I have a hunch that the stamps in my passport have contributed most of my insights, and prompted most of my questions.
This is not a guide for how fat people can be friends with thin people and it’s not a response to “How Not To Be A Dick To Your Fat Friends.” This is for everyone who has a friend who is thinner than them and who feels the need to comment on that fact.
I am 5.2ft and weigh around 112 pounds. This makes me thinner than a lot of my friends, it means clothes tend to fit me and I don’t get judgmental looks when I eat ice cream. That’s nice, and if I put on a lot of weight I would miss those things.
But it also means that I get shitty looks and backhanded compliments off people who think my weight is an extension of my personality. So here’s a guide to not making your thin friend feel like shit.
Don’t call her skinny.
Skinny sounds horrible, it sounds like ribs and hipbones poking through papery skin and spines rearing out of someone’s back. It sounds like something’s gone wrong, like an eating disorder or a wasting disease. Call her slim or thin or slender or anything else but skinny should be kept for lattes and jeans until people learn not to sneer when they say it.
Don’t talk about “skinny bitches,” “skeletons,” “thinspirationalists” or in any other demeaning way about thin women.
Overweight people don't like it when others make assumptions about the type of person they are based on their weight. Neither do thin people. It feels like shit to hear someone equate the shape of your thighs with joyless, cruel, miserable, fat-shamers. So please view doing this as unacceptable as using fat as shorthand for “dirty,” “lazy,” “unmotivated,” etc.
Don’t assume she’s chosen to look that way, or that she’s worked really hard to look that way.
Sometimes people just look the way they look. Sometimes they make choices to look that way. But most skinny girls have skinny mums and skinny genes and eat crap because they can and it is in no way a comment or a judgement on your weight. I have a small waist because I am genetically disposed to have one and I’m a vegetarian and forget to eat when I’m stressed. This is about me; not you. So please don’t assume that I woke up one day and decided that fat people are disgusting and then starved myself to not be one.
Don’t tell her she can eat whatever she wants.
Yeah, if I have a dessert I probably won’t put on any weight, but I don’t want one so please back off. Don’t assume I'm worrying about my weight or looking for reassurance. I am aware of my own potential to eat a slice of chocolate fudge cake. I live in my own body and I’ve watched myself lift a fork and put it in my mouth before so I know this is possible. I just don’t want to.
And I don’t want to be constantly informed that I can eat whatever I want. Because unless you have dietary limitations or are a vegan or are living during a famine or something EVERYONE CAN EAT WHATEVER THEY WANT! So how about telling me I can win an Olympic medal or a Nobel Prize for Literature or something. Instead of accusing me or reassuring me or whatever you’re doing when you say “Oh, but you can eat whatever you want, you’ve got nothing to worry about.”
Don’t go on and on about how it’s worse to be thin and unfit than fat and fit.
A not exhaustive list of things that fat and thin women worry about: money, their family, spending enough time with their friends, being well read, the weekly shop, going out enough, staying in enough, being too stressed, not being driven enough, their careers, the environment, should they volunteer more, should they call their mum more, shaving their legs, remembering a packed lunch, spending too much money on Barry M nail varnish, dentist appointments, meeting the right person, meeting too many of the right people and not having time for them, not ever meeting the right person, spiders, rapists, insurance, flossing, and yes -- am I going to the gym enough?
So pointing out that you can be fat and fit is great -- in a weight-obsessed society it can’t be said enough.
But you know the end of that sentence when you say how thin people are often really unhealthy as well? Don’t. Because I know I’m unfit, and I really, really hate it when you remind me of that.
Don’t turn it into us and them.
Try not to view it as who is fat and who is thin because that is what the patriarchy wants us to do. And in this case the patriarchy isn’t just red-faced old men quaffing swan and drinking Bangladeshi factory workers' tears. It’s women’s magazines that run bikini body tips, it’s fat AND thin shamers and it’s everyone who places more importance on the shape of a woman’s body than what she does.