a nonchalant comment back, and my mother chided him, I actually found myself fighting back tears. For the next hour I both concentrated on how to best cover my stomach from all possible angles, as well as planning how to fit a full scale fitness plan (and further cut back calories) into my already packed life. I felt a new sense of insecurity undressing in front of my boyfriend that night.

It bothers me how easy it was to shake my sense of self-assurance. I'm surprised that such an off-the-cuff remark grabbed me at such a visceral level. It really is ridiculous that a comment about something I should know to be untrue, and really should matter less than negative comments directed at something more core to my sense of self, like an insult regarding my intellect or morality, can smart that badly. I don't want to be one of those girls who seeks constant reassurance on such a seemingly silly matter.

Even more bothersome is the the simple fact that despite thinking I am an intelligent and critical consumer of the mass media and pop culture, it affects me at the same gut level as everyone else. And maybe it isn't that I really am confident and thoughtful about the issue, but rather the simple fact that I have never been the direct target of it before, which is especially disconcerting.

25 comments:

eric1313 said...

Nobody around this neck of the woods likes twiggy supermodels or the look of their baby back ribs.

I'm sure that if he thought it would affect you as strongly as it did, he wouldn't have said that. Almost nobody is happy with their bodies, a lot of the people who work out every day aren't ever happy with their body, even if all the social evidence should tell them otherwise.

Shame on mass media manipulation for distorting the popular view of 'who' should look like 'what'.

Princess of the Universe said...

Like eric said- no one is ever happy with how they look. I look back on photos of me at 20 now, and I am shocked. I was so freakin' thin and gorgeous! Did I know it at the time? No. Do I think I'm gorgeous now? No.

It seems like you generally have a pretty healthy attitude about your looks though, so hopefully that unexpected comment will lost a bit of its sting within a few days...

Psychgrad said...

Grandparents seem to have a way of making off handed comments without any idea of their effects. My grandmother just told my 18 year old female cousin that she needs to be careful of diabetes.

I wonder if it would be as benign as noticing that someone had dyed their hair if being thin wasn't so idealized in our culture.

Ant said...

It is so weird how throwaway comments about physical appearance have such an effect. I've recently learned that I've something similar going on - my friend has inspired me to attempt some kind of wardrobe upgrade, and now I'm thinking that my previous "deliberate" scruffy appearance was actually a bit of a facade to cover an insecurity I have there. Yet like you describe, if someone were to try and take a pop at, say, my intelligence, I'd laugh them right out of town.

Perhaps you were just shocked because the comment came out of nowhere? Going by the preamble, I suspect you have little to worry about (aside from the additional stress that the comment caused...)

captain corky said...

The media is fucked up and so are people about weight. It's so annoying already. Still, I could stand to lose a couple of pounds...

When I look in the mirror I look great, but then sometimes when I see a picture of myself I can't believe how fat I've gotten.

Lisa said...

Here's some random trivia: It's a regular Filipino way of greeting people, funnily enough. After saying hi, hello, you move on to: You gained weight! or My god, you're FAT. After a while, you start to tune it out.

I've yet to meet someone who's completely happy with the way they look. Even the really skinny ones.

...BeccaLynn said...

I COMPLETELY know where you're coming from. I used to be 103lbs all the way through high school. After school, I stopped running EVERY day and still ate whatever the hell I wanted. I've hovered from 4-6 for the past 3ish year. But last year my grandmother took me shopping and bought me a few things. She bought me this outfit in size 4, I think. Anyway, she emailed me later and said that I should take that outfit back and get the next biggest size.
I was completely thrown for a loop. I mean, I know I've gained weight, but GEEZ. DID YOU HAVE TO SAY IT LIKE THAT?!

I think it was most disconcerting because I'd been TEENY, TINY with no curves what-so-ever, and I kind of liked my curves. Liked being able to have cleavage when before I hardly needed a bra. (TMI? ;-) ) So for her to say it like that, to insinuate that I was even too fat for an outfit that I thought I looked good in.

So, I know exactly what you're going through. When you are one way your whole life and then someone who is supposed to love you points out that that ain't the way of it anymore. Yeah. It rattles that foundation that you had had for so long.

Beth said...

I like to think of myself as immune to trendy cultural dictates but I suspect no one is. I once had my hair cut and someone commented, "Is that the way you wanted it to look?"
How bloody insensitive.
Anyway, you seem to possess a healthy sense of self-worth. Shrug off those remarks as soon as you can and go back to being "you." That's what I do. Feelings might be momentarily hurt but I'll stick with what I know and like about myself.

Sheila said...

Even when we do not believe the stereotypes the media presents us with, the images and all that goes along with them are imprinted in our minds. In your right mind, you know you are not fat, and for someone else to suggest anything else to you made you doubt yourself. No one is totally immune to public opinion, we as humans are social creatures.
What matters is that you are comforatable with yorself.

