I don’t know about you folks, but for me, a weekend with the rents is always fraught with tension. Is Mom going to pester me about brushing my hair? Is Dad going to ask me how much money I’m saving? Will they bristle if my boyfriend and I sleep in the same bed?
But I didn’t see Sunday morning’s battle royale coming at all.
Mom and I were hanging out in her bedroom; she was smoking a cigarette and I was scratching my cat behind the ears. Then Mom furrowed her brow, scrunched up her face and examined my pajamas-clad body. “You know, Jess,” she remarked, “you’ve put on some weight.”
My eyes bulged. Fire was breathed. Thunder boomed. Lightening crackled. The cat cowered in fear under the bed.Mom isn’t wrong, mind you: I’ve probably gained about 10 lbs in the past six months. Since I’m naturally rather skinny, any weight gain shows. I blame the laziness that comes with a new relationship that’s still in the honeymoon phase; oral sex on weekend mornings is a lot more fun than haulin’ ass to yoga! Obviously, I’m conscious that I’ve gained some weight, so Mom didn’t point out something I didn’t already know.
Alas, nothing sets me off quite like people who think it’s appropriate to comment on other people’s weight. Am I the only one who thinks commenting that someone has put on weight is the height of rudeness? I accept, to a certain degree, that we live in a rude culture, one where tabloid magazines criticize 112-lb. starlets for eating french fries for lunch, and so-called comedians rip up the “worst-dressed” red carpet walkers. Millions of people read those magazines, so it stands to reason their foot-in-mouth, nose-wrinkling disapproval extends further than the magazine stand.
But rude strangers is one thing, and rude family members is another beast entirely — particularly, rude parents. My personal belief is that proactively encouraging a loving body image is part of a parent’s job. I know there’s that Eleanor Roosevelt quote that says, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent,” but I’m pretty sure Eleanor was talking about other politicians. Parents, we all know, can quite easily make you feel inferior without your consent, even when we know they love us to pieces. My mom isn’t some flunky comedian in the back of a gossip magazine; she’s my mom.
Maybe yapping about other people’s weight hits a special nerve for me because I had a long, scary experience with a close friend in high school who became so sick from anorexia that she stopped menstruating. I’m not necessarily blaming my friend’s mother for her daughter’s eating disorder, but you can be damn sure all the criticism and micromanaging didn’t help. Watching one of my best friends wither away in front of my eyes during 9th grade made me acutely aware of what they say about eating disorders: anorexia is a bullet and life (a loved one’s criticism, a fat-hating culture, etc.) hands you the gun. My life has enough bullets in it. I certainly don’t need my mother, of all people, to hand me a gun.
I wish I hadn’t shrieked at my mother in anger; I wish I’d kept my cool and used a Jedi mind trick to point out, “But I have a nice juicy badonkadonk now!” Maybe I’ll write Mom an email and tell her it’s not cool what she said to me. Maybe I’ll point out how when my friend became sick from anorexia, I learned to appreciate how my mom had always told me I was beautiful, and that I believed her then, and now. Maybe I’ll remind her she’s still my mom and I still believe her.
But mostly I just want to remember this experience and pay it forward. By the time I have my own kids, I’m fully expecting there to be a tabloid titled Fat Actresses Weekly. And if ever I feel compelled to point out my son or daughter has put on a few pounds, I’m just going to STFU instead.