You’re So Skinny! Compliment or Critique?
Recently a friend called me skinny and it could not mistaken as a compliment. First I noted that my weight is unchanged and I was told that it shows on my face. Then I reflected on the inappropriateness of the discussion. These are not necessarily kind words. Even when they are offered up in gentle spirits.
From a young age we are trained to never tell our friends they look fat or chubby or thick. Perhaps there should be some training for talking to fit and trim girls?
Note: it’s absurd that I’m the woman defending the “skinny girls” it’s not how I self-identify but it’s a group that every mother of a teenager recognizes as being an undeserving punching bag.
Sometimes when women are overly critical or snarky I remind myself to be compassionate as I’m likely witnessing their own insecurities bleeding into conversation. However, I find the older I get the less tolerant I am of bad behavior in adults. This recent encounter left me wanting to scream, “We’ve lived half our lives already. Don’t you know better than to be a mean girl?” Instead I defended my weight.
Sometimes being ladylike is freeing, this event made it feel like a burden.
I’ve worked hard to make myself into the friend that offers a safe place. We are what we do, what we say, how we live, how we give, love and care for the world, and the people around us.
At age 49 I exercise a lot, seven days a week. Exercise reduces my anxiety and stress levels. One of the added benefits of daily exercise is that it helps me keep my weight where it ought to be, and that’s according to my doctor, not a fashion magazine editor.
In April I’ll be turning 50. 50 is a big milestone for me and though I embrace it I have to admit to not being entirely thrilled by it. My father died at 70 and my mother at 74. This makes me thoughtful about the last third of my life. I work to maintain my health, and like many people there is a fair amount of damage from my 20’s to make amends for.
As we hit midlife our bodies go through a lot of changes. We acquire some smile lines, grey hair, are more vulnerable to injuries, weight gain, and illnesses. Many of my friends use Botox and fillers and though I think they look fantastic without, it makes them feel good. I tried them and let’s just say that the results were not flattering. I want to use injectables, I just don’t get the desired results. We get a new body every decade or so and have to find out how best we want to feed it, clothe it and care for it.
Ultimately I know that we have to accept ourselves for who we are and how we look. Our moods and how we live and maneuver though the world should not be contingent upon what the scale says or how many wrinkles we do or don’t have. I certainly want my daughter to know that. I seldom, if ever, discuss dieting or my own weight in front of my daughter. I want to gift her the ability to focus on being the best possible version of herself. That version includes being caring, loving, strong, smart, giving, diligent, hardworking, and resilient.
I don’t see a scenario where my daughter’s best version of herself is measured in her hip size, so why would I punish myself or my girlfriends with such an absurd tool for assessment?
We don’t celebrate women of every size and age in America, and perhaps even less so in Los Angeles. I understand frustration with being a little overweight and many women over 35 knows what it’s like to have to work doubly hard for a flat stomach. But those skinny girls? Who hasn’t heard (or muttered) the phrase “Skinny Bitch”?
If you want to avoid being a midlife mean girl let me give you some options. Instead of, “You’re so skinny!” try something like, “You look so fit.” And if it’s a real friend you’d say something more meaningful like, “I’m so happy to see you. How are you?” It’s best to leave the discussions of anyone’s weight to their doctors and dietitians. “You’re so skinny!” is not a compliment, it’s a cut down.