I can see the fat talk coming half way down the block. It generally lumbers in a little late and out of breath, not quite part of the conversation, but somehow invited anyway. It has to make an appearance at nearly every gathering of women or at least it seems like it has to.
After all, how else are women going to find common ground when talking about their bodies? Bodies are all so different from each other. They all have their own strengths and weaknesses. They all look different in various clothes. The one thing they all have in common is that we’re dissatisfied with them. One part or another is too fat, the wrong proportion, or just ugly.
Yes, if we can find no other common ground, at least we can bond over the fact that our bodies are wrong. Right?
Ladies, why on earth do we do this to ourselves? Our bodies are our bodies. We should own them. We should not wish them away, or wish them different. And we certainly shouldn’t talk bad about them simply because we’re “expected” to. This week’s article in the New York Times talks about how “fat talk” can be a way of bonding, of equalizing, of ensuring each other that we’re no better than anyone else. But at the expense of our self-confidence? Our self-esteem? And of encouraging others, however subtly or unintentionally of doing the same? There must be better ways of bonding.
And there are. If we have to talk about our bodies, if we have to notice things that don’t fit, or places that are not quite as smooth or thin or curvy or whatever if we have to do those things, let’s not put the blame on ourselves or our bodies. Yes, there are things we can do to improve them, to do the best we can with what we’ve got, but in our every day conversations the least we can do is change our self-denigrating habits and instead be a little more realistic about our bodies and what is wrong in the world (hint: it’s not us).
So how do we stop all the fat talk? Some suggestions from the NYTimes article:
1. Keep it light. There’s no need to threaten your relationships by preaching/scolding your friends for engaging in fat talk. Say something about how the fat monster has come to co-opt the conversation but if you ignore him, he’ll go away.
2. Change the subject. Someone mentions the size of their thighs? Ask them how they scored that awesome shade of lipstick.
3. Know where to lay the blame. That dress doesn’t fit you very well because it just doesn’t get you. Your body isn’t wrong, the dress is.
Next time you get together with your friends, listen for the fat talk. Then if and when it comes around, stop it in its tracks. The fat talk stops here, with you.