The Shame Game

I want to offer an observation and then an apology. I was sitting on the subway this morning and overheard this conversation from one young woman to another: Friend A: Want a piece of this apple? Friend B: No, thanks. Friend A: You really should eat it. You look thin to me. Friend B: Same weight as always. Friend A: Yeah… which is too skinny.

I looked at the young woman under scrutiny. She looked healthy and lean. But I would never think “thin,” and certainly not “skinny.” So her friend’s observation didn’t resonate with me, but what I recognized immediately was the look of shame or embarrassment on the face of the young woman who’d been judged – because that’s what it was/is. I know that look. I’ve had that look. I’ve had that feeling. It doesn’t feel good. You feel like you must look ill, or there’s something you’re not seeing in the mirror that everyone else sees.

There is nothing more intimate to us than our own bodies. We know – without a shadow of a doubt – what the “good” parts are, the “bad” parts are, the parts we’re proud of and the parts we hope nobody will see in the light of day. We are painfully and joyfully aware of what we carry around with us 24/7. Those feelings are historical and profoundly sensitive.

Simply said: our bodies are not for public commentary – no matter how that commentary is delivered in the supposed spirit of well meaning, and no matter how close our friends and family are to us. Our bodies are not a joke to be riffed on by someone or a topic of dinner conversation. Let’s be honest: the only time we’re comfortable with body commentary is when someone says, “Wow, you look fantastic!” It feels good. All of the other just feels like . . . well, judgment. And that
feels shitty.

Of course, I’m not talking about comments of genuine concern that should be said in private while lovingly holding each other’s hands. I’m talking about the drive-by comments we often make, that are shot out of a loose cannon of a mouth.

The apology: I know I’ve done this. I’ve made those insensitive comments. So to any
of my friends that were the object of a careless observation, I’m deeply sorry and I
won’t do it again.

To love is to respect, honor and cherish – big or small, short or tall.