I think I was sexually harrassed yesterday.
At work, there’s a side office where several older (well, older than me) ladies work. They always have candy out, lots and lots of candy. Chocolate, licorice, jelly beans, you name it and they’ve probably got it or will have it out in the next week. I often stop by when I’m in that building and pick something up. They usually comment on my recent weight loss, making remarks about how impossible it seems that I can get so thin when I’m always eating candy. I laugh and just let them think that.
Yesterday I stopped by there, and one of them called me “Skinny” and I asked her, in mock indignation, to repeat herself. She said that I was definitely skinny now, and the other ladies agreed. I told them that I didn’t really think someone who was still 15-20 lb. overweight could be considered “skinny”.
Then one of them told me that I had crossed a line; “You’ve passed into ‘cute’.”
Waitaminute. What was I before? I was cute before, wasn’t I? My girlfriends thought so, anyway.
I’m not offended by what they said, but I was uncomfortable when they said it. It was a fairly bold statement, and not one I’m used to. This is all simply a reminder for me about our perception of people, and how much it’s influenced by things like weight or clothing. Some might call it “shallow” but I don’t; it’s simply a heritage of our evolutionary past. We tend to only pay attention to attractive people, or at least give them more benefit of the doubt.
Gwyneth Paltrow is someone who has never had the opportunity to be unnoticed, being as she is very thin and very attractive. But apparently, when she was making the movie “Shallow Hal” she had to wear a suit that made her fat. In an interview, she describes people’s reaction to her:
Well, I put on the suit and I went outside and walked around. It was actually very interesting, because I was really nervous about being found out. But when I walked around, nobody would even make eye contact with me. Like nobody would even look in my direction. Because I think when you get a sense of someone being slightly outside what we all consider normal, you think, oh it’s polite not to look. But actually, it’s incredibly isolating. And it really upset me.
People don’t notice others who are outside of the norm: fat, scarred, missing limbs: they’re invisible, she seems to be saying. I don’t think that that’s the right conclusion to draw, though. People notice fat people, and even interact with them. But what they don’t do is initiate contact. They wait and see if the other person, the “non-normal” person, will see them first. Not consciously, I think, but on a more subtle level. People, I think, are neutral towards average folk and those that they deem unattractive. But people seek out the attention of those who are attractive. They watch the pretty one’s faces for signs of recognition. They secretly, to themselves, hope for eye contact, or something as bold as a smile. This, I think, is what Gwyneth missed when putting on the fat suit. That’s what she was deprived of. And, noticing that, she felt isolated, alone. It’s fascinating to me…
I have noticed that, when smiling or catching the attention of women (well, men, too, but I’m not so interested in that) now that I’m thinner, I get a response more often than I did before. It’s a powerful feeling, and one that I hope to keep in check. I just have to remember that I wasn’t always like the way I am now… must… remember… always…
So, how you doin’? *wink*