Friday, February 20, 2009

Being A Zero

Earlier today, a doctor I work with approaches, and greets me with:

"Hello, little boy!"

Me: Pardon?

Her: Hello, little boy!

Me: *confusion*

Her: Your hair, it makes you look like a little boy. My son has it like that, only worse.

Me: Worse? Thanks a lot. *I laugh, trying to give the (false) impression that I am not offended.*

Me: I figured I'd go with a boyish haircut to match my boyish figure.

Her: *smiles and wanders off*

I do have a boyish figure. I can fit quite comfortably into a boys size 12, and used to occasionally buy things from the kids department when I shopped in thrift stores throughout my early 20's.

For the most part, I'm grateful for my smallness and slightness.

I can't begin to imagine the difficulties faced by those who struggle with their body weight for their entire adult lives. I try to be extremely sensitive to that issue, knowing that I've been blessed with a quick metabolism and what comes effortlessly to me is a daily challenge for others. I never sneer or make assumptions about the reasons why someone is overweight.

My shape is convenient. I can run to catch a bus without having to hang on to my bosom. I've never had to worry about crumbs in cleavage, or sore shoulders from my bra straps digging in. I would NEVER get breast implants, even if they were free and I was guaranteed a 100% successful procedure with no complications. What God gave me is more than good enough.

It's much easier for me to buy clothes today than it was 15 years ago, when I had just joined the workforce. I attribute this to the large number of people of Asian origin who have immigrated to Canada. In the last ten years I've noticed that more and more stores carry extra-small sizes. There are still some women's clothing stores in which the smallest size is too big for me, but I have plenty of choice.

Average-sized or larger women tend to assume that nothing could be better than being tiny. I've known women to resent me before I was even introduced to them, based on jealousy. They feel free to discuss my body in ways that make me feel self-conscious. I wish they wouldn't.

They wouldn't make comments about the size of a larger woman, so why do they feel that it's OK to comment on my body? I try not to get too hung up about it, but when I hear someone I work with say "I can't see whether or not she's in her office - she's so TINY!", it makes me feel uncomfortable. I mean honestly, I'm not microscopic. Nor deaf.

Despite the fact that I have some items of clothing in my closet labelled "size 0", I do exist. (Sometimes that size zero thing gives me existential angst.)

I'll never forget the day that I went shopping to buy a dress for my senior prom. I was thrilled to have an excuse to buy a beautiful, hopefully sexy dress to wear for that all-important night. I went to Eaton's department store, to the Peppertree department for young women, but I had trouble finding something that fit. I sought the sales woman's help. She advised me to go looking for a dress in the children's department.


I don't even want to talk about swimsuits. Fortunately I don't enjoy swimming, so I haven't had to face that prospect since 1996.

Anyway, my point is that the women who feel so free to discuss my size should think twice. Would they want someone discussing them in those terms? There are lots of stereotypes about overweight people that we're supposed to be sensitive to: not all large people are lazy, or eat junk food, or don't exercise. I know quite a few people who exercise regularly and eat healthy but all they can do is to maintain their weight, not lose, due to metabolic issues.

People make a lot of assumptions about me based on my size. Anyone who doesn't know me well assumes I'm a vegetarian, which I'm not. Some people assume that I'm anorexic (a big assumption - it's a serious mental illness), which I'm not. Whenever I'm in a restaurant with a friend and we both order a soda, the server invariably puts the Diet Soda in front of me and the regular one in front of my friend, even though it's the other way around.

I'm happy with my shape and size. I wouldn't trade if I could. But that doesn't make it OK for people to say whatever they want about me. I would like to be treated with the same sensitivity with which I treat others. I've never said about anyone I work with "My goodness, she's so LARGE!" even if it might be true. But I doubt they'll ever see it that way.

Here's a link to a post where you can see the bod in question.


Warped Mind of Ron said...

It's all about social stigma. Being large is a negative so being small is a positive. So I guess they view it as sitting around giving you praise for being so small. If I were you and that got on my nerves I would turn sideways and jump through them and cut them in half :)

As an overweight person I hate it when other assume I eat junk food, don't work out and am lazy. I would give them hell if only I wasn't so lazy, eating junk food and avoiding the gym.

jameil1922 said...

My homie Stace has the same issue. Size 0 and sometimes 00 and sweet as pie (most of the time) but still surrounded by haters way too often. there's no reason for you to hate her on sight. ridiculous. why do people think they can say whatever they want to small people??? hey little boy???? UNACCEPTABLE!!

Sparkling Red said...

