Remember when you were a teenager? More than once you probably heard some older person snort something like, “Those damn kids. They have no respect.”
I know I heard it more than once. And I wish I knew then what I know now, so I could have patiently pointed out a glaring fact: Respect is a two way street. You get what you give.
A couple of days ago I had an IM conversation with a friend who’s been struggling with her weight for the last couple of years. We met online when I was surfing for information on pituitary tumors, and she was a well of information for me, as well as understanding. She’d been through it, knew what I was facing, and pointed me in the directions I needed to go online to get the right information.
We both have undeniable problems resulting from the tumors; I was thrown into very early menopause, have diabetes insipidus, my pituitary gland doesn’t make growth hormone, and probably a few things I’m not even aware of. She was left with some of the same problems, but she also lacks the hormone that prods the thyroid into functioning.
So, she’s gained weight. She hates it, but it’s there, an all too visible reminder of what she went through, and what she lost.
So the other day we were talking, and she brought up an encounter that she found a little startling, more than a little upsetting, and frankly, quite rude. An elderly woman sitting near her in a fast food restaurant leaned over and said, with a slight nod towards the food on the table, “Deary, you would be so pretty if you would lose some weight.”
Backhanded compliment? Hardly. The message was clear: don’t eat those fries, you’re fat enough already and you’re only making it worse, and I don’t want to look at you.
No concern over why she’s overweight, no thought to the idea that there might be a reason not obvious to the world that gets to live outside her body. Just a judgmental old woman who probably doesn’t care that she took what was a nice day, someone’s afternoon out with the kids, and deflated it in less than 5 seconds.
Now, I get looks. I know what being overweight in this world feels like, and it’s rarely a nice feeling. When you’re overweight you get looks, sometimes the occasional derisive snort. But can you imagine someone leaning over and saying that to you? Do you know what you would say back?
She had a good comeback. “Ma’am, if you would keep your opinions to yourself, you would be such a nice person.”
Better than the “Bitch” I would have spat.
I once belonged to a Body For Life support group online; I was giving the weight and nutrition program a try, hoping that it would work for me (it didn’t.) Most of the people on it were nice enough, but the underlying message to a very high percentage of the posts were the same: fat people are less deserving of respect than others. Fat people deserve the crap they get. It’s okay to sneer, frown, and make fun of fat people, including posting running commentaries on the contents of their shopping carts, because they are defective.
It’s not all right.
So, I’ll say what fat people across the world think but rarely verbalize: unless you can look at a person and know, with 100% accuracy, what their story is, why they are the way they are, shut up. You don’t know, not really. You don’t know if that person shoves food in their mouth every ten minutes. You don’t know if they’re inherently lazy. You don’t know a thing about them, other than outward appearance.
Give the respect you want to get.
It’s as simple as that.
I think I wrote that book, actually…