The thing about mean girls is, they turn into mean women. And for those on the receiving end, it’s not always easy to shake off a nasty comment deliberately aimed to hurt.
But if you’re Dianne Hoffmeyer, a mom from Fort Gratiot, Michigan, you turn it into an experience your children — and the world — can learn from.
This past Monday, Hoffmeyer told ABC News affiliate station WXYZ that she was standing in line with her 22-month-old child in the coffee chain Tim Hortons when she overheard two middle-aged women behind her making snide comments about her looks. Those comments, as recalled by Hoffmeyer, included:
“Oh look at her hair! It’s nasty looking, and the roots are coming through.”
And when she ordered a cappuccino:
“Oh she’s a whale, oh the whale needs to eat.”
The mom, shaken and upset by the comments, told WXYZ:
“I just instantly started to cry because it hurts. I don’t know the women. I’ve never seen them, met them, and I don’t know why they would choose to say something like that.”
But the most amazing part of her story, what makes it a story at all and what has touched so many who have read it, is that Hoffmeyer didn’t confront her bullies. She didn’t curse them out or even turn around with one brow lifted and give them a firm death stare.
No, instead she turned to her cashier and said, “I’ll pay for their coffee.”
And promptly went back to her car and cried.
The worst part of all of this, in our opinion, is that Hoffmeyer had recently lost 177 pounds. She should have been feeling empowered, beautiful, and on top of the world. Instead she was made to feel embarrassed, ashamed, self-conscious, and worst of all? Less than.
This kind of public shaming brings to mind the recent viral video by YouTube star and “comedian” Nicole Arbour called, “Dear Fat People.” In it, she proclaimed that “fat shaming is not a thing. Fat people made that up. That’s the race card, with no race.”
She went on and on, criticizing the obese and complaining about one particular overweight family that had the audacity to not just be on her plane but to SIT NEXT TO HER. Naturally, the Internet exploded, YouTube suspended her account (but quickly re-instated it), and celebrities came out en masse to rally against her (and her message). Arbour, for her part, refuses to apologize, saying it was all done as “satire” and that she only wants to encourage the obese to get healthy.
Except we know from experts and experience that shaming people — for the most part — does not inspire people to lose weight. In most cases, it backfires. But regardless, that’s not the point. You are not their doctor. You do not get to weigh in on their health. You do not have a say in their relationship with their body.
It’s easy to look at someone, make a snap judgment, and never give any thought to their feelings. When the person is a complete stranger, you can walk away and forget about the impact your words may have on them. They’re not real to you.
But Hoffmeyer’s story shows us a very real, flesh-and-blood example of a woman — a mom — on the receiving end of unnecessary, vicious criticism. She’s not just some unnamed family on a plane we hear through a story, easy to dismiss and poke fun of without feeling guilty. Her name is Dianne and she is a mother and she has just accomplished something so amazing that we should all be CHEERING her, not criticizing her.
But you don’t know someone’s story by looking at them. And you don’t know someone’s heart by what you hear them order on a coffee line.
Hoffmeyer said that she reacted the way she did because she wanted to set a better example for her children. She posted the experience on Facebook to spread the message of paying it forward, and should she meet the women again?
“I’d like to buy them another cup of coffee, and talk to them. And explain to them how it made me feel.”
Hoffmeyer reacted with grace, kindness, and a whole lot more civility than we would have, had we been in her shoes. And she deserves to be commended for that.