Every fall, without fail, I am faced with the fact that I will be cold, and that someone will inevitably say: "Well you wouldn't be so cold if you put on some fat." It happens on a weekly basis for a good two months every year, with comments coming from strangers, professors, colleagues, sometimes even family. And every time, I offer a measely "shut up" and every time, I fester on the comment for hours, thinking of the retorts I should have said (Foiling them with science: "Actually, muscle mass would be a better means of providing heat," with witty word play: "Being cold is a sacrifice I make to look this hot," or with equal rudeness: "can I borrow some of yours" -- but don't worry, I'd never say that one!!). And I vow that next time, I will take more of a stand.
But the next time comes, and I find I shrink inside myself. I'm not a 28 year old, successful, educated, confident female. I'm back to being the 10 year old girl in the grade 4 hallway after everyone has has left. I still hear from behind me the taunts of a boy lingering after a missed bus. "You're so scrawny! You're like a twig! It's creepy! It's UGLY. YOU'RE UGLY." Sometimes, if the "put on some fat" comment happens a little more frequently, or on a day when I've been beating myself up for something else, I merge that memory with another involving the same pipsqueak "You sound like Kermit the Frog! It's so annoying! I bet you can't even stand to hear yourself think!" I still want to run home, as I did that day, and hide under my blankets crying, too afraid to tell my parents what had happened, not wanting to have to explain it and relive it all again.
So while the professors, colleagues, friends and family may have the best of intentions, not believing their comment will cause any harm, it scrapes the scab off of old wounds, and they become indistinguishable from my childhood tormentor. My #skinnygirlproblem goes from the realm of #notrealproblem to the dark realms of a damaged psyche.
And all with an off the cuff, likely well intentioned comment.
But I also know that next time, I won't slice into them with my razor sharp tongue, even if it is sharpened by wit or logic. Not only do I know my demons won't magically stop taunting me from within, but also that everyone carries their own demons in them. Their comments could be just as much about their problems as my own. But I will hope that for every time someone, out of ignorance, sends me shame spiraling into my past, it will remind me to be careful I am not doing the same to someone else