18 January 2006

The things people say

I'm sitting in a classroom waiting to see if anyone's going to show up for Audio/Visual training. (We have 10 classrooms each of which have their own cabinet with computer, digital projector, VCR/DVD combo, speakers, etc., and in order to get a key to a cabinet, you must go through training. I've been referred to as the Key Nazi! Nice, huh?!) Thus far, I've been sitting here for an hour with no signs of life. Only 2 more hours to go. :P But, hey, it's given me a chance to catch up on everyone's blogs and post to my own!

Anyway, as I've been sitting here, my mind has wandered back to the times in my childhood/teens when someone made a comment to me about my weight. I was always a little chubby as a kid (I remember having to wear "Husky" size jeans/pants from Sears), but it wasn't until middle school when it really sunk in and became a conscious problem for me. The first incident involves my grandmother (my mom's mom) while my brother and I were on a trip to Gettysburg and Washington DC with my grandparents in their camper. (Somehow, my sister got out of that trip; I was so mad at her!) We were staying the night at a campground somewhere near Gettysburg, and my brother and I had been swimming. When I came back to the camper from the pool in my bathing suit with my towel wrapped around me, my grandmother sat me down and proceeded to tell me I was getting too fat and needed to be more diligent about watching my weight. I was _so_ mortified! I remember doing my best to get out of there as soon as possible and then crying myself to sleep that night. I was about 10, I think, and no where near being obese for my age.

Incident 2 took place in Jr. High. Imagine a line of 7th grade girls and boys all lined up in the gym waiting (or dreading in my case) to get on a scale so as to complete an exercise in health class. When it was my turn, I made my way up to the scale with fear given that the teacher had been making a point to practically shout out everyone else's weight so that another (inept) teacher could write them down. All of my friends were behind me, so I hadn't yet heard their weights when I stepped on the scale. The teacher shouted 108 lbs to the other teacher writing everything down, and I didn't feel too badly. Then, one by one the rest of my friends were weighed, and they were all under 100 lbs. Much of a weight difference, no, but I couldn't believe I weighed _so much_ more than everyone else!

Then came the 3rd incident. I was in High School now, and because of playing tennis, my constant diet efforts and other activities, I thought I looked pretty good and for the most part felt ok about myself. Being the good preacher's daughter that I was, I went to church every Sunday morning and night. There was this one man in the church with a rather subservient (and overweight) wife and domineering MIL. One Sunday when I was sporting my favorite mini skirt and U of Florida sweatshirt, he decided to stop me in the sanctuary to tell me I was getting a little fat and needed to watch my weight. Whhaaaaatt???!!! Who was this man that I barely knew to tell me anything about my weight?! But did that matter? Nope, not at all; the damage was done. And, to this day, I remember it clearly.

Why do I tell you about all these things? Well, they were incidents that have stuck with me most of my life and affected how I have felt about myself. Do I think they had a hand in making me obese, probably not. But, I know I'd think about them when I was feeling particularly badly about myself, and I'm sure they had their unconscious effects too.

Did you have any incidents like these? How did they affect you?


Kim said...

I think that we all have these moments stuck in our brains. Whenever I meet someone with an obese child, I make it a point to tell them how important it is to say the right thing. I'll never forget my dad telling me that I was going to end up just like my grandma (his mother). Grandma was obese and I loved her just the way that she was, but his comment sent me into tears because I knew his intent. He instantly felt bad and tried to recover with, "your grandmother is a beautiful woman!". Nope, too late...damage was done. There were a bevy of other comments that I've tried to bury, but they never go away. They always manage to emerge at my lowest emotional moment. Funny how we aren't haunted by the good comments that we get in our early days...

Jessica said...

Last year my husband and I had all his grandparent's friends over for an 80th birthday party. Many of these people I had never met before. So, we're having a great time when this woman (80+yrs) pulls me to the side and says "Honey, you are soooo beautiful." I smiled thinking this was a compliment until she says "but you are too young to let yourself go. You need to lose some weight." I didn't know what to say so I just said "Believe me, I know." But I was mortified. And who is this woman to come into MY house and tell me that I'm letting myself go? OK. So she was right, but I would NEVER say that to anyone else. My husband says that TACT is the first thing to go as you get older :)

Sandi said...

I've heard that "letting yourself go" comment before. I wonder about the insensitivity and sheer ignorance of someone saying that to another. I'm shaking my head as I type that. It infuriates me even today that people say cruel things like that TO CHILDREN (let alone adults) and they numb their guilt by saying they are doing it to "help" someone... I think they are evil and are speaking from their own pain.

The next time someone says something stupid like that to me I swear I'm going to look them straight in the eye and say, "What childhood trauma have you personally experienced that causes you to say something so meanspirted and cruel? Shouldn't you worry about your own character flaws and physical imperfections (and maybe I'll list a few) before you try to hurt someone else with your hatred?"

Well, maybe not all that, but you get the point. I'll probably at least give the person a dirty look when their back is turned... I wonder why it is so hard to stand up for myself or others?

The Catapillar said...

Oh so many "you've let yourself go", "your too young to be fat", "You cant find love", "Your not cute enouph to have an attitude" comments to count. The thing that stands out the most right now is that my mother had me on diet after diet. once it was an 800 calorie diet at the age of 12. I look at pics from then and I wasnt even over weight. I was just bigger then her (she is tiny).

I have come to the conclusion that people who feel the need to be ugly like that have pretty low self esteme themselves and need to make someone else feel bad to make themselves feel better. Those people have been a rant to me my whole life. I agree with sandi it is hard to come back to people like that. I guess it is shock that someone could say something.

Jenn said...

Sandi - Can I use your response? (Of course, I'd have to write it down and drag it out if I wanted to use it.) :)


mayablue said...

Having been overweight my whole life, until now, I could write a book on the "innocent" comments that people made to me. Of course they are only telling you these things because "they care" about you. Funny how these types of comments stick with you forever but I can never remember anything nice someone has said. If people only realized how much damage is done maybe they would keep their thoughts to themselves.