Don’t keep sweating what I do
Cuz I’m gonna be just fine.
~ Salt-n-Pepa, “None of Your Business“
When I lived in San Francisco, I became close to a coworker and spent a lot of time talking with her about my miserable relationship with my judgmental, emotionally-distant boyfriend. He and I were still technically together, but had moved to separate apartments and the whole situation was tearing me up inside. This coworker friend was my main confidant and I spent hours talking to her about it. I eventually got a different job, subsequently fell out with her, and we stopped speaking. When I ran into her months later, she dished about three sentences of small talk before asking pointedly and in a voice dripping with condescension, “So, how are things with Ian?” And instead of punching her in the nose and telling her that since she and I were no longer friends it was none of her goddamned business, I simply said, “Fine, thanks,” and got the hell away from her.
I am very wary of posting photos of my shoe collection, my closet, and my jewelry. Whenever I do, sprinkled in amongst the inquisitive, friendly, and respectful comments is the inevitable handful telling me that there is clearly something wrong with me, that I need to seek help for my shopping addiction, that I am setting a bad example for other women simply by owning so much shit. And that last one? OK, I can see that to some extent. MAYBE. I don’t want to feed anyone’s belief that they are incomplete if they don’t own classic pumps in every color of the rainbow just because I do. But the rest? It’s all I can do to contain my anger. As I’ve said about 16 trillion times, style is my primary creative outlet, my hobby, my passion. I don’t put anything on a credit card, I save cash and I save for retirement, I pay all of my bills on time, I have the storage capacity for everything I buy, and I enjoy doing it. But I shouldn’t even have to say those things publicly. I shouldn’t have to justify myself to anyone. Even if I do run a style blog, it is my business and my business alone how much I buy and what I do with it.
A dear friend of mine teaches fitness classes out on the West Coast. She e-mailed me recently to say that someone stopped her at the gym to ask if she’d put on weight. And as I lay on the floor gasping in horror at such an invasive, rude, and insulting question, I realized something: THAT question is socially inappropriate, as we all know. But so is it’s mirror image, “Have you lost weight?” Your weight is nobody’s business but your own. Fluctuations in your weight are nobody’s business but your own. Ever. Why on earth do people feel so free to inquire about weight, or express concern and dismay over someone’s weight loss or gain, or pass judgment so openly about weight-related matters? Changes in weight can be caused by a vast array of circumstances, and a perceived change tells the observer virtually nothing about those circumstances.
Sometimes, the choices that others make directly affect you. If someone is smoking around your baby, that’s your business. If your significant other suddenly develops a meth addiction, that’s your business. If your neighbors let their dog poop on your lawn, that’s your business. But someone else’s weight is no more your business than their blood pressure, salary, or sexual orientation. The choices that they’ve made to bring them to their current weight or body shape do NOT affect you. You may not understand those choices, or agree with them, and you may make different choices for yourself. But none of that gives you the right to judge.
It’s natural to be curious. And, obviously, it’s more appropriate to ask questions of a personal nature if you’re close with someone or if they have been consistently vocal about an issue voluntarily. But even then, I generally ask myself, “Is this any of my business? How would I feel if someone asked ME this? Isn’t it better to let them open up than to try to wedge myself in?”
And the next time someone pries into my personal issues, asking about my weight or telling me to stop buying shoes, I plan to take a page from Salt-n-Pepa’s book and say, “Don’t sweat it.”
Have you ever had a stranger ask about your weight? An acquaintance or friend? Many of us have been asked if we’ve LOST weight, but who’s been asked if they’ve gained? Do you believe both questions to be equally invasive? How do you handle it when someone asks you about your weight? Or any question that you feel is none of their business?
Image courtesy Unfurled.