Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Men Feel It Too and It's Not Okay

(Nope, pretty sure they remember what you said most of the time too.)

As women, you don't have to be a rocket scientist to see how much we as a gender are scrutinized, judged, picked apart, compared, torn down but told to build ourselves up, be sexy but not too sexy to "invite" attention, be successful but not more successful than your partner, keep a clean house, be a great cook and the list goes on and on.  That's if you're deemed "normal" by society's standards.  Add some weight into the equation and it's a whole different, worse ball game.   Fat gals have a whole other standard in the majority of society's eyes.  Because of weight, you are not allowed to be upset if you are scrutinized, picked apart, compared to your skinnier/prettier counterparts, torn down (and don't even think about building yourself up), you're not sexy and if you think you are you're somehow deluding yourself or promoting bad body image, there's no way you can be successful, your house is assumed to be a pig sty, it's also assumed you eat out all of the time and couldn't care about cooking much less healthy cooking,  And that's all just from perfect strangers and sadly, mostly women are the ones who say it.  Never mind the "well-intentioned" family, friends, co-workers that may tell you what a pretty face you have if you just lost the weight.  (It's not about the face!)  Or some that are just flat out mean to you and compare you to your perfect (read: skinny) sibling or take any chance they can to mortify and shame you for your appearance thinking that will lead to lighting a fire under your butt to lose weight.  Plenty of studies have shown that fat shaming does not work and actually has the opposite effect.

Women are not the only ones who have to put up with this issue.  Last week, when we watched This Is Us, Randall was in a meeting with his father's community and walked up to a bigger guy and said "what's up, big man?"  I don't know what he said after that because those words now trigger something in me because they trigger something in my husband.  I looked over at him and he shook his head.  He said "I would've said "f**k you" and walked out because, at that point, nothing you said was relevant anymore."   The Mr endured incessant torture from his oldest brother his entire childhood about his size.  He was mocked and the term "big guy" was thrown around because it was the only words that a gangly, rail thin, inadequate kid could think of to exert power over someone seven years his junior.  It continued into his high school years when he'd come home for holidays and visits.  His middle brother took care of the older bully by beating the crap out of him though he got two trips to the hospital out of it when the older brothers squirrely moves caused him to go through a glass door twice.  His uncles were of no help on the matter either as they were all very large men and were almost proud of their gluttony rubbing their big bellies, slapping them in public and more than anxious to induct the Mr into their "club" thinking it was all in good fun.  The Mr instead internalized all of this and just hearing the term "big guy" could send a wave of shame over him and all of those feelings as a kid where he was made to feel less than because of his size were right at the surface again.

The tables turned when visiting with my infant nieces and nephews of bully brother and one had gone through a growth spurt and without thinking I hugged him and said: "Aww, look at you big guy!"  (Meaning tall, not fat, I would never do that.)  The bully groaned audibly and said "aww, man!  Not big guy!"   Oh, I'm sorry?  Do you see "big guy" as an insult?  Obviously and obviously you knew exactly how that hurt because the prospect of your own son being called that turned your guts.  Do you think he apologized to his brother for the years of torture in that moment?  Nope.  When we left, I apologized to the Mr and said "I meant he was tall, I didn't mean fat.  I hope I didn't offend you when I said that!"  He assured me I didn't and he didn't even think of that until his brother made such a stink over it but then noted it didn't prompt him to apologize either which was typical.  After the Mr was at his thinnest in our journey, we saw his brother who has put on a considerable amount of weight and he said "oh, I guess I'm the big guy now" and the Mr said "yeah, I guess so" and left it at that.  He didn't need to say "yeah, how does it feel asshat!?!?" because he knows how that feels.  You can bet he finally felt some justice though.

Even if you finally get sweet revenge on your bully, it doesn't erase the damage they did.  It doesn't stop that tape playing in your head of what they said and how it made you feel.  For some reason, society thinks it's okay to acknowledge a man's size when dealing with him.  "Hey, big man!"  "What can I do ya for, big guy?"  So, is it acceptable to walk up to a Chinese man and say "what's up Chinese man?" or to someone with a birthmark on their face and say "hey, birthmark dude!"   No!  The thought should make you recoil in your skin if you have a shred of decency in you as a human being.  So why is it acceptable to point out something obvious about someone's appearance when we're dealing with their size??  It's not yet we're expected to roll over because we've done this to ourselves and are somehow stripped of rights of a human being.

Words matter whether you're a man or a woman.  Men are raised that they need to be tough and if they get their feelings hurt, they need to bury it.  All that does is lead to years of repressing not only those feelings but any feelings they feel others would deem not "manly."  Bullsh*t.  Men have feelings too and they need to express them just as much as women do.  They need to be lifted up and told they're worthy, loved and accepted just as they are.  They need to feel confident enough to stand up for themselves no matter what their size and if they're bigger, their opinion still matters.  Size does not make you any less of a person.  It does not mean you are any less talented of a worker, musician, artist or chosen profession.  It just means you're bigger but like anything that sets you apart from "the norm", it doesn't need to be pointed out just so others can somehow feel better about themselves and it doesn't need to be written into popular TV shows to continue to normalize it.

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  1. I am super sensitive to that and have always made excuses for the people who "didn't know better" and have often felt that it was better for them to not know how much it bothers me. But that too is an excuse to let someone completely off the hook while I take it in and suffer silently. Way too often I find myself taking the brunt of things and letting the rude person off the hook. I am going to have to find my own way to tell people in those situations something to the effect of I know you didn't necessarily mean anything by it but that particular nickname is one that I was tormented by as a kid and makes me very angry. Perhaps a "big guy" being angry at them will be enough to make them think twice next time.

  2. The next time someone says something like that to you, ask them how many times a week they have sex. If they huff and say that rude or uncalled for you can say, "oh, I thought we were making inappropriate comments here." I'm sorry you had to go through that with your own sibling (I know that feeling well) and he still doesn't "get it." That's his character defect though, not yours. Hmphf.

  3. Some people are jerks. Period. There is no excuse for it.

    But... Some people are just plain clueless. They have no idea of what is hurtful to others, and they would be mortified. There's that weird line we walk between advocating for ourselves ("that phrase is hurful because of the way it was used against me in the past") vs. maintaining our privacy (grin and bear it because it's none of their business what we've been through). I suppose it depends on the situation and the person how you respond. Some random stranger might get an eff you or the cold shoulder, a family member/friend/close coworker might get the explanation, and a casual person you might see again at a work event a couple times a year might get the grin and bear it.

    We need to remember though that weight isn't the only thing that can set off people's trigger points. People are insecure about their hair, their teeth, their height, their shoe size, etc. I work with junior high kids so everything is magnified, but those insecurities don't just go away. I still remember feeling like I was simply taking up took much space because I towered over all of my classmates until about sophomore year of high school. Even now when I've come to appreciate my height, I cringe when people comment on it.


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