Reader Response: Who You Callin’ Skinny?

by Be Heard on October 3, 2011

in Self & Body

The other day, Katie wrote, what turned about to be, a pretty controversial post. Is calling someone “impossibly skinny” just as bad as calling someone “impossibly fat?”

While she took a lot of flack for her post, I, for one, am glad she was brave enough to open the door to this topic. We all know that calling someone fat is beyond rude and insulting. Yet, when someone is thin, how is it any better to comment on the shape and size of her body?

My childhood was not easy (and with the wisdom of adulthood, I’ve learned that no one’s childhood was easy). I was taller than everyone else in my class (which meant I couldn’t peg my jeans in the early 90′s because they were already highwaters—TRAVESTY). I was pudgy. And to top it all off, my sister was a beauty queen.

Literally.

Even 20 years later, remembering the way the other kids would whisper behind their hands and snicker makes my stomach hurt.

Every night after dinner, I would start to dread the next morning and having to go to school. I suffered through anxiety attacks and stress induced diarrhea (I can’t believe I’m sharing this online). I’d break out in hives. Many nights I would cry myself to sleep. Other nights I wouldn’t be able to sleep at all.

My mom tried, but really how do help your child when she’s crying that she’s a tall, fat, splotchy-skinned freak? She’d tell me constantly that things would get better. When I hit puberty, I’d lose my baby fat. I was just taking longer to develop than everyone else. I’d grow out of the awkward phase.

And she was right. The summer before my freshman year in high school, I shot up several inches. I lost my baby fat. I was thin.

Really thin.

And as soon as school started, so did the new whispers. The ones about me being anorexic.

The other kids were still whispering behind their hands. I still worried myself sick every night.

Would there ever be a time when I could just be me. Without having people judge me or make judgments about me based on what I looked like on the outside?

I finally got to that point in college. I gained enough self-confidence to not care what anyone else said or thought about me. I found myself. And I’m happy with who I am.

like me.

I am smart. I am loyal. I am strong. I am hard-working. I am stubborn. I am adventurous. I am funny. I am loving. I am your best friend. I am your biggest champion. I am a bookworm. I am a dork. I am a nerd.

And. I am also thin. Or slender if you prefer. But please don’t call me skinny.

rachel

I hate that word. I really do. I feel like it has a very negative connotation. And people always have a certain tone in their voice when they use that word. Plus, that has nothing to do with who I AM.

I hear comments all the time about what I look like on the outside. “You can eat whatever you want. You’re skinny.” “Maybe you wouldn’t be so cold if you put some meat on your bones.” “You need to eat more. You’re too skinny.”

Once at the gym, I even had a group of women whisper to their trainer that they wanted to go to another area of the gym, so they wouldn’t have to workout next to me. (That’s right, ladies. I heard you. I have ears like a bat.)

Even my friends comment on my weight. My best gay friend calls me a “skinny bitch.”  Often.

People think it’s okay to make comments like this because they believe “skinny” to be some kind of ideal. That’s what society tells us we should be. But even though I’m happy with me, and while I have a much thicker skin these days, these kinds of comments still sting.

And the truth is, I have no control over my weight. It’s all genetics (and IBS).

So how about we just stop defining ourselves and other people by what we see on the outside? Tall girls, short girls, curvy girls, skinny girls. Who the hell cares?! Weight does not define us.

Curvy Girl Guide Contributor, Rachel, is a dreamer disguised as a realist. A boring professional with the soul of an artist. She hasn’t really figured out what she wants to be when she grow up, so for now she’s shooting for being happy. You can read about all the ways she manages to embarrass herself & others on her blog, The Rachel Chronicles: The True and (Un)Amazing Adventures of a Girl & Her Dog.


FluffyMommy October 3, 2011 at 7:22 am

Amen Sista!! I wish we could get that idea across to the many children in school who deal with being called names and to the ones who are calling the names!!

Rachel October 3, 2011 at 9:48 am

My brother had a teacher in high school who constantly told her students you don’t have to blow out someone else’s candle to make yours burn brighter. Even though I never set foot in her classroom, she was one of the most influential teachers I ever had.

bellawriter October 3, 2011 at 7:23 am

excellent post. I was a “skinny girl” right up until I had my first baby (at age 18) and I was frequently teased. Carpenter’s dream (flat as a board, easy to screw), toothpick, etc, I was called them all. Now of course after five kids I am much…um, curvier. And I still get teased. Occasionally. A group of teenagers not too long ago called me a heifer. But I am fine now with who I am and how I look. It’s just sometimes harder on the days when the world judges. It’s okay though, I believe strongly in Karma.

Rachel October 3, 2011 at 9:52 am

I hear the toothpick a lot. And “if you turn to the side you’d disappear”. I’ve even been called a bobblehead. Which is totally uncalled for.

