I witnessed a conversation between two people I’ll call Ben and Angie. In the context of the conversation, Ben guessed that Angie weighed 150lbs. She immediately said “No way, add 50 pounds to that”. He said “I know, I was trying to be nice”. She said “It’s ok, it’s a compliment”.
This is not the first time I’ve heard this conversation, it’s happened to me. I think that it’s pretty common when weight is involved. I see some issues here:
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that purposely misrepresenting someone should maybe not constitute “being nice”, since what that really seems to indicate is that you think that what they actually are is not ok – that it is something to be ashamed of and lied about.
It’s fine for Angie to feel that it’s a “compliment” that someone purposely misrepresented her to be nice. Angie is the boss of her underpants and allowed to choose whatever life experience she wants.
However, I think that in the meta-analysis, someone purposely misrepresenting who you are as a way to be “nice” probably only works in this situation because we live in a culture that thinks that thin is the most valuable thing, and we choose to buy into that point of view. Even if someone thinks it’s a compliment in the moment, I wonder what the effects are of hoping that, and being happy when, someone is “trying to be nice” by guessing your weight at 50 pounds under what is true, considering that you’re living in a body that’s shown actual size.
Imagine if the conversation had been about something else – race, ethnicity, religion…even hair:
Ben: “Angie, you have beautiful straight hair.”
Angie: “No actually my hair is really curly, look, you can see it curling”
Ben: “I know, I was just trying to be nice”
Angie: “Thanks, that’s totally a compliment”
Not so much.
When I identify as “fat” and people freak out – as they often do- they honest-to-god will say “You’re not fat”.
Instead of asking them “how many fingers am I holding up” I’ll sometimes say “No, I’m definitely fat – I weigh 284 pounds”. They most often respond “No way , I thought that you were no more than 150 or 175.”
Ok, that’s crazy talk. I do not look more than 100 pounds lighter than I am. But I don’t know if people really think that I am what 150 pounds looks like, or if they are just “trying to be nice”. If it’s the latter then let me just be clear that I don’t think it’s a compliment to lie to me. Of course another option is that what they are saying is “You don’t fit my stereotypes of fat people” – but that’ a whole ‘nother blog.
Just for the record:
This is what 284 pounds looks like (c’mon, you’ve got to admire all the ways I’m finding to work these pictures into this blog…)
I am 284 pounds of healthy athlete and I am proud my body and every single thing that it can do. You lying about my weight is not “being nice”, you’re either telling me that I should be ashamed of my weight, or you’re trying to shove your weight insecurities on me. Either way, I’ll pass.
If you want to be nice to me then show some respect for who I am, what I look like, and what I can do.