Friday, February 20, 2009

When comments are inappropriate

Would you ever walk up to a plus-size woman, whom you do not know, and exclaim, "Wow! Aren't you the hefty one?!"

How about your co-worker, Bob - would you ever saunter up next to him at the coffee pot and announce, "those are SOME ears, now, buddy. You get your own zip code with those?"

Would you ever step up next to a stranger on the bus, double-take, and then ask, "How on Earth did you get your breasts so large? You gotta tell me your secret!"

No. No, you would NOT.

Allow me to set the scene for you this morning. I drove to the office, found my little cube, booted up my computer and set my stuffed monkey, Ookie, in his spot next to the stapler. Why I travel with a stuffed monkey is a story for another day - for now, just go with it.

Then I grabbed my travel mug and headed for the staff kitchen in order to score some of their horrendously bad coffee before it got old and even worse. (Yes, it's possible, unfortunately.) There are several other employees milling about. While I'm painstakingly mixing an optimal amount of generic Sweet N Low and fat-free powdered creamer, a young woman walked into the room. This young woman was about 5'4" and very, very thin. I mean, VERY F'ING THIN. An older, slightly plump woman grabbed this girl by the upper arms and blared into her face, "Oh my GAWD, honey, let me make you a sandwich! Seriously, you gotta put some MEAT on those bones! Although I wouldn't mind being SKINNY like you, I'm afraid you're just gonna BLOW AWAY!"

The young woman fought off her presumably well-meaning attacker and fled, sans the coffee I assumed she'd ventured into kitchen for in the first place. I took a few moments to introduce myself to the older lady, making sure to note her name. Her supervisor and HR rep will be getting a message later today with a gentle suggestion that perhaps some sensitivity training could be in order. I then spent the next 10 minutes in the ladies' room, passing slightly damp paper towels and Pepto Bismol Chewables underneath a stall door until our heroine stopped puking and got herself together.

Metabolism is a funny thing, kids. So is stress, and the body's reaction to it. Some people eat for comfort, some people suffer from eating disorders, and some of us - yes, including me - have tummy issues when we're under stress, frightened, or upset. So please don't assume that anyone - regardless of his or her shape - is all that thrilled about it, in control of it, and willing to discuss it with you.

No comments: