hellorousseau

an eloquently warped point of view from the tongue of a cartoon character.

Tag: Body image

Please Stop Talking: How to Deal with Negativity

A client asked for a moisturizing cream that was good for combination skin. The stuff she was using had stopped working, she said.

It was summertime, and it was blistering hot out, so I had opted for my tunic uniform and black tights. This wasn’t an unusual outfit choice for me; those who see me outside of the internet know that I typically always wear skirts and tights (paired with massive sweaters). I thank my years at private school for this obsession. Plus, skirts and dresses kinda make me feel like a princess.

Essentially my morning routine (but I use way more mascara.)

I lead the woman through the many make-up obstacles to the back of the store. On my way, I passed other smiling employees, freshly polished displays, the cheery chicks at cash, and a couple that was kneeling down by a shelf, taking a look at a product. Just as I passed the man who was crouched over, I heard a rather loud comment:

“Look how fat her legs are,” said the man to his girlfriend.

The comment stopped me in my tracks. Suddenly I was a robot rusted to the floor; a robin who had hit a clean glass window. I could feel my muscles cease, like someone had bunched them up in their fist, then tied a big fat elastic band around them. I loved wearing tights and showing off my legs even if they were bigger, but this man’s nasty comment left me completely baffled and embarrassed of my body.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the first time someone had decided to openly comment on my physical appearance.

While singing at Italian Folklorama a few years earlier, an older woman approached me as I balanced a slice of pizza and a cup of gelato in one hand. I had just blasted through a performance of O Mio Babbino Caroand was absolutely starving. After all three shows, I received nothing but thank you’s, handshakes, and smiles from audience members who said my singing had brought them to tears. One man even told me he had returned that night so he could hear me sing again. Just as I had picked up my dinner and dessert, I heard a rather loud comment:

“You should watch your calories with those,” said the woman to my face, tapping my hips. She puffed out her cheeks, imitating a fat person.

Then she smiled.

According to an article by Peter Bregman on Psychology Today, there are three correct steps in responding to negative people:
1. Understand how they feel and validate it.
2. Find a place to agree with them.
3. Find out what they are positive about and reinforce it.

According to my brain, there were three correct steps in responding to this woman:
1. If I was quick enough, I could slam the pizza slice AND the gelato into her face at the same time and really smoosh it right on in there.
2. I could slowly unhinge my jaw and allow a swarm of locusts to fly around the room, then watch them engulf her (kinda like that scene from The Mummy).
3. I could stop what I was doing and begin eating the food while staring at her. I wouldn’t break eye contact- I’d just move closer and closer with each bite until the bridges of our noses touched.

But in reality, I told her I would watch my calories. I smiled back at her.

Then I walked away.

The weeks after that incident were filled with bitterness. I constantly thought about how I should have responded to the woman; should I have told her to mind her own business? Should I have just ignored her? Should I have laughed in her face? What was the right way to respond to unwanted comments?

Responding to negativity about your physical appearance is hard no matter what size you are, what you choose to wear, or how you choose to present yourself. When people feel the need to share their opinion on how you choose to exist, talking back to them can be awkward and kind of scary. Suddenly you are in a position to defend yourself to the public, reassuring everyone that you’re doing the best you can to ‘fix’ and ‘improve’ the way you are (even if you’re completely happy with yourself).

It seemed like there were only two solutions to my problem: completely change how I dressed and acted to avoid negative attention, or reassure the commenter that I was trying to better myself in order to satisfy their opinion.

But why should I change myself in order to make people around me more comfortable? Why did I need to alter my existence so other people would keep their opinions to themselves? Why should I have to cover up my fat lil’ legs? Why, if it is not your body, do you care at all? Why should I have to defend my actions and choices to complete strangers? Why should I be apologetic for who I am?

YEAH, ALLIE: WHY?

I decided that there are four ways in dealing with negative comments about your physical appearance:
1. Completely ignore the person’s comment and continue what you were doing in the first place. Pretend as if they had never said it. If they repeat their comment, continue to ignore them.
2. Laugh. Laugh hard. Laugh so hard you make the moment awkward. When they try to talk, keep laughing. Don’t stop laughing until they’ve left the room. After they leave the room, keep laughing.
3. Make them feel as uncomfortable as they’ve made you feel. If you have no shame, make a heinous face and stare at them. Give yourself a ton of chins and curl back your lips, exposing your gums. Stare deep into their soul. Gurgle if you must.
4. If you’re feeling particularly bold, call them out on it. Tell them that what they said was rude. Tell them they should be embarrassed- and trust me, they will be. 

