Hey folks, can we be done with the fake concern for other people’s health now?
I don’t mean genuine concern. I am a firm believer that everyone needs a village. Everyone needs people who love them enough to be honest even when it’s hard. That is community. That is what it means to be fully loved and fully known.
I’d never suggest we end the practice of caring deeply about each other.
I’m just really done hearing about my body and my health from total strangers.
For me, this happens because I’m fat. Fat people deal with this shit a lot. But I know that this is not exclusive to fat bodies. This smug faux health concern can come from anywhere and can hit anyone. People in all kinds of bodies hear the rudest, dumbest, most inaccurate shit from people who have no business chiming in. No matter what kind of body you have, you don’t have to listen to some random stranger who thinks they have any business telling you about your own health based on what they can observe from a casual glance.
For me, it’s about my size. Every damn time.
For my entire life, I’ve been subject to other people’s critiques. Everyone has on opinion on how I “got this way,” and how I can “fix it.”
Like I’m a leaky faucet. A squeaky hinge. Like I’m an inconvenience or a problem to be solved, not a human being who deserves to exist as she is.
Fatness is one thing our society can’t seem to move out of the “unacceptable” column. Online and in real life, some people are just inappropriate.
Of course, outright cruelty infuriates me most. It is not hard to be quiet if you can’t be kind. I cannot stand to see people intentionally devastate each other. We all have an obligation to be better than that.
But there’s another, more subtle type of body shaming that grates on me almost as hard.
Faux health concern.
You know it when you see it. Someone says something totally out of line. Really oversteps. But they try to hide their message inside a seemingly noble intention. Usually, they sandwich their “health concern” between over-the-top compliments. In my experience, they start out about how beautiful or smart I am. Compliment my face, my family, my intelligence. Then they tell me all the things that are scary and tragic about my body and health based on their casual observations, wrapping it up with a little declaration about how all they care about is the state of my health. They always remind me this concern has nothing to do with how I look.
Really, total freaking stranger who hasn’t met me and knows nothing about me? You just want to impart some kind of information you think I don’t already have because it’s your great wish to see me healthy?
I call bullshit.
I’d rather you say, “I don’t like the way you look. I’m unwilling to confront my own size biases and see you as a human being. Instead, I am boiling your whole existence down to your size and choosing to see absolutely nothing else.”
At least that would be honest. You don’t even know me!
Why would you be concerned about my health? You just have something to say about fat bodies. But since you know deep down that it’s totally inappropriate to say it out loud, you will tell me I’m pretty, too. You’ll make it clear that it’s only my health you care about. You put your judgment inside a candy shell, like I won’t know what’s inside.
You think if you do this, you’ll look kind. Surely nobody can accuse you of being a total, out-of-control jerk for being concerned for my health?
Only I am accusing you of that because my body is none of your damn concern.
You don’t know anything about my actual health by looking at me.
You don’t know what my weight was six months ago, or if I’m much smaller than I was then.
There’s no way to tell if an underlying medical condition is contributing to my weight, and if or how I am addressing that with a physician.
You can’t see how active I am, what my current diet looks like, what my blood work would show, or how my doctors and I are staying on top of my long-term health.
You truly know nothing except that you don’t like the look of me, and you don’t think I deserve to be comfortable, happy, and feel good enough “like this.”
FYI: Your unsolicited opinions of some random person’s body or health are never, ever appropriate.
Pretending your judgment about a near stranger is based on legitimate health concern is laughable. You aren’t fooling anyone into thinking that you give a crap about how our hearts or joints are feeling. Seriously? We aren’t as dumb as you think we look. Your fake concern is insulting to our intelligence.
Next time you think about dropping your little tough love truth bomb about your perception of anyone’s health or body, take a minute. Backspace all the way to the beginning. Ask yourself, “Is this any of my freaking business?”
The odds are very high that the answer is a giant, resounding “nope.”
Online or off, if you barely know a person, just stop critiquing them. Instead of voicing all your concern about other people’s bodies, you could try…oh, I don’t know…finding common ground? Respecting all the things that make us unique and amazing?
Letting us live?!
There are a lot of ways to have a body. I promise you weren’t put on this earth to tell people they’re doing it wrong.