Mim said...

Ugh! I go through this too! I'm all "I love my body" one day and then says something very minute and I'm all "don't look at me, I'm a monster!"

brandy said...

It alarming how one comment can knock down everything that you feel about yourself- that's something that I can relate to. My grandmother used to do the same thing about my hair (which sounds like it would be trivial, but she really voiced strong opinions about it infront of large groups). I remember spending much of the time around her holding my head at weird angles, or tucking it all behind my ears to not draw attention to it. Now I think back and giggle, I had a blonde bob, how can that be offensive?? It sounds like (other than the comment from gramps) you feel pretty good about yourself, so remember WHY you do and let the comment slide. I promise, you will look back on it one day and giggle. At least I did.;)

the frog princess said...

I ride in the same boat with you. I like my body and sure, there are spots that jiggle a bit more than I would like, but hey, I actually have BOOBS now and I certainly didn't in high school! I fluctuate from a 4 to an 8, depending on which area of my body we're trying to get the clothing on... and i'm good with that.

Yet the other day I found a photo of myself when I was 16, wearing just a leotard and in a ballet pose and all I could think was "holy crap, I used to be f***ing PERFECT!"

Yet when I relayed this comment to a friend, I got a somewhat cold response that she'd love to have my body and doesn't know what I could mean about this "perfect" thing.

It's all a matter of perspective.

Crushed by Ingsoc said...

I'm trying to convert Stones to Pounds here...
OK, I'm 160 pounds- ish.

I admit, i am still a little conscious of my weiht, at one time I was a little anorexic- just a little.

Ashley said...

No one likes the way they look, theres ALWAYS going to be something they want to change. My mom ALWAYS reminds me about my stomach, telling me to "suck it in". I've learned to deal with it.

Honestly, we can work and work and work and diet all we want but is that going to make us happy? Probably not. We will never achieve our version of perfection because the minute we tone those abs, the ass is giong to be looking a little flabby, or the thighs too big....arms....you get the picture :-)

But oh man do i miss those guilt free donuts...

Yoda said...

Oh, you HAVE to see the Seinfeld episode when Christine hooks up with a guy who's known for bad breakups. When he breaks up with Christine, he makes an off-the-cuff remark that her head is "big". LOL! That gets to her like nothing else does! I think she ends up stabbing him on the forehead after letting that one stew for a couple of days ;-)

Airam said...

Sometimes it's not what is said but who is saying it.

...BeccaLynn said...

You know what's totally crazy? You weren't projecting at all. You were so freaking spot on that it verged on creepy. Hehe..
How in the WORLD did you get so wise at such a young age?

Lord Chimmy said...

As a rule, grandparents always say crazy shite. My grandma always told me (like every chance she got) that I was too skinny, and needed to eat more.

"You look unhealthy. You need to eat."

Indiana James said...

It's painful sometimes when we manage to get derailed by something that was never meant to hurt from a source that could never hurt.

I think we are so well guarded to all the crap that we know to be out there that when we are around things that are supposed to be normal and comforting, we let our guards down.

We all have our insecurities, hell, I was born to be short and Asian for crying out loud! I jest, my point being is that we all have our little personal worries that we let bother us for whatever reasons. We just have to be strong in our self belief. Though the outside world is always trying its damn best to tell us we're not meant to be comfortable in our own skin.

Btw, in Victoria now, in BC till Tuesday. :P

david mcmahon said...

G'day from Oztralia,

Body shape is irrelevant. Fitness and health are the things that matter.

I see you live in Canada. I have had the pleasure of photographing your country for the Canadian Tourism Commission.

Cheers

David

libby said...

aww i hate it when the most off hand remark can cut you down like that. i've had y fair share of those...even from my dad...who just doesn't realize Hey! it HURTS when you say that.

chin up though...and if you just want to eat better for your health go for it...but there's no nneed to try and lose weight.

Cindy said...

I think you're plenty smart and plenty aware. But yeah, it smarts. You would have probably been fighting back a hell of a lot more tears if someone in your family had given you a hug and said, "Hey! So good to see you! You know, you don't look quite so smart as used to."

You are incredibly smart, and self-aware, and you write beautifully. You love your family and your friends and you take gorgeous pictures and you have great taste in music.

Fat schmat. You're the bomb.

cdp said...

ps, that was me. no idea why blogger showed my name and not my blogger name. strange.

smooches!

UBERMOUTH said...

I was the opposite in my 20's bieng quite thin.The metabolism doesn't really take a dip until the 30's.
Old people can be so thoughtless.

Ultra Toast Mosha God said...

Princess, he's a grandfather.

They can't make head nor tail of anything.

On another day, he might mistake you for a raccoon or something.

Sh*t.

Am I going to get into trouble for saying that?