Had I been you, I’d probably be in jail right now. I have a low tolerance for teenagers on a good day. But I, too, am a big believer in karma :)

Judy J October 3, 2011 at 8:47 am

I agree that it’s really not nice either way, but honestly, I’d MUCH rather be called too skinny than too fat. I guess the reason people feel it’s better (me included) is that it’s socially acceptable to be skinny, it’s not socially acceptable to be fat. To me, fat is much more offensive than skinny. I’ve been of average weight my entire life, and I’ve never experienced either of these comments. But it all depends on where you come from, if I was skinny and teased I’m sure I’d feel differently.

Rachel October 3, 2011 at 10:10 am

You’re absolutely right that it is all about perspective. And most of the time, the comments that are made are not in any way intended to be mean and hurtful. It’s easy to let those go. But then there are the comments that have some venom behind them. Those sting. It’s all about intent. Words that are intended to be hurtful ARE hurtful. Regardless of what those words are.

lianna October 3, 2011 at 9:13 am

Totally agreed!! i feel exactly the same. People say, “But don’t you WANT to be SKINNY?” No, I don’t. People also call me bony, and they think it’s completely unoffensive. Hello?! Away with the labelling.

Rachel October 3, 2011 at 10:20 am

I love that statement. Away with the labeling! Now I have this picture in my head of wearing a giant food label and just tearing it off :)

lianna October 5, 2011 at 10:34 am

Haha, yeah! Cool image =)

the grumbles October 3, 2011 at 10:10 am

I have had many thin friends who never said anything but I could tell it hurt when people would walk up and make comments about how they looked “skeletal.” Really we should probably just stop commenting on each other’s weight in general (on either side) and focus on healthy confidence, you know?

Rachel October 3, 2011 at 10:26 am

Exactly.

Rachel C. October 3, 2011 at 10:13 am

Thank you for this. It is exactly what I went/go through. I am always cold at work and people tell me to put “more meat on my bones.” It’s embarrassing. I have even had someone leave a plate of cupcakes on my desk. I would never dream of leaving a plate of carrot sticks on her desk! Why the double standard? I hate it.

Rachel October 3, 2011 at 10:49 am

I used to share an office with a woman who constantly made comments about my weight. She talked about it so much that when her daughter would come into the office SHE would say things about because she was learning it from her mom. In that situation, I was less upset at the comments and more sad about the fact that instead of learning to love herself as she was, that little girl was learning to judge other people by what they look like.

Rebekah October 3, 2011 at 10:15 am

Amen! To many times we all try to be or look the same and we are not!!!!! If there is one thing I share over and over with my teenage girls and adult girlfriends is that everyones body changes to what their body needs at that time. There is no “one” certian body shape, and i’m thankful that theres not. I was small at 19 at 39 yes I weigh more, but I have also had 3 children and I love the way I look today. You know why? Because its ME.

Jayme (RandomBlogette) October 3, 2011 at 10:15 am

People are cruel no matter what and it breaks my heart. I have been on both ends as well. When I was younger and a little chubbier than everyone else I was made fun of. When I came into my curves my junior year of high school, I was a slut. When I lost a ton of weight for my wedding, I was too skinny. Unfortunately, we just need to rise above it and realize that the people who are making these rude comments are insecure about something in their own lives. These are just unhappy people and want to bring you down so you can be miserable with them. You just need smile and not let them have the upper hand. =D Oh and you are adorable.

Syd8me October 3, 2011 at 11:45 am

Would that the world could be a place without labels. How would we ever know who we are better than, or who we want to strive to be better than? Who would we talk about “behind their backs” with venom infused insults just to make ourselves feel better (than them or self it really doesn’t matter). Who would we look at with pity in our eyes, knowing that the eyes looking back are confused and hurt, but not caring. How would we ever have clicks of people just like us, if we didn’t pick out the ones who were like ourselves and leave the rest for the lesser ‘packs’ to play with.
I say it will probably always be this way, with the labels and the name calling, I mean how else would we survive.

Please, give me a break. If it wasn’t for our own self awareness and strength we would have never made it out of our teens. We did, and mostly intact. A few more walls and a few less ‘give a shits’ to our credit. We, the labeled, are the strong ones. We will be the ones who make it.

Rachel October 3, 2011 at 1:49 pm

Completely off topic, but I love your screenname.

Syd8me October 3, 2011 at 6:28 pm

;) Thanks.

Amber October 3, 2011 at 1:05 pm

This whole thing has been kind of eye-opening for me. Honestly, as someone who has struggled with their weight for YEARS I always thought I was complimenting another woman when I made comments on how “skinny” she was.
Also, pointing out that they another is skinny is a bit of a defense mechanism in a way for me. For instance on vacation with my very thin friend I have often made a comment about laying next to her on the beach. Something like “Maybe I’ll just leave my cover up on. I feel like a whale laying next to skinny-mini over here.”
I’ve never thought about how my comment might make her uncomfortable. I just assume as an insecure and meaty person that she enjoys having her slender shape and feels complimented when it is brought to attention. Sort of the way I feel when someone says “Have you lost weight?”

Great follow up. Thanks for making me aware!

Jeannie October 3, 2011 at 1:35 pm

I was also a skinny kid but now (late 30′s and two kids) I’ve morphed into “slender”. I don’t get comments anymore, but I used to. It didn’t bother me *too* much — I mean, as others have said, most “you’re so skinny!” comments come from envy. But I also VERY much agree that commenting on people’s bodies is just inappropriate, no matter what. The only thing that’s ok is “you look great today!”. :)

Cecily October 3, 2011 at 1:46 pm

I’m new here and followed a link someone posted on another website. For the most part, I agree with this post, but I take issue with something you posted above:

“We all know that calling someone fat is beyond rude and insulting.”

No it isn’t. Not for everyone. The manner in which someone addresses you with this word might be insulting, but the word itself is just an adjective. As a fat person, the word carries about as much weight (ha!) as the word thin does for you. It’s just a descriptor.

Thanks for the post and the perspective.

Rachel October 3, 2011 at 3:32 pm

You are absolutely right. Words are just words. It’s the intent with which they’re used that makes them hurtful or not.

Jody October 3, 2011 at 10:51 pm

My best friend is very thin, always has been & always will be. Even I am sick of hearing “Oh God, you’re so skinny!” It is extremely irritating to her because she can’t help it. While I might think it would be great to hear how thin everyone thinks I am, is is NOT the case for her. Commenting on people’s weight (outside of complementing someone’s hard work when they have been TRYING to lose) is simply unnecissary.

Andee October 4, 2011 at 11:58 am

Thank you for the post. My oldest daughter, 17 and a senior in high school, is thin. Very thin. Model thin. She’s 5’6 (maybe taller!) and barely tops out the scale at 104. I hate when she gets trashed for how tiny she is…she eats more than the other 3 of us in the family combined. It’s genetic and it’s her and she’s perfect just as she is. I never call her skinny because I would never want her to call me fat.

lianna October 5, 2011 at 10:32 am

Sounds a bit like me =)

Anna October 5, 2011 at 9:29 am

Good points, but I have to disagree with your last line, “Weight does not define us.” Like it or not, it totally does.

lianna October 5, 2011 at 10:32 am

Well, I think it shouldn’t.

Rachel October 5, 2011 at 2:54 pm

Word

Jen October 31, 2011 at 9:17 pm

You’re right, it shouldn’t. But that’s just the way it is, and weight will always define us until every single person in this country (at least) can look at each other and accept other people for who they are and what they look like, unconditionally. It would be delusional to believe that day will come anytime soon. Don’t mean to be a Debbie Downer but you can’t ignore what’s true, no matter how messed up it is.

Ana October 16, 2011 at 3:44 pm

I never realized how the word “skinny” could be comparable to the word “fat” until just recently. I’ve always been the hefty girl. I am taller, but my genetics blessed me (yes, I’m slinging sarcasm here) with a barrel chest, broad shoulders, no waist, wide hips and knock knees. I’ve always been intimidated by the slender girls, the curvy girls, well any girl actually who carried herself with an air of confidence because I had no confidence in myself.

My brother married a very slender girl. Heather has cerebral palsy, but she is drop dead gorgeous and very svelte. They later moved to Hawaii, and we started an email conversation that has lasted for years. She learned about my struggles with weight loss, and I learned about her struggles with weight gain. It was quite the eye opener.

Jul November 7, 2011 at 2:05 am

what about people who are skinny because you know they starve themselves though? I had a boyfriend who would go all day without eating and then just have a salad for dinner! I like food,and I was not going to feel bad because he was obviously manorexic. I broke up with him because I could not possibly be with a guy who was skinnier then I was and was like that ON PURPOSE

Andrea November 30, 2011 at 9:56 pm

I was “fence post” “toothpick” and “skinny” as a kid. Now I’m just “Fat”. I hate it when the word “fat is used in any situation and routinely get on to my children for using it. I always tell them that that word hurts me whether it’s directed right at me or not. Then they tell me that I’m not fat, which doesn’t help since they are not getting the point!. The truth is that I’m 43, have had 2 kids and genetics have given me an ample stomach to go with my ample bust. No, I’m not so overweight that I have to shop in the plus size section. But I see those who are. They are beautiful, and they should be proud. God gave us this body. We should be thankful for the time we are lucky enough to live in it!

Halima March 26, 2012 at 2:32 pm

i wonder how you tackle these snarky comments by both fat and skinny ppl when you are called “skinny” (i recently was). :( ((
i have never been the comment on anyone for their weight and so don’t know how to deal with snide comments when i am the target. comments would be greatly appreciated as it is just difficult to be friends with such snarky-worded ppl n still be smiling.

Shellie August 14, 2012 at 11:21 am

Great post. I’ve been hardly 100 pounds my whole life, that’s just how it is… my whole family is tiny. The horrible comments that teenagers make is just dreadful. I remember being kicked off the cheerleading team because my body made other girls “feel bad”. That was so upsetting. I’m glad we’ve both found the confidence needed to get through that.

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