Common Courtesy, Starting With Numero Uno

December 29, 2007 at 1:19 pm 2 comments

I was reading Deniselle’s recent post about dealing with her mom, and I started to reply. Around the time when I started my fifth paragraph, I realized perhaps I ought to just turn this into a post on my own, poorly tended blog. So here goes:

Elsewhere on Teh Intarwubs, I recently was part of a conversation which was, literally, “Should we (fat women) make fun of ourselves?” I shit you not. That’s practically a direct quote.

Now, most women said that it was something they did largely in self-defense. That at least if they were the ones putting themselves down, they would know when and where and how bad it was going to be, and that it helped them, to feel that they were in control of it. Which I get, for all that I’m not sure that there’s really any sort of prophylactic effect in putting oneself down.

To me, I guess, it’s always seemed that if you put yourself down, then you are signaling to others that this is how you believe you deserve to be treated, and don’t expect any better.

And no, I’m not saying we shouldn’t admit our mistakes, or admit to our own personality quirks and foibles. But there’s a big difference between, “Sorry your present is so late, I’m really bad about getting things in the mail sometimes,” and telling everyone how worthless you are.

Personally, I prefer to take a more self-loving (and belligerent) stance, which is that if anyone wants to say something disparaging about me, then they’re gonna have to do the work. I’m sure as shit not going to do it for them. Let them figure out what to say, and how to say it, and use their own goddamn breath to do it.

But honestly, what really got to me in this discussion was the number of women who thought putting themselves down was, bafflingly, the “polite” thing to do. Like if we bash on ourselves, then we’ve spared our friends trouble, just like when we make sure to leave a spare roll of toilet paper in an easily accessible place when we have guests over. Apparently, to a lot of fat women, broadcasting self-hatred is simply common courtesy.

And while I can’t be absolutely sure, I did get a sense that this was in part a generational thing. Like somehow beating yourself up for being fat was only being nice.

I imagine it’s part of a cultural expectation that women be modest and demure. When someone compliments us, we’re supposed to tell our complimenter that no, really, we’re not worthy of such high praise.

It’s the “This old thing?” phenomenon. Except it’s not. Because as fat women we’re made to feel that we have nothing worth complimenting, and so putting the shield of self-hatred up… I dunno. Maybe for some women it feels almost like saying, “Look, don’t strain yourself. I know there’s nothing for you to compliment about me, so I’m going to call myself a Fatty McFatterson so you don’t have to fish around for some lame or backhanded compliment to make in order to abide by some social more that wasn’t really designed for this situation.”

Maybe it’s less generational and more to do with being part of social groups that rely on a more “chivalrous” set of social cues and codes…. hmm.

Anyway, in the course of this conversation, one of the things I pointed out was that, after adopting my belligerently self-loving stance of not putting myself down for the sake of others, I noticed that really, nobody else did it either. And there weren’t even weird silences from time to time, like someone wanted to pick on my weight but wasn’t sure how.

And that’s about when I realized that I hadn’t just been putting myself down, in all that Best Defense Is A Good Offense Self-Bashing. I’d been putting my friends down as well. Not only had I been saying, “I’m a loser and you shouldn’t like me,” I’d been telling my friends, “I think you’re so shallow and callous that you can’t possibly think of me as anything but a big blob of lard, so to take a little of the pain out of being my friend, I will spare you the trouble of putting me down and just do it myself.”

My friends like me as I am. The whole package. They don’t sit there thinking, “Geez, it’s too bad Barb won’t lose weight. I’d totally be better friends with her if she didn’t have such a giant ass.”

The good thing was that not only did that latter argument seem to make an impression on several of the women in the discussion, but this conversation also sort of spawned a secondary thread about how to build one’s self-esteem, which was awesome and really cool to read. I know I got some cool ideas from it, I hope others did too.

But all this has put me in the mind of New Year’s Resolutions. Because really, we need to do something to combat all the insane “It’s the New Year so YOU MUST DIET!” crap that’s flooding the airwaves.

So here, for anyone who doesn’t already do these things, are my two suggestions for resolutions to make a happier you in the New Year. (They co-opt our language, I co-opt theirs. Nyah!)

1. Make The Haters Do The Work – If someone wants to put you down, make them do the work. Stop doing it for them. Show the world you deserve kind, loving treatment by treating yourself in kind, loving ways.

2. Just Say Thank You – When someone compliments you, don’t deny it. Don’t tell them they’re wrong. Don’t give them a list of reasons why you don’t deserve their admiration. Just say “Thank you,” and then shut up.

When I first started all this Loving Myself junk, I gotta admit, #2 there was by far the hardest. Just saying, “Thank you,” and not tacking on some reason why I was still a loser suckbag? Omigod. The first few times I thought I was going to have to chew the inside of my mouth off from the strain of keeping it shut. But I learned. I got better at it. Now, after much practice, I can even use some of the more advanced techniques. Like when a friend complimented my (completely awesome) purple T-shirt a few weeks ago, I said “Thank you,” and then followed up with, “I can’t take full credit, though. Caz bought it for me.” And when she said, “Really? Wow. Because it looks great on you!” I replied, “Thanks! Yeah, I really like it.”

It’s not easy, but unlike dieting, it works. And you’re worth it. (Ha! More co-opting! Nyah!)

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Quick update Now it’s Thorny’s turn to cry…

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Deniselle  |  January 4, 2008 at 6:00 pm

    Cool post! I like the idea of “letting the haters do the work”. It deters some of them, at least, though sadly not my mother.

    It’s difficult to take a compliment because we think it sounds like “Yes, I really am awesome, thank you for noticing.” I think self-deprecating comments sound a lot more self-absorbed in the end, but we think it sounds humble. It’s strange really.

    Reply
  • 2. Now it’s Thorny’s turn to cry… « Thornacious  |  January 5, 2008 at 4:45 pm

    […] I said the other day – To me, I guess, it’s always seemed that if you put yourself down, then you are signaling to […]

    Reply

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