Let’s talk about what we talk about when we talk about “Concern Trolling.”
The Biggest Loser winner lost too much weight. That can’t be healthy for her frame. Is documenting your experience with cancer on Twitter really all that healing? I'm happy she feels good about herself, but she should really be exercising and eating better.
We all know it when we read it. But what about when we experience it in real life?
Like me and my boyfriend, Sam.*
*His name is not Sam.
We were on our way to the gym (THE GYM. I SIGNED UP FOR A GYM) when I and said, “Last night, I had really, really bad heartburn. Right before bed and I kinda woke up like this.” I scrunched up my face and rubbed the area on my chest where I assume my esophagus is, all Beyonce-like.
“Hmmm. What did you do right before bed? Did you eat something?”
After thinking about it for a little, I said, “I think it might be that women’s multi-vitamin I bought from Whole Foods.”
(BECAUSE NOW I TAKE WOMEN’S MULTI-VITAMINS)
((FROM WHOLE FOODS))
“That’s what it is,” he said and then immediately dismissed it to get to his real point, “And you know, you really should be taking your probiotics in the morning. Read any article about it. They work best on an empty stomach.”
“How long have you been waiting for the opportunity to tell me to take my probiotics in the morning?”
“I already have. You just don’t listen.”
“I’m still alive, aren’t I? Somehow I have managed to stay alive for 31 years without taking probiotics in the morning. And without you correcting every stupid thing I do. I’m going to make it, OK?”
“What do I try to correct about you?”
If I were a cartoon character, in that moment, my body would’ve molted together into liquid form and I would’ve slid out of my seat, through the passenger side door, and into oncoming traffic at the corner of Hollywood and Vine.
As a recent East Coast transplant to Los Angeles who now lives in the city my boyfriend’s lived in for over a decade, I’m often more than happy to rely on him for help. That’s what couples do, right? I expect him to tell me things like: what metro stop to take to get to Book Soup. What streets to avoid during rush hour. The unwritten two car/red light rule. Vegan-ish hotspots.
But like T.S. Eliot so eloquently put in my favorite poem of all time, what started off as solicited help turned into a thing of “insidious intent” that now leads me to my overwhelming question: Is my boyfriend a concern troll?
Further Evidence To Suggest He is:
• Are you having gummy bears for breakfast? Is that the best choice?
• (Follow-up to that): I bet that gelatin they use is made from horses. Let me see the label.
• You should work by the window. I think your legs need Vitamin D.
• And THIS email exchange:
What is this thing we call being in a couple? Is it loving the person for who they are, not who you want them to be? But if Kanye can help Kim dress a little better, is my boyfriend that wrong in trying to get me to stop complaining about certain ailments that have nothing to do with me being a potential hypochondriac?
Like all attempts at self-betterment, my question is, when are these “concerns” some things to consider to improve the quality of one’s life...
Maybe gummy bears for breakfast isn’t the wisest choice. And maybe my pasty-pale legs could use a little color –- that is, with adequate SPF coverage.
…and when are they things that need to be discussed in the context of a larger power struggle?
Are these concerns just thinly veiled passive aggressive negativity that serve to create doubt in the accused’s thoughts, words and behavior? (THAT’S ME, THE ACCUSED)
Is my boyfriend Olivia Pope? Is he trying to fix me?
When unsolicited feedback on your lifestyle creates paralysis of action, a second-guessing, a thought of “What would Sam say,” that’s usually a sign that something is wrong, right?
I go to the gym (now), I take multi-vitamins (when they don’t give me heart-burn), I read labels (at times), and I spend enough time on the Internet that I know that you can use pumpkin puree as a substitute for peanut butter; why your shampoo should be free of parabens; that apparently, kale is not a garnish for more delicious foods to be served on top of it, but is a superfood; which brands animal test their products; and I even know what nutritional yeast is.
So why should I even listen at all to someone who smokes e-cigs and drinks copious amounts of beers? Should I tell him that? Is the only way to fight a concern troll is with more concern trolling?
Or is concern trolling coming from a gentler place? One that begs the accused (that’s still me) to make choices that will increase if not productivity, at least, longevity, so I will be around longer (so he can concern troll me foreverrrrrrr), all in the name of self-improvement?
But when did self-improvement stop being about “the self” –- a choice a person makes for herself –- and when did it become OK for loved ones and even perfect strangers to tell you to smile more, to lose weight (I’m going to the gym now, OK, a-hole?), to stop eating after 7 p.m., to wear makeup, to not wear makeup?
When I told my boyfriend I was going to pitch an idea for an article to xoJane.com (He didn’t ask me what about, and I certainly didn’t offer that up), his response was:
So in addition to all your work-work, your thesis for your Master’s that due in a few weeks, that freelance job you have on the side, when do you think you’ll have time to get it all done?
My answer: I just did, Sam and I’m still alive.
(His name, really, is not Sam).