Linda Stamper Boyne: Don’t hate me because …
Vail, CO, Colorado
The other day someone told me they hated me. The incident didn’t upset me. It actually amused me.
I ran into a woman I’ve known for some time, she looked me up and down and then said, “You’re so skinny. I hate you.”
I honestly didn’t know how to respond to that. I mean, seriously? Should I have said, “Your thighs are tremendous. I despise you”?
As it was, I burst out laughing and said, “Uh, thank you?”
Now I know my friend meant it as a compliment, but it’s not like my size is something I can change in an instant, like my hair or my clothes or my mind. It’s not something I choose off a rack or style in the mirror. With the exception of the pregnancy years, it’s the size I’ve been for the better part of 20 years. It’s just me.
I’ve been called Skinny Bitch by people who like me. I’ve been called an animated stick figure by someone who didn’t like me as much. And at times my mother has asked me if I’m eating enough, but that’s my mom and none of the rules apply to moms.
To compliment someone’s appearance used to have some grace to it: “You look very nice today.” “That’s a beautiful dress you wearing today.” “You look wonderful. You’re glowing.” You get the idea.
I’m not sure why we feel we can comment on someone’s appearance very candidly, conversationally even, and that it’s perfectly acceptable.
We can probably trace this decline of traditional social conventions back to the onset of reality television and invasive celebrity “news” shows. Since then, we are deluged with far too much information about other people’s lives, personal habits, desires, thoughts, judgments, etc.
Somehow the walls between what could be said and what should remain unspoken came tumbling down. All is free game. We jump, leap even, over social boundaries and put in our two cents worth on everything and everyone. We feel free to voice our opinions, whether they’re wanted or not.
But full disclosure: I’m guilty of this, too. My comments frequently deal in the category of men’s facial hair. I don’t know why I feel free to comment at will about the state of their whiskers, but I do. Perhaps because it’s a definite, deliberate change, like a new haircut. It’s just out there waiting for analysis.
Now, clearly this is a field in which I have no personal experience, but I have plenty of opinions. In general, I’m just not a huge fan, particularly on men who don’t normally have it.
Sometimes a little scruff suits a man. But usually it seems like a beard is just covering up someone’s cute face or that they’re trying to hide behind it. And while I like the clean-shaven look, it doesn’t give me the right to impose the razor on others.
Last week a group of my co-workers met for drinks after work to welcome a new employee to the team. One man who I don’t see regularly walked in to the restaurant sporting new facial manscaping.
After taking it in for a little while, I said in my usual tactful, subtle way, with an extended finger wagging around his mouth, “Hey, uh, what’s going on here?”
I’m not even sure what his answer was, because my question seemed to open the floodgates. Opinions and comments poured forth from around the entire table. It was a massacre.
To the gentleman at the center of this debacle, I owe you an apology. My thoughtless query subjected you to more commentary than any human should have to bear. And although you have since shaved off the hair in question, it has prompted me to reinstate a tried but true adage: If I have nothing nice to say, I will say nothing at all.
Unless, of course, I’m asked for my opinion …
Linda Stamper Boyne of Edwards can be contacted through email@example.com