Why Be A Jerk?

Earlier this week, as I strolled through a production office offering a box of salted caramels to everyone, a 50ish woman in costumes, who was working on a jacket for my character, piped up “Don’t eat any of those! You won’t fit in your costume…haha”…trailing off in a kind of universal-don’t-we-all-know-it-and-agree-laugh. As I felt a swell of defensive, hurt, offended, righteous comments gurgling up, I chose a gentle “I don’t abide or live by those kind of rules” with a smile as I exited the room.

The experience has had me thinking…

What is wrong with us? Why have we allowed body shaming to become so common that a perfect stranger would say something so unkind, without even recognizing that it IS unkind. To be clear, I don’t say this because I took it personally. The fact is, I started to take it personally, and within .05 seconds I recalibrated to recognize that her statement had nothing to do with me (a distinction that is the result of a helluvah lot of work on my part).

I simply cannot get behind body shaming. It may be the single most pervasive & socially acceptable tactics that undermines women’s self worth and value in our society. I made a very conscious decision about 10 years ago to not be a part of the problem. I won’t tell you that you ‘look’ beautiful, I’ll tell you that you ‘are’ beautiful. You will never, ever hear me compliment someone’s weight loss. Ever. I will note how healthy someone is looking, regardless of size. Or perhaps that I’m concerned about the health of someone close to me, on both ends of the scale, always from a place of love…and never a joke. These are some very specific and intentional distinctions…because those little comments, they accumulate. Then they can become exponentially more damaging to someone whose self worth is deeply tied in with body image.  Furthermore, I couldn’t give a shit if something is ‘flattering’ on me. I’m not trying to look skinny. I want to be healthy, and I work really hard to achieve said health for my heart, energy level & life.

I encourage the people in my life to shed such confining terms and standards. I beg you to think about the effect these comments can have…before you say them. Ask yourself if what you have to offer will be helpful or make a person feel better about themselves. If it doesn’t, maybe ponder why you would say such a thing? What’s going on for you that would make you be unintentionally cruel?

This is the tip of the iceberg. But it matters. And for the record, I reeeeally enjoyed a dark chocolate salted caramel before my fitting.