I try my best to execute one of these steps if faced with someone’s open opinion about my body. Sure, it can be scary to stand up for yourself, and hell, you may even look stupid, but why should you let someone else get away with cutting you down, even if it is just a passing comment? If you’re happy with yourself, why let other people break your confidence because they’re uncomfortable with your body?

Go out and wear a pair of shorts, even if you’re afraid your legs will look fat and jiggly. Think you’re too tall for an ultra-mini-skirt? Nope. Try on a crop-top and show off your stretch marks, scars, and lumpy bits. Think you’re too skinny for a peplum dress? Think again- you’ll probably look babely. Do you just absolutely hate wearing makeup? That’s cool too. Want to wear blue lipstick and a hot-pink onesie with a killer pair of 6-inch heels? Go for it. Are you comfortable in absolutely nothing but electrical tape? Wicked- go strut your stuff.

Sure, it’s not what I would choose to wear, but then again, it’s not my place to comment.

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RuPaul knows what’s up.

Oh, and the way I responded to the couple?
I picked number three.

It worked.

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Us Vs. Them (and a Little Bit of Mean Girls)

When I first got involved with the body positive movement, I encountered a lot of blogs that told me ‘real men’ like curves, so I really didn’t have to worry about how big my hips were (HA. TAKE THAT, DIETS).

People liked to push the idea that all men (all real men), would apparently love every inch of my body, despite the size. As a teenager with low self esteem, that was exciting. I was super happy to see that the internet thought men (and not just ANY men, but real men), would pick the chubby chick over the ‘gross’ skinny girls.

“Yay! All boys everywhere will love me forever!”

Growing up, I was constantly told that being fat, or ‘bigger’, was unattractive. Because of this, a part of me was always envious of thin girls.

I mean, thin girls had it so easy.
I thought they didn’t have to worry about what they wore, because everything fit. I thought they didn’t have to be self-conscious about their appearance, because they ALWAYS effortlessly looked good. Thin girls didn’t have to worry about being judged when they were eating, and thin girls could go into any store they wanted and their size would be available. Thin girls could shop for bras in stores at the mall (plus, thin girls didn’t have to worry about someone pretending their bra cup was an astronaut’s helmet).

Messages like, “Real men love curves, only the dogs like bones“, and “Once you go big, you never go twig“, were simple enough to remember when I felt the sting of jealousy. I’d dramatically roll my eyes at skinny bodies. I’d pause, then audibly groan, because, “They should eat a burger”. I’d point out when someone was ‘too skinny’, and then cruelly pick apart their physical appearance. I never forgot to add how ‘repulsive’ it was to be that thin. I was very insecure, and very judgmental.

Very, very judgmental.

You know that scene in Mean Girls: that scene where Cady Heron has a very moving epihpany while facing off against Miss Caroline Krafft? In the scene, Cady realizes that making fun of someone will not make her a happier person. At the end of her speech, she adds, “All you can do in life is try to solve the problem in front of you”. When I re-watched Mean Girls for the billionth time a few years ago (I watch Mean Girls at least 14 times a year), that scene helped me work out an epiphany of my own:

Body acceptance does not mean accepting your body, and rejecting others. Body acceptance means admiring the differences in other people’s appearances, and accepting the version of themselves they choose to present. Being fat does not give you permission to critique a thin person’s appearance, eating habits, or lifestyle. Being thin does not give you permission to critique a fat person’s appearance, eating habits or lifestyle.

Do not waste your time and energy trying to love yourself if you are unable to value other bodies around you. If you feel like commenting on someone’s physical appearance, or if you are offended by someone’s body, ask yourself: Is this body causing me harm in any way? No. Is this body ruining my life in any way? No. Is this body mine? No? Then why do you care.

If someone is happy being thin, let them be thin. If someone is happy being fat, let them be fat. If someone is happy being a triangular prism, cylinder, oval, heptagon, or cuboid, let them be whatever shape they want to be. It’s not your body. It’s not your call. Do not make body acceptance an us vs. them thing, where only one body type will reign supreme.

As for the ‘real men love curves’, business, I gave up on that forever ago.
Just because someone is attracted to one body type and not another, does not make them any less of a person. Insulting someone because of their preferences, and demeaning them because they like apples more than oranges, is rude. The only time someone is not a ‘real’ person, or ‘real’ man, is when they go out of their way to attack your body/physical appearance.

I deal with these judgmental people by walking away.

Just casually walking away.

P.S.: If you haven’t heard, my favourite clothing company, Abercrombie & Fitch, has decided to make plus size clothing after their stock dropped to an extreme low. Does this mean I’ll shop there?

No.