You’re a grown-ass woman, and regardless of the actual size of your ass, it is very likely that people have talked to you about it. Just like, on the street, or at parties, or at the gym. Just wherever. You’ve got a bod, and members of our society at large have things to say about it! And it seems like they juuuuust get to. The other day in an elevator, a woman I see in my apartment building sometimes turned to me and said, “You’ve lost weight, I think.” When she left, my boyfriend was all “!!! ‘Scu you?” and I was like, “Welcome to life as a lady. The tampon commercials are right: Being a girl DOES rock!” This woman, incidentally, is very nice and doesn’t know me very well, and says this every time I see her regardless of the veracity of this pronouncement. I think she is just trying to give me a lil’ boost for my day, which is lovely in theory but obviously one giant ((( when you consider that “you look thinner” is the nicest thing a girl could hear in a lot of people’s minds. But also “you look thin,” by virtue of its unfortunate status in our society as the Ur-compliment, is kind of a nice option compared to some of the other things people feel just completely comfortable rhyming off at me and basically every woman I know/I think women in general? Lisa and Prima Feminista have talked about street harassment and catcalls eloquently and at length, and this guide is about those guys for sure, but it’s also about well-meaning aunts and judgemental gym teachers and employers and coworkers and that one friend that always has something to say about how your pants are fitting these days and you’re just kind of like “COOL IT, BUD.” So many people to talk about. Let’s get started.
That one older man who probably doesn’t mean anything gross but is also sooooo grosss and either does or does not know it.
DOES HE KNOW IT?! Good god. This man. Just making all kinds of statements that amount quietly but irreversibly to “I’m looking at your body and I think things about it.” “I like the way that blouse fits,” he says with Meaninful Eyes when you come into work in the morning. “You’ve really grown into your figure, you’re a woman now!” he says to your chubby 15-year-old face at a Christmas party. “How was your vacation? I bet you drove all the boys on the beach wild in your bathing suit. Now let’s get this gynecological exam started.” Alright, that last one is a slight exagj, but you know who I’m talking about. Friends’ dads who told me my breasts had gotten bigger during puberty, or the Subway sandwich guy who noticed that I’d lost a bunch of weight in high school and like, congratulated me on it when I ordered a salad? What? In what world is that a cool move?! The thought process of these guys is so confusing to me: “I have been looking at this woman’s body and noticed something about it, and it’s kind of weird that I noticed, and I think I should tell her. Just so she knows. She should know that I think this. It’s important.” Whyyyyyyy nooooooo please no it’s not.
Your bitchy friend
Buddies who make you feel bad about your body are not your buddies, end of think piece. Everyone’s got their own body drama, and we can certainly all relate and share with each other as part of dealing with it, but the second their drama starts to become your drama, that’s enuff of that. If a pal always has something to add about your “problem areas” or wants to compare waist sizes or something else dumb, you should sit them down for some Oprah-to-Lindsay level Real Talk. (NB: In some unfortunate cases, this bitchy friend can take the form of one’s own mother. A truly regrettable circumstance and one that requires the realest of talks at the postest of hastes. Whether family or friend, the person in question will almost always claim their concern stems from love for you and problems with themselves, but you are completely within your rights to kindly ask that they express that love literally any other way.)
Guys who think it’s a compliment to tell you that your bod makes their dingle tingle
Not a compliment, really! I’ve got the internet. I’ve seen what’s on there with this express purpose and a lot of it is wayyy gross! And also, if you can possibly believe it, sir, I do not judge how much my body is makin’ it work based on whether or not I can arouse an old, gin-soaked man in a dive-y bar! Your comment about my sweet rack has been immediately deleted from the inbox of my brain to make room for cataloguing and storing all the pictures of sunsets I’ve been fav-ing on Instagram. #blessed
“You’re so great at dressing for your body type,” is a personal pet peeve, and something I hear semi-frequently. I’m sure most people don’t mean it this way, but it really reads to me as, “It’s so wild that you can find stores that not only sell but will also help you hoist yourself into whatever ship’s sail has been repurposed into a dress for your crazy weird body. That colour is so flattering to your corpse’s complexion and I can barely even see your tail!” Come on, y’all. “You’re a great dresser,” is a very nice thing to say to a person that does not at all involve the skinsuit and related muscles/bones/blubber they were born into and have to live with every day. Passive-aggro strangers seem to especially like commenting on the obvious: “That’s a strong roman nose you’ve got there;” “Holy shit girl, look how big your tits are!” “You’re extremely thin! Do you get cold easily?” etc. etc. etc., ad literal nauseum. Attention, chatty Cathys and Carls: if it’s the first thing you notice when you look at us, it’s something we’ve thought about. Probably a lot. Probably we don’t need you to bring it up. You just never know with people! Even if you feel like it’s positive. “You’ve lost weight,” for instance: if I haven’t, it makes me wonder if I should, and if I have, it reinforces this idea I try very hard to ignore, that I’m more attractive sans 10 or 15 pounds. I’m sure I can’t even imagine the range of weird body convos women of colour end up forced into, but I’ve seen a few “Your natural hair is so wild, good for you [?]” moments that have made me want to crawl into a hole and die. It’s hard out there for a…lady with a human woman’s body. I’m going to propose something that sounds kind of restrictive, but could actually end up being incredibly freeing (#funwithparadoxes): maybe as a general rule, just don’t bring up other people’s bodies? Like, do you have to? If you think about it, it’s a very personal thing and there are, at a guess, between 12 and 47,000 other readily available topics you can talk about instead. Think about it. If someone wants your opinion on their body they will ask you for it. Otherwise, A sport has almost always just happened, somewhere, why not talk about that?
For time’s sake, that is the end of the list. For now. We may need to do a part two, because as you may have guessed I have a lot of feels on this particular topic. In the meantime, honourable mention for nightmare body talk goes to: authority figures you can’t sass back, other people’s grandmothers, construction worker stereotypes who are really letting the team down and who I bet all the gentleman construction workers are mad at, certain dance teachers, girls a grade above you who aren’t wearing bras yet, judge-y doctors, TV in general, and, hopefully, none of us! (“None of us! None of us!” – The Grown-Ass Simpson’s Guide) (What?) (Goodnight!)
Follow Monica on Twitter: @monicaheisey