I have spent my life trying to make myself smaller. Trying to make myself into something other than my weight.
Throughout high school I had the unfortunate reality of occupying the locker under the school’s resident Mean Girl, which meant I spent much of my recess and lunch time being asked to “move the f*ck out of the way Free Willy.”
That’s right, she likened me to a whale.
Recently I visited an extended family member for the first time in three or four months, and after some polite chit chat he turned to me and said: “So when are you going to lose some weight?”
My heart stopped and I stared at the ground wishing that it would swallow me whole. The humiliation didn’t stop there, he quickly added the follow up questions: “what are you eating that you shouldn’t be” and “are you doing any exercise.” I made some polite excuses and got out of there as fast as humanly possible, barely holding myself together until I got to the car where I burst into a flood of tears.
Unfortunately this is a regular occurrence. Everyone from family and friends to complete strangers offer comments and opinions about my physical appearance. They range from the subtle “I didn’t think you liked wearing sleeveless tops” (which of course is accompanied by a pointed look at my flabby arms) to the blunt “Oh we better not get take away tonight, we need to eat healthy for this one. How about salad?”
Don’t get me wrong, there are certain times when commenting on physical appearance is more than welcome. Is there a cobweb in my hair? Do I have spinach in my teeth? Did I accidentally sit in some chocolate?
Chances are that I am entirely unaware of my current state of embarrassment, and I would rather know now than spend the rest of the day walking around like an oblivious fool.
But the difference between commenting on the food in my teeth and the size of my waistline is this – I am aware of exactly how large I am. This is not a new issue you are bringing to my attention.
You are not saving me from any potential humiliation by pointing out this issue; in fact you are causing it. That’s right, I said it– by pointing out my weight you are causing me embarrassment and humiliation.
I am embarrassed and humiliated because I don’t measure up; because of all the things you could have noticed about me – you saw my weight.
You didn’t see the way my green eyes sparkle, the fact that I’m actually incredibly smart and have the wackiest sense of humour.
Or if you did, you chose to ignore that in favour of a comment on my weight. You chose to stop seeing the whole package and just focus on my flaws.
While I work on making myself smaller to fit into your world, can you expand your views to visit mine?
Next time you see me, talk to me for me and not about the size of my jeans.
Sarah Richardson is in her last semester of Media at Macquarie University, and is an intern at Mamamia and iVillage. She’s a social media addict who loves a good book, and drinks copious amounts of tea. You can follow her on twitter here.
Have you ever had anyone comment on your weight? How did you respond?