It was Wallis Simpson who said "You can't be too rich or too thin." I'm not sure she was quite right.
A work colleague has recently lost quite a bit of weight and has taken up running. Boo to the running, that’s no fun, but hooray for the weight loss. She looks amazing and feels loads better. It started me thinking about people’s attitude to weight (and specifically mine) after a snide woman at work collared her in the kitchen and told her that she’d lost too much weight and looked better before. The commenter is one of the worst kinds of snide people, a smiling assassin. She pretends to be all sweet smiles and looks like the kind of woman who’d kick through leaves wearing a woolly jumper with a Labrador dog. She’s actually a bit of a viper underneath all that. I loathe that. If you’re going to be mean then be brave enough to wear your heart on sleeve. I admire mean and honest.
In my twenties I was desperately thin and this elicited much commenting. I hated being so thin and hated the comments. I weighed about nine and a half stones and at six foot tall was pretty emaciated. I ate fair amounts of food and was continually ravenous. I think that the nervous energy of youth kept me slim. I also got almost too much exercise. I walked to and from walk (35 minutes each way), walked the dog each day (45 minutes) and worked on a really chaotic hospital ward. This involved lots of lifting of old ladies and running up and down frantically. I also smoked a lot of Marlboro.
My ribs would stick out and it would hurt to lie down. Bus seats and benches dug into my bony behind. I also looked a little drawn, although my cheekbones were amazing. I had to buy belts meant for adolescent boys and my trousers bagged out unattractively at the rear. The weird thing was that people think they can comment on skinniness and it isn’t offensive. They wouldn’t go up to someone and say “Fuck, you’re fat! Lose some weight.” But they always seemed to think it was OK to tell me I was too thin and needed to gain weight.
There seemed to be two assumptions 1) I needed to eat more. They’d tell me this. (aka do you have an eating disorder?) 2) I was ill in some way and needed a check up (aka have you got AIDS or some other wasting disease?). I must admit that after years of people commenting on my lean cuisine figure so frequently, I would occasionally play up on this. It made me chuckle to examine biscuit packs for calorie contents and then nibble at the edge of one gingerly. I did the consumptive cough well. I loved the after meal visit to the loo with a quick moist eyed dab at the mouth as I returned. Life’s irritations can be borne so much more readily when one makes them into a comical little game to amuse oneself. All the better if you’re the only one playing and the only one who knows the rules.
People still comment on my weight a lot. I weigh two stones more now and am a healthy 11 and a half stone. My Body Mass Index is mid range. I have a tiny bit of back fat, a small amount of chest flesh and a tiny belly which I’m quite proud of. This all seemed to appear at around age 30 and has stayed ever since. The odd bout of madness or crazy drinking benders of the past has knocked off the odd stone or two through lack of nutrition, but it bounces back. I never ate a morsel when I was drinking and low mood and anxiety were an effective slimming aid for me. My mouth and stomach would reject all food.
Maybe it’s being male in a female dominated environment. You can say what you like about a man’s looks. It doesn’t matter. Maybe I’m too affable and people feel they can say whatever they wish. Whatever it is, I get comments quite frequently. I’ve either lost weight, gained weight or am looking well, looking drawn etc etc. I suppose it could just be concern. As a sign of present madness and low mood was always huge weight loss then maybe it’s nice to have people notice or care if you’re wasting away. I’ll tolerate it with a smile, for now.