A few minutes ago, I was walking out of work when an elderly gentleman I always dread crossing paths with crossed my path. I dread it because for the last year or so, he’s remarked on my weight every single time he sees me.
I thought maybe he was done with it, because the last time he did it, at the end of his commentary, he said, “Wow, that must make you feel good, when you run into me and I say that, huh?” I thought he’d realized what he was doing.
Today, he stopped me, didn’t acknowledge me as a person at all, grabbed my name badge, feigned a confused look and said, “Huh…I used to know a Ryan Mifflin that was thin.”
Which isn’t true at all. Since he’s known me, I’ve put on weight, but I’ve always been heavy. In fact, around the time I met this gentleman, is when other hateful old people started commenting about my weight. Two or three do/did it on a regular basis.
That’s why this one really bugs me. Most of those other ones who comment are the picture of grumpy old people. They’re very old, wealthy, completely out of touch, set in their ways, cranky, etc.
This guy I met today is a jovial old fellow.
And because he’s so well-respected and loved within our community and because I believe I should respect my elders – and most of all because I’ve never known how to stand up for myself and am completely non-confrontational, I made a joke that played right into his insult and didn’t say anything else back to him.
I could have acted totally surprised as though it was news to me that I was struggling with my weight.
I could have gotten up in his face and told him that he needed to back off because I genuinely, with all of my heart and soul, loved being forced to shop in special sections of the clothing store and being physically affected with a condition generally considered to be grotesque and offensive in our society.
I could have – and following our little interactions, continually wish I would have – just told him that he’s rude and should shut the hell up.
Or, I could have told him the truth, which is that I am aware of my problem, am not happy about it, and that it hurts my feelings when he pokes fun at it.
Leave people alone. Don’t point out their defects just for the sake of pointing them out. We all have them. No one’s happy about them. We’re all aware of our own.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to have lunch. And to make myself feel better, I’ll probably eat something that I’ll feel ashamed about later, and the cycle will continue…