Ron: You're hilarious! Seriously, between your last two blog posts and this comment I've been laughing my butt off all day, thanks to you. Now excuse me, I'm going to go sharpen my hip-bones.

Jameil: Maybe they figure that if we get upset they can just beat us up, because we're so little and helpless. :-p Then again we can also be quick and devious!(Mwah ha ha! *wrings skinny little hands in sinister fashion*)

Dianne said...

I will confess to sometimes commenting on a small person's size - never in a nasty way, mostly out of envy but it is wrong regardless

I will be more sensitive in the future

In general we are all too caught up in exterior labels

Anonymous said...

I like my women slim and sexy.

Jenski said...

I missed most of that post after reading that a doctor with whom you work told you that you look like a boy. Really?

Keera Ann Fox said...

I think size zero (and for those even smaller, double-zero) is plain stupid. A size nothing? Just because somebody doesn't want to wear a size 16 but wants to claim size 14? At least shoes are the same. I'm still an 8 1/2.

I used to be purely boyish, but age has filled me out, happily (and to my surprise) in all the right places. :-)

Aurora said...

How rude of her. If she says that to you, at work, I shudder to think what she says to her son.

Scarlet said...

I've blogged about this same issue when my boss commented on my lite lunch.

Like you, I wouldn't go for fake boobs either. I'm happy with my figure, as thin as I am. I feel energetic and strong and I don't care what others have to say about it.

I also don't understand why overweight people feel it's okay to make insensitive comments about thin people when they obviously don't want to hear the negative things others have to say about their body type. I just don't get that.

LL Cool Joe said...

Comments are only ever acceptable to us when they are the kind we want to hear. Also what someone thinks maybe a flattering comment could infact be a slap in the face.

There are ways around this of course by just saying someone looks great without commenting on their size, gender, colour, age etc. That's what I try to train my kids to do.

NicoleB said...

See, it's actually the same on both sites :)
I had a sales man in Italy telling me once (after me inquiring a dress in my size, they were on sale) "In YOUR size??!! No."
In Korea I barely could get clothes, all tiny sizes.
I don't want to think of what women do that don't only have big boobs and a round bottom but are really overweight. They probably have to have their clothes made :(
And jealousy, you have that going both ways as well. Some women are simply strange ;)

NicoleB said...

I almost forgot to mention the little boy part...I think I would have punched her face right on the spot :(
Reminds me of the comment of a girl friend of a friend (Hungarian), asking my husband (having me translate) "Why did you marry a German?!"
Not the same train of thought, but it just comes back to my mind....

Sparkling Red said...

Dianne: It's a difficult line to walk. It's easy to forget that even a compliment is, in essence, a judgement, so if it's not coming from someone love and trusted, it can be weird.

Unsigned: Lucky for us women, there are men who like all shapes and sizes.

Jenski: Yes, she sure did. She's actually quite a sweet lady - she just didn't think at all about how I might feel. She would have felt terrible if she knew how much her comment stung.

Keera: Indeed, shoe sizes are much more sensible. Hmm... I wonder if I'll fill out in a few years? That would be alright. ;-)

Aurora: Her son is a grown man now with a family of his own. I think he turned out OK. She's not mean, just clueless and a little insensitive. :-p

Scarlet: I'm glad to hear that you wouldn't change yourself. Self-acceptance is the best way to go for anyone who can achieve it.

LL Cool Joe: As I said to Dianne, even a compliment is, in essence, a judgement, so it can be very uncomfortable to be on the receiving end if the giver isn't a trusted friend. Just because it's a positive judgement doesn't necessarily make it good - sometimes it's better not to feel judged at all.

Nicole: Oh for sure- Korea? I live in a neighbourhood with a lot of Koreans, and once I ventured into a Korean lingerie store to pick up a pair of underpants. I ended up buying a Large, and it was still a little too small for me. Any regular-sized European would be like a giant there! ;-)

Nicole said...

In our second year in Korea "BIG" was getting hype and I got the chance to buy some fleece sweaters and one pair of pants that fit me.
From time to time I got some decent stuff at the PX with the Americans.
But usually their style made me turn green ;)

Anonymous said...

Wow. I never thought about comments about people being small bothering them! Thanks for the heads up. I have struggled with weight my entire adult life. 20 lbs up, 20 lbs mother is tiny. I have always called her my "teeny tiny mama" with affection. She's so pretty and petite. I never thought that it might bother her. I'll have to ask.

Sparkling Red said...

Laura: It probably doesn't bother your mother, because she knows that you love her. Those comments are only disturbing when they come from people who are being thoughtless or envious. If it's said with love, it's all good. :-)