Landisa: Fat-shamed in an elevator, but here’s the bright side

2020-01-24 09:25
Kyra Tarr.

Kyra Tarr.

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As a child, my mom and I often played the "silver linings game".

Whenever something negative happened we’d actively seek the upside.

If it was raining we’d appreciate the roof over our heads, if I got a bad mark at school we'd recognise it as an opportunity to try again, and if people were ever cruel we'd say that it was a lesson on how not to be. No matter what people say to you, it's always about them; their perceptions, their insecurities, their pain.  

The game could become silly, too. Once I washed my white laundry with a red top and everything turned pink. 

"On the bright side, white was never your colour anyway," my mom joked.  

As an adult, I still play this game sometimes.

It helps me to not take the world so personally, as I'm prone to do, and to keep perspective on my life.

It's comforting to know that there is always a bright side if you make the effort to look for it. Sometimes it isn’t enough to overshadow the bad, but it is there, and that's what counts.

Recently somebody I knew commented to me in an elevator that I'd gained a lot of weight.

It was mentioned casually in passing. Sort of an: "Oh hey, did you notice you're looking quite big lately? I thought I should say something."

My ears heard the comment, but my brain couldn’t compute what I’d been told.

I laughed it off with a comment about over-indulging during the festive season, but their words upset me. The worst part is I don’t think it was meant as an insult. I’m the one who allowed their comment to carry weight (pardon the pun).  

For the next hour I blandly went about my daily tasks, not really focusing on anything.

My mind was elsewhere.

I have never been somebody to place a lot of importance on the opinions of others and I wouldn’t say I’m so shallow as to imagine that weight is even relevant. Health is the primary goal, isn’t it? 

And yet, people can’t stop talking about what the scale says. Every comment I’ve ever heard about weight flashes through my mind. They’re nasty and petty: He’s doubled in size, hasn’t he? Or, that woman has wintered well. 

Considering all of this, where was my bright side? 

I’d argue that most of us know conceptually that inner beauty is the only beauty.

We understand that we’re multi-faceted and vibrant human beings, and that a good sense of humour is worth far more than looking like a twig. I know that, and yet, comments about weight still sting.

Why? 

It stings because someone commenting on my weight places me in one category. They’re saying, "I see you and this is all I see." It’s shallow and invasive; a low blow that assumes I place as much value on looking a certain way as they do.

And, perhaps I’ve gained weight (an arbitrary and irrelevant fact), but do you know what else? I’ve grown, I’ve achieved, I’ve failed and tried again, I’ve loved and nurtured, and I manage to put a smile on my face every single day; for the benefit of others, yes, but also for myself, because I deserve to be happy.

The supermodel Kate Moss once said that nothing tastes as good as skinny feels. I can’t claim to know what she’s talking about; the last time I was considered skinny was at junior school, but, I can tell you that the world isn’t divided into fat and skinny. It’s divided into those who care about fat and skinny, and those who don’t.  

That is my lesson and that is my bright side.

Kyra is a journalist at Weg! travel magazine and lives in Cape Town.

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