September 13, 2021
We have all done it. None of us is immune unless we are close to perfect and that’s just not possible. You’re at a social event, your high school reunion, or maybe a family gathering seeing distant relatives you either feel ambivalent about or are related to by marriage. In other words, you don’t have a lot invested emotionally. Suddenly you find yourself sidled up to the bar or comfortably ensconced in a corner whispering with your bestie of the moment as you toss back some adult beverages. “Wow, did you see HER?? She looks like she’s been rode hard and put away wet! Someone needs to tell her that that’s not a good look for her. Did she NOT look in the mirror before she walked out the door today? Holy Mother of God, she looks like a whore in that dress. The years have NOT been kind! Has she heard of Spanx? Moisturizer? Sunscreen? Did she get her date at ‘rent a dude?’ Those kids of hers are such brats. I would never allow mine to behave that way. OMG!”
We all seem to feel comfortable voicing our opinions about people’s personal choices, lifestyles, appearances, possessions, political viewpoints, likes and dislikes, you name it. If we are in the safe cocoon of friends and the “non-judgment zone” even though that is exactly what we are doing, we feel empowered to cast aspersions with free rein and lots of well-targeted venom. The irony is that we will turn on our most obsequious smiles when in the presence of the individual whom we were trashing just moments ago, because we would never deign to be so mean to their faces. That wouldn’t be nice, would it? So instead, we fawn all over them and act phony. Keeps things simple, peaceful, and fake. Not that I am advocating hurting people’s feelings by making snide comments to them. I suppose I am trying to understand why we do it. Because we all do it. Some more frequently and viciously than others. Maybe it’s to make ourselves feel better about our own inadequacies. They say the biggest bullies are those with the biggest insecurities. But at least bullies are open about their disdain. The so-called silent offenders just do it among themselves because they think it’s funny and they likely believe it’s harmless.
Fat shaming is probably the worst. Fat shaming is a dangerous precedent that is noticed by young children, particularly girls as early as toddler age. Often without thinking we women bemoan the pounds we need to lose, the girth around our mid sections, our big butts, heavy thighs, whatever our offending body parts are. Believe me, children’s ears are acutely aware of everything, and the bullying begins early. It’s sad really when a three-year-old comes home from pre-school to tell her mommy that so and so accosted her with those hateful words “you have a big bubble butt!” Why should a little one need to even be aware of what he or she looks like at this point in life? God knows there’s plenty of time for self-loathing. Right now, let’s leave these kids to enjoy Legos and other innocent pursuits. But unfortunately, they are learning early to be critical of things they shouldn’t worry about and also they are learning that it’s OK to shame others, which is a deeper problem for our society. I have been subtly fat shamed and it’s not fun. For me though, it occurred as an adult. I was always quite slender as a child and young adult. Then life happened and the pounds overtook me. I could feel the disapproval when I got on a plane or into a booth at a restaurant or struggled to get out of said booth. But I used my sharp humor and self-deprecating attitude to deflect. It worked. But it didn’t ease the pain I felt internally. Then I lost the weight. Then life happened again with the death of my husband and other ancillary family issues. I gained back some of the weight, not a lot, but enough to make me and yes, others take notice. I like myself, but of course I don’t like the pounds. But I will never allow myself to feel ashamed of who I am, and I also will never hurt someone through words or actions due to their appearance. For the record, when my weight was at its highest and I needed to fly, as soon as I got on the plane, I immediately asked the flight crew for a seat belt extension. I did so directly and without shame, even would make a joke. I also always engaged my seat mate with the “well sucks to be you today, you get the fat girl. But I am adorable and charming and funny as hell.” The joke never fell flat and every time, I made a friend. Own it and it won’t own you.
Shaming occurs due to other triggers for the shamers. A lot has to do with simply not understanding the choices someone makes, choices as simple as a haircut or clothing. In college, for a short time I dated a guy with shoulder length hair. My father went ballistic. No matter that the dude was brilliant, getting his Ph.D. in English Lit, Dad couldn’t get past the hair. My mother, God bless her, could. She said three simple words: “It’s just hair.” I never forgot that. If we all approached life and our differences with an openness to the other individual, to look beyond the superficial, wouldn’t it make the bigger problems so much easier to tackle? Maybe I am being naïve, but I truly believe a lot of the world’s problems are blown out of proportion due to meaningless prejudices.
Passing judgment on parents with unruly children is a big one. We have all seen it – at the mall, in a busy restaurant, at church, or in a social situation – a child out of control, running amok, screaming, backtalking, ignoring his or her parents, being destructive, rude, petulant, you name it. And of course, we make assumptions and are quick to puff up our imaginary feathers and holier than thou attitude of our superior parenting skills and nod knowingly to other parents of the same ilk. The eye contact says it all: “My children are SO well behaved and would never do what that little monster is doing. My child is just perfect.” Back it up princess. Maybe your child doesn’t have autism. Maybe your child doesn’t have an endocrine problem or a chromosomal disorder or any number of deficiencies or issues that don’t come with a cheat sheet to readily explain to outraged onlookers what the harried parents and these special children are experiencing. So maybe we should just give them a break and instead of looking askance at them with indignation and condemnation, we could look at them with concern and maybe offer to help. Just a thought.
Making fun of someone or showing our disapproval either blatantly or through subtle looks or behaviors simply because they are perceived as not pretty enough, handsome enough, didn’t benefit from cosmetic surgery, orthodontia, dermatological assistance or had Daddy’s credit card to buy the latest fashions. This is just not cool. I am having a flashback to high school when loudmouth popular girl shamed me in front of multiple classmates for wearing the same dress multiple times at school events – sorry sweetheart, my parents had ten children; they did the best they could. As an aside, I know my and other large families experienced our fair share of side eye, snide comments, judgmental attitudes, even a little pity for space we occupied in the world. Too damn bad. We were fed, and very well I might add. We were educated – private school, thank you very much. We were clothed; not a lot of clothes, witness this paragraph, but they were clean, well taken care of and stylish. And we were taught values. And for the record, I had the best mom in the world. I don’t hold a candle to her. I miss her every day. By the way, I think I looked slammin’ in that dress, despite the fact I wore it a lot. So, I am sorry if it bored you by its repetitiveness, loudmouth popular girl. Bitch.
Shaming can be inadvertent and unintended to cause discomfort for the recipient. I know I have been guilty of it on more than one occasion. I do try to be aware of the words coming out of my mouth or the facial expressions this mug makes. I am definitely a work in progress. But I can say with certainty that I would never intentionally cause anyone pain and if you are reading this and I have, shame on me. Please seek me out and I will offer you the appropriate mea culpas. All of us are worthy of respect for who we are. I have a huge ass and I am proud of it. Shame on you if you think otherwise. Bitch. Let’s all of us do better.
“You can still love people even if they don’t believe the same things you believe or act the way you act.”
– Danny Gokey
Sing, sing a song
Sing out loud
Sing out strong
Sing of good things not bad
Sing of happy not sad
Sing, sing a song
Make it simple to last
Your whole life long
Don’t worry that it’s not
Good enough for anyone
Else to hear
Just sing, sing a song