I am 5’5″ 105 pounds. Since high school I have had Ulcerative Colitis which makes me very thin. This disease can be painful and disgusting (I won’t go into details, just trust me) and I would give anything not to have it. Unfortunately, it runs in my family and in fact my daughter was just diagnosed with the same condition.
I need advice on how to handle a very common insult that people think is a compliment. My close friends understand why I am thin and they never bring it up except to ask how I am feeling, etc. My issue is with people, usually women, who don’t know me that well or at all and yet who feel entitled to comment upon my weight.
Last week I met a girlfriend to go shopping. At the last minute she invited another acquaintance of ours, and this woman must have commented on how “skinny” and “emaciated” I am fifteen times during the entire afternoon. She always laughed and made sure to say she was just jealous, but I was pretty angry. Honestly I hate being this thin and I have no curves on top or on bottom. I would love to look like her but it’s not like I’d go on and on about her big boobs and ample ass.
I don’t think I should have to disclose highly private medical information about myself and yet sometimes it is the only way to get people to lay off. How can I stop these comments without telling people my personal health information?
Skinny Girl in San Fernando Valley
Dear Skinny Girl:
I don’t think I have ever considered how it might feel to be in your shoes, and I think of myself as a pretty empathetic person. As women, we are bound up in the societal expectations of how we should look and unfortunately, women are usually the enforcers when it comes to these expectations.
Why do we keep putting so much value in how we look and assigning certain characteristics to those who do not fit within a very narrow confine of “the norm?” And what is “the norm,” anyway?
I’ll leave those larger questions for another day, because I possess enough self-awareness to know I am probably not the best person to challenge these societal expectations while simultaneously capitulating to them.
In fact, I am in the middle of a four week challenge right now that has me giving up white wine to drop the last few pounds before summer. WHITE WINE! I’m also engaging in some serious portion control that often leaves me feeling grumpy at the end of a meal.
With fame and fortune knocking on my door and two black tie events coming up in London and Paris in September, I have become very focused on my outside recently. Thank you for reminding me that while the grass may appear greener on a skinny girl’s lawn, that isn’t always true.
Unfortunately, even though my goal is to initiate a world-wide takeover of the radio airwaves and not television, the standards for women in the media are pretty harsh.
Whoopsie – Robin Tangent! Back to you.
I am always deeply suspicious when anyone says “trust me,” so I googled “Ulcerative Colitis” and what I found was, as you mentioned, pretty gross. No wonder you are so thin – people with your condition can have diarrhea several times per day, often immediately after eating.
The former bulimic in me is oddly transfixed and jealous, but the grown-up lady with the tender bottom is happy to not have your disease regardless of how thin you are and how thin I may wish to be.
OK Skinny Girl, grab a pencil in your bony little paw and take some notes. Here’s my advice for you the next time this comes up.*
Let’s assume someone says, “what are you, a size zero? What do you do to stay so thin – do you even eat? Do you work out ten times a day or what? Oh my God I could break you over my knee! My 8-year-old daughter weighs more than you!!!”
1. Give her the Robin DesCamp Side-Eye:
The RD Side-Eye should be reserved for special occasions but I believe that someone making an unwelcome and unsolicited comment on your appearance qualifies for breaking it out. Forgive me for posting a photo of me prior to my morning shower and make-up routine, but I want to make sure you get this right:
2. Make your First Statement of Protest:
Your First Statement of Protest should clearly set forth your boundaries and express your displeasure with the commenter’s gall but in a polite manner meant to elucidate, not berate.
I suggest something like:
“You know, I bet you have no idea how discourteous it is to make those remarks about my body. Our society equates thinness with goodness which I suppose makes you feel free to opine upon my size and I assume the size of other thin people.
I don’t appreciate your verbalized observations any more than a heavy person stepping into a crowded elevator with you would appreciate your shrieks of dismay and estimations of their pant size.
Please be more circumspect in the future about engaging the filter between your brain and you mouth** when you are tempted to make comments about another person’s appearance. They may have health conditions or an eating disorder you are unaware of and regardless, your remarks are not helpful, they are hurtful.”
3. Make your Second Statement of Protest:
Your First Statement of Protest should probably do it. A person would have to be incredibly insensitive and dumber than a box of dicks to continue in the same (dorsal) vein, but in the event your First Statement of Protest is unsuccessful, make your Second Statement of Protest:
“Your haircut was last in style when Duran Duran was relevant and your obvious shunning of much-needed Botox and whitening strips is not doing you any favors. Your forehead is large enough to land a small plane upon and your chin juts out so far that I fear for my eyes when you turn your head in my direction.
Your continuing insults are as annoying and predictable as the blackheads that permanently populate your nose, and apparently as hard to eliminate. Therefore, I am exfoliating you from my presence and walking away. Also, you should invest in a bra with a good support system, because your boobs sag lower than a sinkhole in China.”
4. Once in a while for shits and giggles, you might tell someone who is obnoxious about your weight that you have been through several rounds of chemo but the doctors have given up and you will probably be dead within a month.
If you are shopping when this happens, you can explain you are looking for a dress to be buried in and suggest that since they know you well enough to remark upon your appearance, perhaps they’d like to help you pick out your last size zero frock.
(actual burial dress complete with liquified flesh stains)
5. Invest in some baby wipes and breast implants. You’ll thank me later!
*Please note, I am not talking about someone just making a passing compliment about your size, because you told me that happens sometimes and it doesn’t bother you. For example, a lady you met a few weeks ago who was somewhat heavy made a comment to you that she loved your dress and wished she had the figure to wear it. That’s not what we are talking about here – we are talking about the people who aren’t making observations out of kindness and who won’t drop the subject.
**I was born without one but have heard these exist