So forgive me if this post sounds more like a rant than usual but I am very heated right now.
It was two weeks ago. There’s this boy that I go to school with who has not so subtly let me know that he’s interested in me. He’s a bit irritating but also very sweet, usually, so I try to be as friendly as possible. Anyway, I and a friend of mine were sitting in the library working on our final projects when the boy came and began to work on his final projects as well. He was his usual self, going out of his way to make conversation and I, as usual, entertained him to the extent that I could allow myself to because, again, he’s sweet kid. Even though I really was trying to be nice, the occasional snide remark does escape me here and there and my friend chastised me about my supposed rudeness. I disagreed with her assessment of my behavior, but I began to try extra hard to be nicer even though I had no interest in this boy, whatsoever, because again, he’s a sweet kid. That was until the point came that he wasn’t.
He mentioned how he wanted to go to McDonald’s to get something to eat and in making the politest conversation that I could manage and in truthfulness, I added that I could really go for some McDonald’s french fries.
“No, you don’t need to be eating McDonald’s french fries” he said.
“Why not?” I asked him.
“Yeah, why the fuck not?” my friend chimed in after me.
“Because those fries will make you gain weight.”
“And? I care because…?” I asked sharply.
“Because I like you the way you are. I don’t want you to lose weight and I don’t want you to gain weight either.”
My shoulders tensed up but I pursed my lips and said nothing at the moment. I know that he did not say or mean this maliciously in the slightest, but the way he meant his comment to be received was irrelevant. My friend, in shock, let him know that he didn’t win any points with me with that remark. Puzzled, he continued to insist that my body was good the way that it was and that he just wanted to assure me that in his eyes, he saw no need for me to make or have the desire to make any alterations to my body.
“The problem is that I don’t give a fuck what you think and I’m going to eat whatever the fuck I want because it is my body” I said, sternly but still noticeably restrained from my usual “angry black girl” self.
I wasn’t looking at his face because I was working on the computer and I had no intention of wasting my precious time just to entertain someone I was thoroughly uninterested in, so I could not tell if he got the message or not. Either way, he dropped the subject and I was fine.
Since the friend that I was with at the time agreed that he was overstepping flirting territory straight into being “rude” (a word she uses a little too much and often too freely but in this case, I’d say rude is a bit of an understatement) it did not occur to me that some people might find my taking offense to be uncalled for.
Here are the phrases that stood out to me as I recounted the story amongst some of my other friends:
- “It was a compliment.”
- Is it a compliment? Is it really? I don’t see the compliment in his misogynistic entitlement to tell me what I should and should not eat. As if the reason why I eat the way I do or look the way I do in general is for him, or for anyone else for that matter, but myself. The parallels can be drawn to men who request that women wear minimal or no makeup because “we look good just the way we are” or they like “natural beauty”. Excuse the fuck outta me. Most women do not wear makeup, or dress up, or do their hair, or do anything for the sole purpose of pleasing men. Women’s sole purpose of existing is not for the pleasure of men, but way too many men still think that it is. Also, a true compliment is devoid of instructions, requests, or demands. A compliment is simply, you look nice today or you are beautiful. It would no longer be a compliment if someone said, “I don’t want you to cut or dye your hair because I like it just the way it is.” That may be how you feel, but you are insinuating that your opinions about that person’s hair is of so much consequence that they should make decisions about their own features in order to satisfy your preferences. The context in which he presented that he “likes me the way I am” is what stripped the comment of its compliment quality and turned it into misogyny.
- “You’re being too high maintenance.”
- “High maintenance” is one of those infamous sexist buzz words used to condemn women for expressing human behaviors that society deems should be exclusively masculine. See: bossy: a woman who leads; takes charge, crazy: a woman who expresses any emotion other than happy or content, bitch: a woman who stands up for herself, slut/prude: a woman who practices her sexuality at her own discretion, and high maintenance: a woman who has any type of standards/preferences concerning the person that she dates; a woman who expects to be treated with respect by the person she is dating. A man who steers clear of a woman who is interested in him but has offended him in some way is dodging a bullet by avoiding a “crazy bitch”; a woman who steers clear of a man who is interested in her but has offended her is “high maintenance” because “he’s a nice guy” and she should “just give him a chance”. The double standards are endless.
- “You should be flattered that he said he likes you the way you are.”
- Now let me be absolutely clear, this post is about women in general, but there is an important independent variable that has affected the outcome in my case. I am not a skinny girl. I am curvy, thick, plus-size, or whatever euphemism people prefer to use these days. I usually just say fat. That is why I should be so “flattered” that someone likes me the way that I am because according to society, no one is supposed to like me the way that I am. Men are supposed to flock to thinner girls than myself, and most of them do, so the fact that he is even the least bit interested in me should be something that I should be grateful for in many people’s eyes. That is why I am being “high maintenance” because I am asking for too much as a fat woman, to want a guy to be both impressed by my physical appearance and to not be an asshole about it. That is why I should take what he said as a compliment because most guys would prefer me to lose weight so the fact that he doesn’t is a miracle and the least that I could do is not push my limits and maintain a stable diet regimen to continue to be at least one man’s idea of acceptable.
Allow me to also mention that this is not the first time I’ve gotten a “compliment” of this caliber. I once was out with a guy who said that I am “the perfect size” because I am “not too big and I’m not too small” and that I’m “probably only 30 pounds away from being a size 12”. I felt that it stopped being a compliment after the words “perfect size”. In my ears, all I heard was a voice shouting into a megaphone announcing “You have reached the fatness limit! Do not cross! Do not gain weight! Any normal human fluctuation of body mass is unacceptable!” Being a size 14/16 I guess it is understandable that people may see me as tiptoeing on the line between fat and not fat, so I guess that is why men feel the need to let me know just how fine a line they think that I’m dancing and that if I hope to gain their affections, I should not falter.
I want to be heard loud and clear when I say that I will never apologize for being fat. I will not expect less from men regarding anything including, but not limited to, respect because of my fatness. I will not hold men to lower standards, I will not act like I am worth less than any other woman because of my fatness, or my blackness, or for any other reason because I know my worth and I know what I deserve and if someone else does not, that is not my problem. I ain’t finna let any fuckboy roll up on me any type of way, not now, not ever.
So to summarize, in the words of Tyra Banks: