None of Your Business

What’s the matter with your life?
Why you gotta mess with mine?
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.

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.”

Image courtesy Unfurled.

Next Post
Previous Post

  • Corrine/Frock And Roll

    I can say an enormous ''YES!'' to almost every single question here on offer and also, a gigantic ''hear hear, Sal!''

    Personally, I usually used the laugh-and-politely-say-''oh, I don't feel like talking about that now!'' response, but really, why should we have to?!

    GREAT article, Sal!

  • Marley

    I hate the question "When are you going to have kids"?

    Usually I reply with "When we can afford the adoption fees".

    Seriously. Enquiring about the state of my uterus? Not cool.

  • lopi

    "How would I feel if someone asked ME this?"

    I think you answered the question perfectly with that suggestion. However, sometimes our innocent interest in someone's well-being can be thought as intrusive.

    Personally, I believe your old friend didn't do wrong by asking you that question. You have already been sharing your relationship problems with her for so long at your own will, it's only logical she will still be interested whether you resolved them or not, even though you had stopped talking (which, as I understand, wasn't anyone's fault, just life got in the middle). Have you considered she might wanted to communicate that she hasn't forgotten you (and the things that matter to you) and was just trying to revive your friendship?

  • Marzipan

    A) I LOVE that song and b) I love this post. I live in a wicked small town, where people often don't think twice about prying into your most painful realities casually in the grocery store. Thank you thank you. Xox

  • Slavetofashion

    Oh girl, I totally feel you on this. I shop all the time- it's also my hobby and my one true love. I tend to wear new clothes a lot and while most people just comment with "oh, that's pretty!" some feel the need to say "is that new?" or "you went shopping again?" or the worst "how much was that?" I absolutely hate those questions- I don't pry into people's business, so why do they pry into mine? Just keep your head up girl and shake off those haters. They are just jealous of your fabulousness!!

  • Miss Addict

    I get comments a lot on my weight as I am a small person, generally "I wish I was as small as you" or "You can eat whatever you want your tiny!"

    Then I lost a fair amount of weight which made the problem 10 times worse!
    Suddenly I was fair game for all sorts of comments, positive and negative! From "Wow you have lost weight!!!" "You look terrific!" to "OMG Eat a Sandwich!" "Why are you losing Weight?!?" "Holy Crap … Are you ok!" etc etc etc. Leaving me feeling invaded and self conscious.

    I find comments on weight gain and weight loss to be equally invasive. My weight is none of your business and I realised reading your post I am guilty of making such comments myself when what I am really trying to say is "You look good/great" or in specific cases "I know you are trying to lose weight/improve your health and I can see its working" so I am going to make a concerted effort to say that instead! Because really its none of my business just as its none of my bosses business what I eat for lunch or how much weight i've lost!

    Thank you very much for this post Sal.

  • Meli22

    I share your outrage with people telling you things like what you outlined above. They are not your family, or best friend, they do not know you or have a clue about your life (except what you generously share with us!). Why oh why do people feel like they have to judge?

    I have been asked weight questions, from people I tolerate it from.

    The worst though is random 'are you pregnant?' inquirys from people I barely know. I HATE it! Yes, I have lots of doctor visits (which I must notify the company of when I leave), yes sometimes I over-eat at lunch, and yes sometimes I get sick. Please don't assume I just got preggers, and PLEASE don't ask! The stupid thing is that I am realitively small and slender, and I KNOW I don't look even a month preggers- so WHY ask?!?!

  • Leah

    Hey, right on! I read your blog because I love getting to peep at your amazing shoe collection and your righteous style.

    However, I'm not a style maven myself (more of a jeans and sweaters girl), but I totally get the need for a creative outlet. Me, I cook. I spend all my spare brain space thinking about flavors, vegetables, spices, and what goes with what–that's what I spend my time and money on. Sometimes, though, I get snooty comments from coworkers about all that time and money I spend on food.

    I've never understood the all-too-common need for some people to police everyone around them: our weight, our clothes, what we spend our money on.

    Mind your own beeswax!

  • Sal

    lopi: I would love to have given her the benefit of the doubt, but we actually did fall out. Like with a fight. So I don't think she was just inquiring out of goodwill or curiosity. If we had just drifted apart, though, you'd totally be right. And I wouldn't have been nearly so stung.

  • enc

    This was really well-written. It's amazing what people think they have a right to ask about!

  • Annie Atkin Rasmussen

    Holy smokes, I am so glad someone posted about this!

    When I was pregnant, the comment I would frequently get is, "Wow, you are so small!" Little did people know that their comments TERRIFIED me. Was I unhealthy? Was my baby growing? Was I going to get HUGE later on? Was I going to get HUGE with my next baby? If/when I did, would their comments take a nasty turn?

    People – DON'T COMMENT ON PREGNANT BODIES. Or better yet, any bodies. Whether you think you are complimenting or not, you could do serious damage.

  • Middle Aged Woman

    Well, thank goodness you moderate your comments, Sal, as the mama bear in me is ready to kick some ass. I always wonder what's wrong in that person's life who feels the need to berate a stranger in that stranger's house!?

    People frequently ask me if I've lost weight…I think the shape of my face is changing somewhat as I age. I don't mind the question, but it can be tiresome after a while. That said, I have friends my age that are working on losing weight quietly, no announcements, but sometimes it's so noticeable I have to say, "You look great! Have you lost weight?" Maybe I should stop after the "you look great" part, and let them share if they choose?

  • Zuzuli

    I have high tolerance and extreme patience – I've always had it. I honestly do not dislike many people in life because it's a waste of time and energy, plus I truly believe everyone has some redeeming character to them.

    There is one exception to this rule for me. An older family friend. She has been rude to me since I can remember my earliest childhood memories. I have always been called fat or overweight by her…calling me out on eating dessert at a birthday party, cornering me in church to ask me if I've put on weight. For a long time she was the only person I actually hated in this world. Hated.

    Over time I have come to be indifferent to her but the memories still sting at times and because of this woman, I have vowed to never ever be that way with my children, nieces, nephews, etc

    Thanks Sal for a wonderful post and to remind me to truly not sweat it.

  • Sal

    Middle Aged Woman: Thanks, Mama Bear.

    As for your girlfriends, that's where things get fuzzy. If they're quiet about it, they might not want to talk about weight loss. But they might! Maybe ask them how they feel about weight loss questions overall to test the waters?

  • caffeinerd

    I lost 20 pounds last year, and I got the question a lot. I think I THOUGHT I would enjoy hearing it; some sort of validation that my weight loss was obvious to people other than myself. But, honestly, it was just a very uncomfortable question. I usually answered it honestly/briefly ("yes"), but when it was followed up by "how much?" or "how?"…ugh. It definitely is a personal thing.

  • Sal

    Oh, and I totally hear everyone on the pregnancy questions. Again, natural to be curious, but invasive to ask.

  • poodletail

    The person remarking can pretend they're being friendly but it's actually passive/aggressive. God forbid you call the person on it, you're an asshole.

    I'm 55 years old and have been married for 36 years. How many of years of "So, when are you and Mr. Perfection going to have kids?" do you think I had to endure?

    None. Of. Your. Business.

  • Sal

    Hey friends. I haven't taught my new-to-computers mom how to comment yet, but she e-mailed me this just now and I thought she had an interesting perspective, so here ya go:

    Sally's Mom: I'm really glad you wrote this post! It was thought provoking for any of us who have ever asked ANYONE in complete innocence "Have you lost weight?" … you are right on some level. "Did I look fat before?" lurks in everyone's mind.

  • burntphotograph

    i was once asked by a customer at work if i was pregnant (when i wasn't) and i got so upset. i have an "h" shape body, so when i gain weight it's in my stomach. i generally like when people ask if i've lost weight; however, recently i feel like people aren't being truthful since i actually haven't lost weight and that makes me uncomfortable.

  • K.Line

    Great post! I love your shoe collection and I know all of your rationales but I don't think you should have to tell them to me or to anyone else. Of course, I enjoy hearing about it because I read your blog and I love a) how you write and b) what you write about but it isn't your responsibility, nor is it my right to learn of any of this.

    Your blog is a gift to your readers as is its content.

    If people don't what you do they should respectfully move along to another blog.

  • Gillian

    "How are things with Ian?"

    BITCH BE CRAZY.

    As the perpetually single girl, I often get the "Met any boys?" question seemingly 24/7. I'm always tempted to answer with: "Yeah, say hi to your dad for me." or "Nope, I'm going to end up a hopeless spinster with 50 white cats named Snowy. SUCK IT BITCH." It doesn't help that in the Christian community seemingly everyone is married by 25. I feel as if everyone is shoving a clock in my face.

    Also, being the skinny girl isn't all it's cracked up to be. "Have you lost weight, you look scary. Gain some weight." or "I like the way you are now, don't gain or lose any weight."

  • orchidsinbuttonholes

    Sal, I adore this post. I just can't get over the judgmental card, moreso when it's tossed out so nonchalantly, and I'm so glad you wrote this.

    I get the judgment from family – that's difficult to take. I've gotten the blunt, "How much was that?" to the more veiled, "Wow, I wish I could afford x." It's frustrating and I'm still trying to find ways to answer it without getting defensive (which never helps), or explaining my financial situation (which is nobody's business), or explaining my life choices that allow me to buy and be able to afford x. I never deal out that kind of a statement, so I guess I'm forever surprised when it's aimed at me.

    But the WORST is the kid question. It's so presumptuous and intrusive! My husband's been getting it at work a lot recently – everybody's having kids, when are we going to. He has a more difficult time dodging the question than I do, but every family get-together I always mentally brace myself for it.

    Clearly I needed to vent! It's just one of those things I really have little patience for. Thank you again for this, Sal.

  • e. of academichic

    So true, so true!

    I have so many anecdotes about the public pregnant body (or the public possibly pregnant body!). Perhaps most frustrating, particularly when my bump first started showing, were all the people who found thinly veiled ways to suggest that I clearly had not gained an appropriate amount of weight and was certainly starving myself and my baby because I wanted to stay skinny. Really? Passive aggressive transference much?

    Whew, just typing that was cathartic.

  • Colleen

    I REALLY enjoyed this article and I think it's definitely something that everyone can relate to.
    A few years back I lost quite a bit of weight (It's back now I'm afraid:) but anyway, I was asked almost daily if I had in fact lost weight and the question was asked with such gushing surprise and enthusiasm that rather than make me feel good as I'm sure most people meant to, it made me wonder if I had looked absolutely horrible before. I knew I hadn't but still, I would have much rather just heard that I looked great.:)
    As for the questions regarding having children, those can be incredibly painful and invasive. I think people should be a lot more careful with what they ask, even if they mean well.
    We adopted a baby and when we were in the airport on our way home with him, an employee asked us "Are his biological parents dead or something or did they just not want him?" Ahh! Thank goodness he was too tiny to understand how awful (and potentially damaging) those words actually are.
    Anyway, now I've gone on and on so I'll stop.
    I've been reading your blog slowly for a few days now and I really like it! Great work.:)
    Colleen

  • Make Do Style

    It is interesting that people feel they have permission to say what they want. I was laughing at the idea of you wanting to punch someone though!

    It is no ones business but your own. I'm big on people not going mad with clothes or spending too much but you know that, that's what I blog about. I don't expect anyone to agree or listen!

    But I do think we are more direct (or possible rude) in the UK as we would say – that's none of your business. I do and have and will if needs must.

    Isn't it great how blogging allows for so many opinions.

  • Someone

    I don't think everyone gets this intrusive questioning and judgment…I think WOMEN do.

    Our society still sees women as childlike and women's bodies as public property. It is amazing how rude it is acceptable to be toward us.

    I don't know how to change this, because even if you have developed a healthy sense of not having to listen to anyone's nosy ideas of how you should look or live your life, you still have to put up with BS like this.

    When we are still getting books like "How Not to Look Old" or "How Never to Look Fat" or whatever that woman has come out with (reviewed on another fashion blog without any comment about how we keep being subjected to physical judgments and expected to toe some line with our bodies), we are still squarely in the land of "you need to live to please others."

    I just wonder when this will ever stop.

  • fspitz

    This post really touched a nerve. I'm married to a man that happens to be paralyzed. I can't tell you the number of questions by strangers as well as non-strangers about our sex life. Do I come up to you and ask if your significant other can satisfy you? Do you have sex? Does everything work?
    Also, when we had children (yes, gasp, we have three beautiful boys), I was asked repeatedly "how did that happen?"
    I just smile at all of you and walk away- clearly NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS!

  • Linda

    "Have you lost weight?" Me "nope". No one has ever asked if I gained because if they ever say anything like that I will send them back an equally rude response. As for the baby thing…why do people think its okay to ask? I have a friend who had a miscarriage after 2.5 months of pregnancy. She kept it quiet and didn't tell very many people, one of her "friends" asked "So when are you guys going to get started with kids?". She felt downright awful! What if you can't have kids, and you have been trying for years but physically can't? I have been married for almost 6 months, and people have asked me soo many times, I can't keep count.
    My answer "When I'm ready". Which could be never.

  • Rebecca

    I think I've been guilty of assuming my WRITTEN words would be understood in the way I intended them. The trouble with words on paper is that you can't see the look on the face or vocal inflections, etc.)

    After reading your post, I will try to be more sensitive. (And maybe not comment quite as frequently.)

    I always have enjoyed reading your opinions and insights. Keep it up. And don't sweat the small stuff.

  • Brianna

    I have been asked so many inappropriate questions (including the toughest ones for me to address – "are you an atheist?" and "when are you having children?" – and the most offensive – "Are you PMSing?"). It's repulsive.
    I retaliated by being so blatantly open and unafraid of telling people things about me that they feel uncomfortable. If they want to ask private questions, good luck getting out of my life story, my fears and insecurities, and maybe the awful surgery stories I have.
    For the longest time, I was afraid people would know things about me. In a corporate environment, people are really afraid of openness. In conservative environments, they are also very afraid.

    I was tired of being scared of it. I was also tired of letting other people affect how comfortable I was. It gave them too much control over me. *shrug* There's probably a better way to handle it, but with no secrets, they can't be used against me.

    This was partially because of the decision I made to not have children. Possibly the worst day I had was a week after my tubal ligation surgery – they inflate your stomach to make the surgery easier, so I was bloated and VERY uncomfortable – and someone I hadn't seen in a bit saw me while I was in the restroom (thank google it was private) and asked me "Are you pregnant?".

    I nearly died. I explained, without anger or anything, that I had just gotten surgery to no longer have children for medical reasons. She got the impression without me being rude – it wasn't right to ask that, it was a sensitive subject (even if I wanted children, it would have been unsafe), and it was no longer something to be discussed.
    I cried for hours after that, though.

  • Danielle

    You know. This is YOUR blog, YOUR space to say and do as you see fit. I don't think you should explain your self or apologize. Who ever doesn't like what you do or wear or buy can just as well get the f*ck out of your page and mind their own business!

    PS. I hate the question "when are going to have kids?" as well! So irritating…specially coming from people who struggle to make ends meet just because they started popping out kids like a popcorn machine!

  • nestra

    Amen sister!

    (and you have kick ass shoes!)

  • Kristen

    Add being pregnant to that list and people have NO regard for what they ask you. When I was pregnant with my daughter, I actually had someone ask me if I was PEEING more frequently? WTF? My favorites were loud exclamations of "Wow! You've popped" and when I came back from maternity leave, how many people felt the need to inquire whether I was nursing/pumping.

    So yes, I hear you on that.

  • Nicole

    I have been following your blog for a while now but have never commented. This post made me pause and I thought I would take a moment to comment.

    As a bigger girl, size 18/20 with two skinny sisters it has taken me years to accept and love my body. Now I am comfortable and happy with the way that I look, but my family seems to struggle with the same acceptance. I have learned how to dress my body in silhouettes that flatter the parts I love and because of that I carry myself with much more confidence.

    It seems like whenever I see my family now they are constantly insisting that I have been losing weight. My mother and sisters are deeply entrenched in the ideas of fat shame and have a very hard time accepting the fact that I don't jump for joy every time they ask me if I lost weight. Instead when I answer, I shake my head, say no and inform them I am just dressing myself better and that really they should just be complimenting my style πŸ˜‰

    I have come to accept that they may never be ok with the fact that I call myself fat or big or whatever. I figure the best thing for me to do is just consistently be happy with the way I look and dress with style and confidence. I do not speak badly about myself or use my weight as a crutch to not achieve life goals. I am hoping through my actions that they will come to realize that your weight does not define who you are as a woman.

    Sorry that turned out to be such a long comment but I have a tendency to ramble at times πŸ™‚

  • Audi

    Wow Sal, I can't believe people would have the audacity to write in with such comments as you describe. You need someone to kick their asses, I'm on it!

    I've thought before that the 'have you lost weight' question might be nearly as bad as asking about weight gained, but you've really spelled it out it beautifully. There could be a whole host of things going on that you're unaware of — illness, stress, struggling with weight loss but coming up short of the goal — so I think a simple, "You look great!" can never fail. Then if they want to share more (hey, if you DID lose weight it's ok to brag!) you've opened the door for them.

    I endured the "when are you having kids?" question for years, and I bristled every time. There's no good way to answer the question either, because if you say, "Never" then you have to listen to a huge load of bullshit about how you'll change your mind and how wonderful and rewarding it is and blah blah blah. I'd love to send out a mass message to all the nosy people who ever asked me that question, saying, "Guess what? I never had kids. And I've never regretted it. So shove it."

  • Melanie

    I couldn't agree more with everything! If it doesn't affect you, it isn't your business.

    The pregnancy one is really tough – I know most people come from a nice place but it is a loaded question. You have no idea what someone's situation is (maybe they have been trying for a really long time, maybe they can't have children at all, maybe they made an adult decision together with their spouse to not have children) – but whatever it is, I'm sure if they are pregnant or decide to get pregnant they will share that news when the timing is right!!

    And as far as the shopping goes – as long as said shopper does not owe the questioning person money (i.e. a loan or rent or shared expenses) then it really is not a concern!! Everyone prioritizes spending differently and that it is a personal choice – some people like to shop, others like to travel, but whatever it is doesn't really affect the outside world!!

    So I'm with you here!!

  • Tea Lady

    Argh! I HATE being asked "oh, is that new?" – "oh, where did you buy that skirt from" "shopping again?". Its none of your business!!!

    I know I shop a lot, but its not all expensive. Some of its terribly expensive, some of its from thrift stores. Likewise, putting together outfits is a creative outlet for me. But I don't want to divulge how much I spend on clothing. I work full time, we have one car… a small apartment… I can afford nice clothing… so:-

    MYOB!

    Nice post Sal πŸ™‚

  • text machine

    I really feel like in many (most?) of these situations, people are just a) socially awkward and b) legitimately wanting to connect in conversation. This isn't to say that it's not alternately hilarious and frustrating when people say random and misguided things, but I don't think it's malicious, usually, so I try and take it in the spirit in which I think it was meant.

    I used to work in a bar and one night a sad little old man came in and after a while asked when my baby was due. The other bartender was having a baby and I WAS wearing one of those empire waist baby doll dresses which kind of make everyone look pregnant, but I was fully baby-free. But I just kind of deferred the question and asked him something else because I knew where he was coming from and I didn't want him to feel bad about being so awkward. At work you sort of have to do those kinds of things, but I think about that sad man a lot when considering getting angry about a well-meaning but ill-advised question.

  • Anonymous

    Sal, you made me think of the lyrics to a Shawn Colvin song where she says:

    I don't know why
    But some are going to make you cry
    And I don't know how
    But I will get you by, I will try
    They're not trying to cause you pain
    They're just afraid of loving you
    I don't know why
    I know these things, but I do

    I am not sure if what she writes is true, but it eases the pain to look at it this way.

  • Sal

    Anonymous (1): I love that song – especially the live version. Shawn is beyond amazing. Thanks for shedding a different light on these matters.

  • Lain

    I have experienced most of these comments, so I won't elaborate.

    What gets under my skin is when the person asking anything they really know they shouldn't ask, prefaces their questions with "Do you mind if I ask you…"

    If you have to qualify the question, then yes, I DO mind !

  • Charlotte

    The worst totally invasive question I've been asked is when I ran into the mother of my then-3rd grade son's classmate with her new baby on her hip. I fussed over him a little, told her how beautiful he was, and she asked, in that smarmy ha-ha voice, "Well, when are YOU going to have another one?"
    I looked her straight in the eye and told her the truth: "I had a miscarriage about a year ago, and we've been trying since, but no luck."
    The look of horror on her face wasn't exactly priceless, given the circumstance, but I'll bet she never asked anyone that question again.

  • 3goodrats

    Not about weight, but in the summer people will ask me "Don't you ever go outside?" Yes, I am pale. I am very pale. Being outside doesn't change that (and frankly I suspect that sitting in the sun until your skin changes color may not be a good idea.) I don't know why people think it's ok to comment on skin color, and I hate that it makes me hesitate to show my legs in the summer.

  • Cass

    Oh yes, I have been asked whether I've gained weight. By my grandmother most recently, and by my DISSERTATION ADVISOR most horrifyingly. I wish I'd been able to smile blandly and say, "That's not really relevant to my research, is it?" but it's hard to keep your composure in the face of so many boundaries crossed. Which is partly how people get away with crossing those boundaries, I suspect…

  • Emm

    OMG, your post has hit a few nerves here. First, I'm with Middle Aged Woman and want to kick someone's booty for writing judgmental things to you.

    Second, although a few times I've been on the receiving end of inappropriate questions due to merely utter cluelessness of the questioner, often there's been that passive-aggressive undertone that a few others upthread have mentioned.

    Oddly enough, the most intrusive comments/questions seem to come from acquaintances rather than friends. A couple of women at work made comments about how small I was when I was pregnant with my first, and get this, my lunches and whether I was eating enough for the baby became a subject for conversation at lunch one day! I just responded that the doctor said I was a perfectly healthy pregnant woman.

    Yes, I've been asked whether I've lost or gained weight, when my husband and I were going to have children, whether something I'm wearing is new (I hate that one, too), when I was going to get married (my husband and I lived together several years before we got married, and frankly, unbeknownst to anyone but ourselves, discussed staying a couple without marrying, rebels that we are, lol).

    Please keep posting what you want, and don't let the catty folks get you down.

  • Becky

    I'm lucky in that my body is of a size that I generally fly under the radar. But the one thing I hated about pregnancy was that suddenly everyone felt the need to comment on my size. Constantly. I was showing! I wasn't showing! I was big! I was small! (My favorite was when one person told me I still looked small, and another gravely told me that I looked like I was about to pop and was I sure I wasn't having twins? On the same day.)

    And then after the birth, oh my, the comments on losing the weight. UGH.

  • Rad_in_Broolyn

    Hey great post. Way to be strong and assert yourself.
    Unfortunately, this sort of assertion of privacy and self respect was not considered OK in my cultural context. I grew up in a Asian American household and community. My world growing up (not just at home) meant to privacy, and I'd get peppered with embarrassing questions that whittled away at my delicate self esteem. But I'm finally standing up for myself. I even say, "That's not an appropriate question" to well meaning but rude folks that cross the line. I know that it's different with different cultures, but with me, I can make the call as to how I'd like to be treated. So far, so good. Even my mom is learning to think twice.

  • SWF_Terra

    AWESOME post Sal. You're dead on. It amazes me how often people believe something is indeed their business. Or that perhaps they can help you out in some way and so they insert themselves in your life.

    I lost a little bit of weight before my wedding (maybe 5-8 lbs). I was working hard and was very dedicated to eating well. One of my "friends" had the nerve to tell me just what she thought of my miniscule weight loss. I smiled politely and moved on without making it an issue. But clearly her comments stuck with me.

    There are certainly times when family and friends should intervene in someone's life. It seems people not only don't understand when it's actually appropriate, they don't know how to approach the subject in a tactful way.

    Perhaps if we logged off of the computer every now and then and actually interacted with real live people, we'd have a better sense of social etiquette. And believe me, I love me some computer time! πŸ™‚

  • futurelint

    This reminds me of when I saw my formerly chubby childhood dentist and he was VERY thin. He laughed as he told me about all the compliments he was getting about losing weight and looking good – since the reason he got so thin was that he had cancer.

    I've never gotten the gained/lost weight question because my weight is thankfully pretty stable… I have been asked if I have breast implants though, which I thought was an incredibly personal thing to ask a vague acquaintance.

    I know I shouldn't, but I do worry about coming off as shallow because I have a personal style blog and a lot of clothes and shoes. Anyone who knows me in real life knows that's not true so I guess all the cyber-strangers opinions don't matter.

  • Sal

    Rad_in_Broolyn: I've heard similar stories from many Asian women about cultural differences in questioning and appropriateness. And MAN that has got to be a tough line to toe. But I'm super impressed with you for setting your own boundaries. That must be a challenge every single time.

  • Dani

    My boyfriend and I have been together for five years. The question I receive almost weekly is, "When are you and your boyfriend going to get married?" The gall of someone to ask that is bad enough, but the judgment they make and EXPRESS to me about my answer, or lack thereof, is far worse. It's either, "You've been together long enough, it's time for you to get hitched" OR "If you're not married yet, you guys need to break up." It drives me crazy that they not only think my private relationship is any of their business but that they think they have the right to tell me what I should do. Their "advice" is completely unsolicited, needless to say, and is further based on the assumption that everyone must do things the same way and by a certain age, whatever it may be—get married, have kids, own a house, etc. I'm very proud of the adventures I've had, the places I've travelled, and the relationship I've worked hard on. Think the question and KEEP IT TO YOURSELF. Have an opinon and KEEP IT TO YOURSELF. My journey is MY journey.

  • The Raisin Girl

    It was always my grandmother that would comment on my weight. She wouldn't ASK, either. She'd simply comment that I was gaining weight, and tell me I needed to get it under control while I was young, because once I hit thirty it would be a lot harder to drop the pounds.

    She would also often comment that I was eating too much, or that what I was eating was likely to put on the pounds.

    Now, on some level I understood that her remarks arose out of concern for my health alone. My grandmother was herself clinically overweight, and she felt that many health problems she suffered were either caused or exacerbated by this fact, and she didn't want me to have the same issues later in life.

    The net result of her comments, however, was that I developed a complex about food where I had never had one. I began to gain about 20 lbs a year, and while this was undoubtedly due in part to stress and hormones and high school and other factors, I will always believe that part of the drastic increase in my weight gain was that I no longer felt comfortable with food. I couldn't eat what I wanted without feeling guilty, and that bothered me so much that I would either not eat what I wanted and feel dissatisfied, or eat too much in rebellion against those feelings.

    On a completely different note, lately the question I hate the most is, "So when are you two getting married?" There seems to be this misconception among the general populace of the WORLD that because I've been dating the same guy for over three years, we should get married any day now. And if we don't, our relationship either isn't going anywhere or isn't going well. What is this? I'm 21 and in college! Why on earth would I get married?

    In short, this post resonates and I love you for it, and I kind of want to e-mail it to every woman in my family as a friendly reminder.

  • Anonymous

    OMG thank you so much for this post. I recently lost a lot of weight (just over 50 pounds), so I am getting the "Have you lost weight?" question a LOT lately. I find it super invasive and awkward to answer. A simple "You look great" is fine. But anything else is beyond annoying. And the people who ask how much are just awful. My own husband does not know the number, so I certainly am not going to tell you, Ms. Susy Nosypants Coworker. I usually just say "I've lost an amount," which confuses people enough that I can get away. What really gets me is that the vast majority of these people don't know me well enough to know whether I am losing weight because I want to. For all they know, I could be terribly sick with some horrible disease.

  • daisy

    Hmm. I don't mind when people ask if I've lost weight, or if they compliment me on my appearance. Maybe it's because people I know are tactful enough not to mention when I've gained it! In any case, lately I've been working really hard on getting in shape and losing weight and taking better care of myself. Sometimes it's easy to forget I'm making progress, so, actually, I appreciate the comments–when they're kindly intended, from people I know.

    I do have a dear friend who got gastric bypass surgery. She got really sick of people commenting on her appearance and asking her questions. So I never, ever brought up her appearance unless she initiated the conversation. And I respect that.

  • Pammie

    I love your Blog Sal and the fact that you are courageous and put yourself out there!

    Ignore the naysayers – they only are critical out of fear!

    Really, it's none of their business!

  • Kimberly

    Dani, I hear ya on the marriage question!! I have been my man for 5 years and have lived together for 3. I always hate it when new to me people (everyone else has been informed of our decision already) ask when we are getting married and act as if I haven't been able to talk him into yet. We have no intentions of every getting married. It isn't our thing. I'm so sick of having judgmental people look at me like I have three heads when I tell them that.

    Also, at a holiday party a few months ago a co-worker's wife who I had just met felt the need to tell me that I would change my mind about wanting to have kids. Hmmm, I'm 31 and from the time I was a kid I have said I wasn't going to have kids. I highly doubt this will change, but thanks stranger for thinking you know me and my desire to procreate. WTF?!

    Great post, Sal!

  • Marianna

    Because my weight fluctuates so often, people feel like it's free territory to talk about. I saw someone yesterday and they said to me: "Oh, you look so good. Have you lost weight?" When I said that I might have lost a bit, they said: "Yeah, I haven't seen you since the summer… you look good now."

    Ugh. Did I really look that bad last summer?

    And regarding shopping — if you have the money, go for it and enjoy it. πŸ™‚ If I had a job I'd shop a TON more. No shame!

  • Madeline P

    Such a fantastic post!

    I am on the thinner side of things and will get asked, "have you lost weight?" with a scrunched nose and clear distaste for my thin frame. Or, I hear, "you look thin" in the same tone. No, I haven't lost weight and frankly it's none of your damn business.

    The other thing I constantly find is people bugging me about having a baby. I live in a very conservative Christian culture (I'm Mormon) and people generally get married very young and have babies right away. It's common place to be asked when I am having a baby, why I don't yet have a baby etc. Hell, I am only 24! And the truth is that I want a baby, and because of medical reasons, I can't have one right now. Is it really my nosy neighbors business? Hell No. It's not even my extended family's business. Child bearing is such a private matter and it makes no sense to me why everyone thinks they have the right to question your choices!

    None of their business indeed.

    Hear Hear Sal!

  • rb

    Oh baby, wait until when or if you have children. The Mom Squad's unforgiving judgmental glare has made me more than once consider moving off the grid. Not to mention those people without children who consider themselves experts in how I should raise mine.

  • Kiki

    It's usually my mom that states I've gained weight, wore a bad outfit or took a bad pic on my blog. So I give her a straight-forward, strong answer with that "none of your business" tone. But I've had many people tell me I'm anorexic. I tend to run down the menu of food I inhaled that day.

    And then there's the "When are you going to have children?" Maybe we don't want kids, maybe we're not ready, maybe we just want to be us for awhile…it's very annoying and is a constant question that society has deemed appropriate to ask newly married couples. I have a canned answer now that usually shuts them up.

  • Linda

    Great post. I think it's great that you have so many shoes, clothes, etc. How you buy them is your own business. Unless the person asking is the person paying your bills, then you answer to no one but yourself!
    I usually ask "How's life?" when I run into someone I haven't seen in while. That way they can fill me in what they want to-babies, jobs, relationships, new clothes!

  • Stephanie

    I gotten really used to the weight one lately. I've lost around 55lbs in the past almost year so I do understand it but I'm tired of having the same conversation with at this point complete strangers. I had someone at my son's school ask me how much I had lost, how I did it, what kind of exercise I do and so on. I've also had people yell across a crowded locker room or interupt my work out. None of these are really OK with me. I don't mind a "wow you look great" and I don't mind sharing my experience with friends or even people who are in the position I was in before I started but the random questions bug me.

    I've never been asked if I've gained but have been asked if I was pregnant when I wasn't. No fun and not cool. Someone can look like they are about to pop out a baby and I won't ask.

  • Fer

    oh, Sally, I agree with everything you've just said! HOWEVER, I live in Brazil, and unfortuantely the Brazilian culture, while very warm and friendly, is also extremely invasive. none of these questions are considered offensive to the majority of people, and if you are very protective of your boundaries and privacy as I am, people will consider you to be very aloof and umpleasant.

    it's complicated for people like me, living in this culture. I try to be protective of my privacy (and I really don't care being labeled a bitch in some cases, bacause some things are not other people's businesses), but at the same time I feel like I have to play the game to some extent so that I don't become a total outcast. so yes, I still compliment people on their appearances and accept some comments that are not extremely invasive because, well, I live in a society, I am a part of it, right? you have to give them something, and in time I understood that some of these questions are actual attempts of being polite by some.

    but there are some lines I don't let people cross. I will not discuss my weight, my marriage, my salary, my bills, my (lack of) religion, my sexual orientation, and my decision of not wanting to have kids. ESPECIALLY if we're not intimate. please, don't ask, or I'll be very umpleasant. and I don't care if everybody else tells everybody about those things; *I* won't.

  • Andrea

    I think the question, "Have you lost weight?" is a clumsy way of commenting to someone that they look good most of the time. Lets face it, society does put emphasis on weight. If someone asks if I've lost weight I just take it to mean they think I look good. Given that, the reverse question is probably meant as an insult. I don't think either question is actually genuinely concerned with how much a person weighs.

    In the case of your trainer friend, it seems like a professional slam rather than interest or a comment on her appearance. There are people who take pleasure in toppling others.

  • Malvina

    A great post. When I had a job that had me interacting daily with the public and having to make small talk, I got the pregnancy/kids question more times than I could count. It made me dread work some days.

    Now my job has me interacting regularly with people from all sorts of African communities, where they have all sorts of different definitions of what's invasive and what's not. It has given me a whole new perspective. When I lost 10 lbs due to a new focus on being healthy, they were the first to mention it (note: some questioners obviously thought it was a good thing, others weren't so sure), and there is not a day that doesn't go by where I'm exhausted but thinking that I'm covering it nicely and they'll say "You look TERRIBLE; you ok?" Invasive & blunt by American standards? Yes. It also never fails to touch a deep place in my heart that they are watching so closely for any indicators of my well-being.

    Which brings me to a question I was taught to ask when faced with an invasive question. Before answering, reply with "Why do you ask?" Those that are being negative don't want to voice their reasons why (usually) and move onto another topic. Those that have good intentions explain the intent, and you get the opportunity to respond to the positive intent rather than the invasive question. Brilliant!

  • Jo

    Oh, great leaping froggies. I hate the inappropriate questions. As I've gotten older, I've quit beating around the bush.

    To "Are you pregnant?" or "When are you due?" I simply reply, "I'm just fat!" with a nice big grin.

    To "Have you gained weight?" I reply, "I beg your pardon?" (Repeat as needed with different emphases for maximum effect.)

    To "Why don't you have kids?" I reply, "I can't bear children" and let them work that out.

    And, thank God, there's the all-purpose retort, "Excuse me?" followed by "How dare you?"

    I find, the more I get into my forties, the more I become Miss Manners. With combat boots.

  • Penny

    I really enjoyed reading this. Over the last 2 years I have lost 50 pounds and have about 30 to go. I found the "you've lost weight – you look great" comments difficult and ackward – I didn't know how to respond and sometimes felt a little hurt – wasn't I okay before? This was especially difficult with family members who had a habit of "policing" my weight – their compliments annoyed me – I wondered if they thought their nagging had FINALLY helped (or course their nagging had only hurt and made me want to eat more).
    I try hard not to be critical of anyone's body – I hate it when people (women) say about thinner women "have a sandwich" or make snide comments "don't you hate those women who can eat anything?" – I usually challenge those comments.
    I'm sorry to hear people are sometimes judgemental about your blog – I just discovered fashion blogs and am really enjoying it – I'm in my 40s and never paid much attention to my clothes or look – I often didn't feel very attractive. Reading these blogs is giving me ideas about how I could boost my self esteem in this area. So I really appreciate your writing and pictures – I guess I am relying on the kindness of strangers.
    Take care,

  • Susan

    My mother-in-law is obsessed with weight. She has her own body image issues and as a result she focuses on her own and everyone else's weight. She usually doesn't ask people to their face if they have lost or gained weight, but she is constantly making comments to the rest of the family when others aren't around – "jill is losing weight, i don't think she needs to" or "kathy is really putting on weight, she should watch that."

    it irritates me to know that she probably talks about my weight with other family members too when i'm not around. it's not her business or anyone else's if i lose or gain 5 lbs. and it's certainly not newsworthy like she thinks. i think her way of talking about it all the time is disgusting. it's not her business and it's rude. she never says anyone looks good in regards to weight loss/gain either – it is always negative! she thinks everyone needs to be as worried about it as her but no one is.

    i am actually nervous about if my husband and i have daughters in the future – her babysitting them and creating body image issues for them! it's ridiculous!

  • Sal

    Malvina: Brilliant indeed! A "why do you ask" response puts the onus back on the questioner without smacking of aggression.

    And I know that some people do ask these questions out of true concern for our well-being. It can be so hard to sort that out when the questions are personal, private, and often emotionally-loaded. But I love your solution!!

  • lisa

    Hmm I personally don't mind questions about my life/appearance if they're well-meaning or the person only asked with kind intentions. If the comments are passive-aggressive or meant to be rude or mean, though, that's irritating and hard to brush off.

    Btw, I can't believe that you would get such judgemental emails, Sal! Yeesh, the nerve of some people. I know I've gotten some judgemental snide comments from people–even people whom I considered close friends–when I was contemplating the purchase of my Chanel bag. Snide comments like "Well, I could never spend that much on a purse." Okay, so what, that makes you a saint or something?

  • LegacyOfPearl

    Sal: I agree these comments are hurtful, but I don't think most of them mean it in a bad way. People are just tactless and say things without thinking too much. So it's sad for them in fact. If they mean it well, I still feel sorry for them because if they go out of their way to make you feel bad or point out to what they think your mistakes are, they clearly don't love themselves. Just think about your beautiful blog and how much you accomplished here when you get a comment like that. I'm sure they are still a minority compared to the positive feedback you're getting.

  • Kathryn

    I cannot tell you how nice it is to read these comments and realize I'm not the only one that deals with all these comments. I know I work a higher profile job than most, but especially now – when I'm 37 weeks pregnant – I can barely drag myself into work, not because I don't feel well – I feel great – but because I cannot stand all the comments.

    My body measurements with the exception of my belly have not changed even 1 inch, but still I get the craziest comments nearly EVERY DAY!

    Today a woman even suggested maybe I should move the date of my c-section up because I am "big enough." Another one asked me on Thursday if I am still having sex with my husband. It's gotten to the point that I don't even know how to respond.

    Even if I pretend to nap on my train-ride home, I've had multiple people wake me up to ask questions. I've taken to wearing an "evil eye" everyday – just to feel a little protected from all this unwanted attention.

  • GB73

    Excellent post Sal! Wish people would get a life and stop meddling!

  • Missy

    oh i agree! hate the kids question! it's so personal x

    Missy
    For everything about fashion:
    http://thefashionfusion.blogspot.com

  • Liz

    This post really hit home for me. I lived abroad for a month last year and it ended up being a very upsetting and stressful situation, and I dropped about ten pounds (off of my already small frame).

    When I got back home, I met up with a friend that I hadn't seen/been in touch with for months, and she kept commenting on how thin I was and telling me that I must not be eating. When I run into her even now, she still comments that I never eat (even when she runs into me while I'm stuffing my face)! It's incredibly frustrating and truly offensive, and is sadly making me really dislike a person I used to value.

    I hate that people make assumptions about my body and the reasons for my weight loss, especially since it was the result of a very emotionally painful experience.

  • WendyB

    Some crazy dude at the gym (wearing street clothes while working out) approached me to ask me if I'd lost weight. About 10 pounds, he guessed. I've been the same weight for the past 10 years, thanks very much. It was supposed to be flattering but it wasn't.

    As for people commenting on spending, I have a post on that coming up!

  • kjlangford

    I guess the real issue here is how well do you know the person? Have they invited you into their life? have they volunteered information about their relationship, feelings about having a family, desire to lose weight, desire to marry, desire to gain weight, desire to never talk about whether or not they are having children (that's me-luckily my family honors it-for now). If you're invited in, I think you can ask a question to make conversation, to check in on a friend, to support a friend. but if you're not invited, you shouldn't even be knocking on the door. And if you're invited, use your manners. I'm not advocating an endless fire of intrusive questions, but questioning and talking in private and in a way that lets a good friend know that they can talk to you if they want, or not.

    I think questions like "how is boyfriend/fiance/husband?" are the better route as opposed to "when are you getting Married/having kids/moving in together, etc. It's an open-ended question, that allows the person answering many "outs" if they want, and it keeps you from looking insensitive. If they're thrilled to tell you they're starting a family, they will when you ask about their husband. If they are dealing with a hardship they'd rather not talk about- they can just say "oh, he's fine, you know, always playing golf."

    The only problem with my little set of rules is that family members (even distant ones) often assume that they are invited in to every inch of your personal life. My grandfather once asked me WHY I was not dating anyone. never mind that he had NO clue about my personal life-seriously how do you answer that?? "gee, gramps, I guess no one's interested, hadn't really thought about it that way."

    Instead of the typical use of "have you lost weight" I try to say " wow, you look GREAT!" And then if they want to discuss their weight loss habit, they can, but if not, they get a compliment anyway.

    this is long, but on top of all this- I totally feel you Sal, regarding the shopping issue. For me, it's not shopping. My guilty pleasure is television. One of my friends always makes judgements on how much tv I watch. She came over and saw all the shows I record and said "Do you watch TV ALL DAY?" Some days I do, and I'm generally not ashamed of it because it's how I relax. I know a book would be more intellectually acceptable, and that she would join in on a conversation about all day reading, but I like tv. I just do. And it really really bothers me when she judges it. Just because you don't watch much tv doesn't make you smart, and just because I watch a lot doesn't make me stupid. And I could go on and on about how she doesn't know that when I watch I'm almost always doing something else like cooking or laundry or cleaning or eating lunch or cuddling with my husband or blogging or choreographing or editing or stretching, etc to the nth power.

    so yeah, it's my DVR… er, life and I'll do what I want with it. Thanks for the venting time… πŸ™‚

  • Ashley

    What. A. Great. Post.
    I have this spine condition called kyphosis ("an abnormal curvature in the thorasic region of the spine"). It basically means I am forever and always slouching- there's no fixing it, there's no un-slouching. It doesn't bother me too much at all…except when people tell me to "straighten up." Sure, I expect this from semi-distant (older) relatives who aren't too aware of the situation (not that I like it at all), but I've had strangers tell me this!!! Strangers!! How is my posture their concern?! Usually I just tell them "I would if I could, trust me," but then they become experts and say to whoever they're with "oh she must have that scoliosis." Nope.
    So I hear ya on this, Sal.
    Also, as far as the shopping thing… isn't that partly what this blog is about? Fashion? Your fashion? Your clothes? If it bothers some people that they can't buy clothes like you (or whatever their problem may be), they they should just shut-up and stop reading! Simple as that!

  • Emily S.

    Love your comments on unsolicited advice about clothing purchases. Owning more than one pair of shoes is not the "let them eat cake" of the twentieth century, despite what some people think.

    No one is going after stamp collectors or orchid growers for the money they invest in their hobbies, why should fashion be any different?

  • Jessica

    Great post.

    I have to say that I hate being asked whether an item is new. As in, "I like your sweater. Is it new?" Maybe I am just sensitive, but it feels like "is it new?" is a remonstrance — a subtle way of saying "I see you have been spending money on yourself again." A few of my co-workers regularly "compliment" me in this manner whenever I wear a new item.

  • The Barely Tattoo’d Artist

    I totally feel you on this post, Sal…

    I did get the kid question constantly, up until I started laughing about it and beating people to the punch by saying "No kids yet, I like my sleep" or "My mom's pushing, but we're having fun making her wait" (she really wants to be a Grandma ASAP), or even "Well, if I have the kid that I can't afford right now, could you help me out with the bills, food, diapers, etc?"…Usually keeps them quiet…

    There are two other questions I get more nowadays…there's the "What race are you?/Is your daddy black?"…Yes, I'm of mixed race (there's a huge backstory that I'd like to not get into quite yet openly), but that doesn't give you the right to ask me that question…get to know me and then maybe, MAYBE I'll tell you the story…I've gotten quite rude with those people, infact even going so far to start yelling "You don't know me! You don't know me! Why the f**k you asking?" in my best ghetto-fied attitude, which usually turns into some crazed psycho bitchiness…

    The other question involves the huge birthmark on my right leg…I like to wear skirts and dresses, but the stares and comments are just straight pissing me off…infact, last summer, when I was heading into work (at the time, I worked at a bank branch in our local Wal-Mart) and some dude I don't know flagged me down and proceeded to ask me what happened to my leg…I thought I had a bruise or something until I realized what he meant…my reply "It's a birthmark, Dumbass!"…his buddy started laughing while I walked in…

    Seriously, I grew up in this town and to be honest, I've reached my point to where I don't care if people think I'm a bitch, but what in the world gives them the right to ask me that shit?…

    *sigh* This is why I live under my new motto in life "People are stupid and should be treated as such"…sad, but true…

  • Anonymous

    aw…frak 'em !!
    Honey, don't let the jerks get you down. I'd kick their butts for you if I could. Some of us would love to see how you store your shoe collection B.T.W. The floor of my closet looks like Payless just exploded.

  • Laura Elaine

    The summer after my freshman year of college, I went back to work for the same company I was working for part-time before school started. I had a guy tell me "You know you've gained weight, right?"

    That little asinine comment knocked me off my perfectly happy perch, turned an enormous microscope on my every flaw and sent me spiraling into an exercise addiction. Now, with a much better and stronger head on my shoulders, I would have a snappy comeback for that guy, instead of tears. But to this day, I think…the audacity!

    When it comes to people losing weight, I always leave it to "You are looking great these days!" Who doesn't want to hear that!?

    Even with close friends, I almost always let THEM tell ME things. Like when a friend started dating a much older co-worker (her boss!), or one started dating a guy with a child, or another made a very bad financial decision. Though the person may be a close friend, no one wants to be preached at. Chances are, they know what everyone is thinking. (The friend who dated the guy with the kid said to me "You know, you're the only friend who hasn't asked 'So what's it like dating a guy with a kid!?' – thank you for that.") I mean really…it was just a guy. I didn't see what the big deal was!

    I mean, in the grand scheme of things, most things aren't that shocking any more – why make them more so by calling attention to them and embarrassing your friend? I find that when you wait for them to come to you, they are A) much more open and B) thankful for you not prying.

  • Rachel @ Suburban Yogini

    My biggest bugbear is the kids question. When am I going to have them? Why have I not already had them? Is there something wrong? I'm 35 now so I really should be thinking about it, that biological clock is ticking apparently. Because of course it is inconceivable to these people who know me not at all to think that I might not want children.

    Once I actually told someone I was barren I got so annoyed. I even used the word barren. I rock in a Jane Austen kind of a way… πŸ˜‰

  • The Waves

    Judging from the huge amount of comments (I didn't read all), pretty much everyone must have some experience with people who think everybody's business is their business. I have lost count as to how many times people have asked me if I have lost weight. It is so frustrating at times. "Yes, I am under-weight, always have been." "Yes, I eat, and not only carrots." (An old lady once came up to me on the street and asked me if I only ate carrots. Nice, eh?) I try to be polite, but more often than not I really should just say "it's none of your business".

    As for the topic of nosy and/or judgemental people online, a bunch of Finnish bloggers get such crazy amounts of hate-mail over their spending habits ("where does your money come from?" "how can you spend so much?") and such, that I wonder how they still keep blogging at all. One blogger wrote about her upcoming trip to Dubai recently, and some commentators told her that she has chosen an immoral, unfashionable, boring location for her holiday, and that she'd be raped (!). After the blogger had the guts to make the hate-mail public and explain that it was her decision to choose Dubai, she got dozens of responses telling her that she ought to take criticism better. Seriously, I don't know what is wrong with people, I really don't.

  • Kathleen

    Great post. I had just typed up a really long response and then the Internet swallowed it whole when I tried to preview it. Doh.

    I've gained some weight in the past 3 years and while I'm unhappy with it at the moment, I am still trying to dress my body the best way possible even while I try to lose the weight. Even so, I make some style mistakes which have prompted people to ask, "Are you pregnant?" and other offensive questions. Sigh. I also have a close-knit group of girlfriends from back home who have all been obsessed with their weight at one point or another and last year when we were all bridesmaids in the same wedding, they noticed that my dress size was larger than usual and talked about it behind my back. I found it snarky but put it past me because that's just the way it is with them (and because I've been guilty of that as well).

    My family has been bugging me for ages to get married to my long-term b/f, particularly since many of my friends have been getting married in the past year or so. If anything, the marriage question bugs me more than the questions about weight.

  • Annie

    I think that many, many people think it's automatically their business when someone's appearance changes, especially a woman's. Never in my life was this more the case than when I became pregnant with my first child. All of a sudden, people felt free to dispense unsolicited advice, come up and try to touch my belly and regale me with tales of their own horrifying birth experiences. At the time I was too insecure and afraid to offend anyone (yes, they overstepped their boundaries but I was more concerned about making them comfortable. If only.)

    Anyway, I think fashion bloggers are similar; people think it's their right somehow to comment about someone else's body or lifestyle or whathaveyou. I teach my daughters that it's not polite to talk about other people's bodies. Period.

    So, my take on it is this: their need to make inappropriate comments about your personal matters or appearance say more about them than you. You clearly have far more fans (myself included) than detractors so let the majority rule in this case and forget the others.

  • Una

    Sorry if it was my question about your shoe collection that inspired this post. I agree with you completely about offensive and inappropriate questions or comments; I've certainly been on the receiving end. It's only because I've seen Audi and Kasmira post "inventory" type information which I've found helpful and inspiring that I thought I'd see if you'd be willing to share with us. Obviously not, and I'm truly apologetic for asking. Lesson learned.

  • Anonymous

    I saw the father of a childhood friend and he had lost a considerable amount of weight– maybe 80 pounds — since I had last seen him, and I did ask him if everything was okay. He reassured me that it had been on purpose. I was genuinely concerned that he might have been ill, and he's someone I've known for a very long time and felt comfortable asking.

    I also had the experience of being told– constantly– while I was pregnant that I was very small. It made me feel both self-concious and worried that the baby wasn't growing enough.And that's not even counting all the people who felt free to TOUCH my belly. I do think the commenters were just trying to make conversation and show an interest in my pregnancy, and it's hard to always know what people feel is invasive. People often make similar comments about children: "He's so big for his age! He's so small for his age!" Some parents find this offensive but I think that most people's intention is to make conversation by "noticing" something about the child. It's unfortunate that in so many cases people choose to comment on appearances.

  • Imogen Lamport, AICI CIP

    Great post – people do ask so many invasive questions, weight, sex, love, money.

    Just tell people where to get off, or stay away from them. Or lie outright – yes I've gained 78kg or whatever, what about you?

  • Mandy

    I think that most people mean well and ask uncomfortable questions because they're terrible at small talk – the weather only holds the conversation for so long. There are always those whose intentions are malicious but I think that for the most part people just don't know what to say. It's usually feigned interest in what's going on with you. I try not to let it bother me – but once in a while it definitely strikes too close to home.

  • Frances Joy

    I find the whole concept of "None of your business" to be pretty interesting. I get that certain questions are simply not socially acceptable, and I can remember occasions when people have asked if I've put on weight and I've been annoyed.

    That said, even though I grew up in the States, I come from a culture, and was raised in a culture, where everything is everyone's business. No question was off limits and I was expected to answer truthfully. I can't say that I'm sorry that I was forced to live so openly because even now, I think carefully about the ways that my decisions and actions affect the people around me, both directly and indirectly. I'm not a people pleaser and I'm not afraid to offend, but I do think about the impact of my actions.

    I guess my main point is that there are real cultural ideas of what is and is not up for public discussion, and that invasions of "privacy" are not always negative.

    Of course, I also think that people who ask "Have you gained weight?" and "How are things with so-and-so" are a bit on the passive-aggressive side.

    Oh, and I love Salt n Pepa.

  • hope505

    If you were in Hollywood, you would hear, "Have you had your nose done?" or "Did you finally decide to go up a cup size?" or something equally obnoxious…

    You have a good game plan…or do what my mopm used to say, "…Why do you ask?" or the classic, "Excuse me..?" as if a person could not possibly be so rude…either they'll get it or they won't.

  • imladra

    I've had one lady in a class I took purposely walk up to me and say 'I just want to tell you something….you've gained a lot of weight since we started school.' I asked her why she thought she had the right to say something like that to anyone, and when she was silent, I walked away. I was able to laugh it off, and I didn't let it get to me……I was much more upset over her rudeness than my weight.

    I have also been the recipient of 'have you lost weight?' Recently, as a result of a medical diagnosis, I easily lost almost ten pounds in a very, very short amount of time. I dreaded the questions. Everyone made a big deal over what I lost and I think they began to feel like they could now make comments about how 'big' I was before and even how 'but your fat never jiggled, you're very solid…it must be all that walking you do.' These are the people I work with, and after briefly explaining what's happening with my weight, I dropped it and refused to comment more. It's no one's business but my own, I completely agree with that.

  • LENORENEVERMORE

    So well written Sal!
    My parents's friends always ask me, "when are you getting married???"
    grrr…usually I just smiled & walk away. But I feel like slapping them silly sometimes~SLAP*

  • NotWithoutMyLipstick

    Thanks for the post, and thanks to 3goodrats for bringing up the pale skin issue. It's considered politically incorrect (and even racially charged) to comment on dark skin, but somehow it's ok to make incredulous remarks about how pale someone is. Pale skin isn't considered attractive in our culture, so as a friend of mine once remarked, saying "wow, you're so pale!" is about as kind as saying, "wow, your eyes are so beady and close-set"
    I work in cancer care and I always feel like making a snarky comeback about melanoma … or at least sunspots and vinatge leather, but I [usually] restrain myself.
    In general, while I agree with your sentiments I do think it can be hard to refrain from asking questions that are potentially over-the-line with friends, close acquaintances, or coworkers, even more so when you really care about them. Waiting for someone to bring it up themselves won't always work — sometimes people need to feel like they have permission to bring something up. But good for you to point out that it if the topic is going to be broached, it must be broached delicately and with goodwill.

  • jesse.anne.o

    Yeah, I do think people just have reactions for their own reasons.

    I lost a bit of weight over the summer (my mother and boyfriend were diagnosed with cancer within the same week, my grandmother was in and out of the hospital as well)…and at least 2 of my coworkers commented on my weight loss either in passing in the hallway ("You're wasting away to nothing!") or pulling me aside after dinner ("You've always been tiny but you're TOO tiny").

    My response to both was hey, you want the info, you'll get it. And I told them what'd happened, that I knew my BMI dropped to 17.5, and how stressed out I was and that I was seeing a doctor about it reducing stress while my appetite picks back up…but thanks for bringing it up!

    Nothing makes people less comfortable than bringing up health issues that you're already seeing a doctor for.

  • The Blairs

    I agree with you in principle. When people lose wieight they usually want people to notice. Someone I hadn't seen in over a year was really put out that I hadn't mentioned her weight loss. I had considered it but was afraid she may be ill and wouldn't want to talk about it. You can never please everyone!

  • esme and the lane way

    It's so annoyiung when we are expected to justify something we enjoy, like this. Rude!

  • sparkledonkey

    I suppose if some of your readers love you enough despite never having met you to want to pummel anyone who would dare say anything judgmental, it stands to reason that others might feel they know you well enough to make those types of comments. The internet is a magical place that brings people together but unfortunately also seems to magnify any existing social ineptitude.

    I learned as a child that commenting on another person's body is taboo, so it frustrates me to no end that most adults still struggle with this. When I was 12, my mom spent a month in the ICU while recovering from a blood disorder. She got so fed up with being complimented on her weight loss that when people followed up with the inevitable "So how did you do it?" question, she replied, "By nearly dying. Feel free to try it!"

    Growing up with that kind of role model has definitely helped me to cope with intrusive people in my adult life, especially during my pregnancies when it felt as if my body had become public property.

  • Dorky Medievalist

    This IS a great post and a welcome reminder that we are all in charge of policing our own boundaries and that we should take charge of voicing our defense of those boundaries.

    I do wonder, however, because weight loss or gain is often a symptom of something deeper that is going on and sometimes that something wrong is going on, what our responsibility is to our close friends. I do not think that it is appropriate for acquaintances/work colleagues/the cheese lady to comment on our weight (though I do believe that the question about weight loss often comes from an impulse, however misplaced, to offer a compliment), but I do think that we have a responsibility to those we know and care about to enquire–if not specifically about the weight loss or gain, or about those other symptoms of distress that show on our bodies–about how our friends are doing. I think that IS very much our business. Sometimes our friends signal the distress they cannot voice in other ways, physical ways, and being sensitive to those signals, however difficult it may be for us, is the very business of being a good friend.

  • Traci

    When I was in high school and college, I was actually underweight. Not due to an eating disorder or because I didn't eat, it was simply the way it was. I honestly tried to GAIN weight. For that reason, EVERYONE thought nothing of asking me all the freaking time how much I weighed. My own family gave me the nickname Twiggy! To this day, even though I feel that I'm a fairly "normal" size, people still comment on my size. As others have stated, why do people feel that they have the right to make any sort of comments about another person's weight???!

    After the weight issue, very close behind is the kids question. I'm so glad to see all the posts from others without kids! I have chosen not to have kids for many reasons, and it majorly ticks me off for people to ask why! As if it's ANY of their business! And as Audi posted, God forbid you actually say that you don't plan on having kids since you get the speeches and pitying looks. I'm very happy with my decision and don't feel the need to justify it to random people I encounter on the street! I've threatened many times to suddenly start crying loudly and choke out that I'm infertile and have tried to have kids for 15 years or something – then at least maybe they would think twice before asking someone else!!

  • RoseAG

    I don't know what kind of falling out you had with the former work-friend, but I can have some sympathy for someone who would ask about the old boyfriend.

    I've heard a lot of life stories at work and often I remember them really clearly, so I might be someone, making small talk, catching up, who would inquire about that thread.

    It seems like maybe you took her inquiry as a critical comment but she might have just been wanting to catch up on the drama she'd heard so much about before?

  • sarah

    One of the things that fascinated me most about being pregnant was the way people (mainly women) seemed to think this allowed them to ask questions about my size, weight gain, changing body, and other personal questions ranging from breast feeding to birthing choices to….well, I could go on. While most people I run into don't ask me the weight questions (we Canadians are, after all, polite!), this totally changed once I became pregnant, both times. Do we think that a protruding belly allows us to intrude into personal space? I wish I had read your blog and posts then, as I'm sure I would have had a more witty response than "I'm not sure"!

  • Melissa Blake

    I get the craziest questions, especially where my disability is concerned. I had a woman ask me one time, "Can you read." I just mumbled yes, but wanted to, ummm, say a bit more!

    Great post!

  • Sal

    Una: I don't recall your comment specifically, but rest assured this post was spurred by a variety of events and comments. And it's no worries. The comments I'm referring to about my shopping tendencies are really, REALLY scathing, and I doubt yours was one, doll.

    RoseAG: I hear ya. In my case, though, there was an actual fight. We were really, truly not friends and not on good terms. But in many cases, such an inquiry would be perfectly innocent.

    NotWithoutMyLipstick and Dorky Medievalist: Indeed, it can be tough to figure out how to tackle these questions when you're truly concerned about someone's well-being. But I think there are some tactful ways to do it, when you're talking to someone you're close with. Instead of going for weight, ask about health and well being, or even just a general "how have you been doing lately" can do the trick. Honing in on one issue can so easily backfire and insult. But you're right – not a cut-and-dried issue. Nothing ever is, it seems.

  • General Jinjur

    Thank you for posting this; it really helped me. I'm working on ridding myself of feeling the need to justify myself to others.

  • Cary

    A few years ago I lost about 20 lbs due to my digestive system suddenly turning on me. It made be laugh any time some one commented on my suddenly thinner figure as it was like they thought this was a achievement. Reality was I couldn't eat with out nasty consequences so I ended up avoiding food. I'm over my health problems now but it certainly made be much more aware of the fact that we don't know what's going on in some one life.

  • Mary

    Great post Sally!! you know what I don't like about the "have you lost weight" comment/ compliment? It's the idea that loss is the desirable thing, no none will say, oh have you gained weight, as a compliment! Getting thinner will get you a compliment but gaining will get you that pity inquiry. Why not say, you have a glow about you! You look happier! instead of Have you lost weight? There are people who after de-stressing add a healthy 5 pounds and they feel better and are happy again. What about someone who is overcoming ED and putting on a few pounds or going up in dress size is a huge success? Simply telling someone they look wonderful, they look happy or healthy should suffice and not hinge that on loss or gains…. I admit, I have used the you've lost weight as a compliment in the past and have stopped. But I still like to know how many shoes someone has, that's more to justify my own vice though. πŸ˜‰ You rock Sal!

  • Didi

    Great post! People comment about my shopping, which I also can afford, and when I'm going to have kids (never). Rude!

  • Sidewalk Chalk

    This was amazing to read, Sal. I feel like you've hit the nail on the head — telling someone they've got too much stuff is just as invasive as inquiring about weight.

    Since I got married last year, I've had people (especially hub's side of the family) ask about my weight loss and the state of my uterus. Even at events that should be body-conscious-free, like Thanksgiving. I hate both questions equally because they are so rude and invasive.

  • Anonymous

    I have been asked if I am pregnant numerous times (when I wasn't pregnant), and that is deflating and sad. I have been told that I have apparently just not lost the pregnancy weight, when in fact I lost all my pregnancy weight in three weeks, since I gained less than 20 pounds. But I love being asked if I have lost weight; most of the time, it is meant to be supportive of my efforts to be healthy. And honestly, I am big enough that losing weight will make me prettier. Maybe that isn't true of everyone, but it is of me. So asking if I have lost weight is a compliment, to me. It's honoring the effort and hard work it took me to shed those pounds.

  • Una

    *sigh of relief* So glad I'm not the culprit… Meanwhile, this discussion has been fascinating!

  • Sister Wolf

    That co-worker sounds like a cunt you should have punched. But people who write insulting things to your blog should be laughed at and mocked for their stupidity. Please don't let stuff like that stop you from posting whatever you feel like posting!Hmph.

  • JPey

    Yeah – you know what was really not fun when I was 87 pounds and trying to get a handle on my anorexia? When perfect strangers would ask how I stayed so slim – what was my "secret"?

    The secret was I was super sick, didn't eat, and exercised for hours every day.

    Yet they were giving positive affirmation for a physique that was the result of much self-abuse. It only magnified my confusion about my body dysmorphia. As in, my mother says I look like a POW, emaciated and sick. But this person just told me how enviably slender I am. So who's lying? Who's telling the truth?

    And then, finally, some years later I realized that my body image is not an object of the public domain. If someone wants to make a comment about my appearance I usually blatantly wave it aside, or ignore it altogether and change the subject.

  • Deborah

    As a few have already mentioned, "why do you ask"? is a great way to side step. Why do we always feel the need to answer the rude questions? At least that's what I tell myself all the time after I reactively answer. I always get so mad at myself!

    Recently I was with a group of woman I used to work with. We hadn't been together for quite a while and we were catching up.

    I had recently gotten divorced and one of the women actually said, "Oh! Was he horrible to you during the divorce?"

    I wanted to poke out her eyes with hot sticks, but I simply said, "No, he was great – a gentleman."

    Sheesh. WTH yes?

  • Christy Sews

    I could go on and on about the rudeness of people. I tend to go up and down in weight, and yes, when I lose I get asked that question — I've pretty much stopped considering any thoughtful response and simply say yes, no, I don't know or thank you and then walk away. Since I recently revamped my closet, I constantly get a comment about my outfit or accessories, which usually garners a "thank you" or "yep, I look great" and then I go back to what I was doing. There is a certain someone who shall remain nameless that cannot help but say "you've been shopping again". This one kills me. I want to strangle her and the thing is, she shops more than me! For some reason, the people I work with think my closet is their business and that it's their duty to comment on my wardrobe. I really wish they'd just work instead of spending so much time worrying about what I'm doing. Thankfully, people have stopped asking me about children since I've reached my 40s. I found that question to be most offensive of all and, thankfully, no one has had the guts to ask why I never had children. Again, none of their business. Then again, over the years I've perfected my "don't go there" vibe. But yes, I do find that people spend way too much time minding my business instead of their own. It's infuriating!

  • Meli22

    Reading all these comments made me remember an encounter with a newer employee here at my job (I now aviod her like the plauge).

    I was standing at the vending machine with a close friend, and I was desperately looking for something edible to eat since I forgot my lunch. To add to that, I have health issues, especially with with my stomach. Most things I CANNOT eat.

    Anyhoo I said to my friend in a low voice, something to the effect of: I wish I could find something to eat, I really can't afford to skip a meal, especially with all this weight I keep losing (which was caused by my health issues that she was AWARE of). The NEW employee was standing behind me (I didn't notice her) and was a heavier person. She mocked me in a very sarcastic voice, and said that most people WISHED they had my problem. WTF?!?! I didn't as her opinion! She didn't know me!! I told her, excuse me, but I am sure you don't want my health issues. She, instead of leaving it at that, continued to berate me and say I was 'lucky'. I walked away, and fast. I wanted to say something, but I hate conflict and I just don't have the heart to be truly nasty. I swear I have permanent foot marks on my back.

  • Anonymous

    Sal, thanks for your post about weight and other inapppropriate questions. My weight fluctuates and I HATE when people comment that I've lost weight–even friends or family. I think "if you're paying that close of attention to my weight, I can't imagine what you think of me when I go UP a size!" My mom has a habit of telling clerks at department stores that "my daughter put on some weight." Thanks, mom. So much for unconditional love! Similarly, I've been with my husband for 13 years and his parents are MUCH nicer to me when I'm thin. As soon as my weight creeps up, they return to their sarcastic comments about me. This has happpened several times over the years as I've lost weight and put it back on. I try to block out people's judgments about my body by eating healthy and jogging. I'm currently training for a marathon…but even that gets me judged by friends/family! Every one has an opinion on how fast I should finish, etc. Um…I just want to finish–period! Leave me the heck alone. I am most comfortable just keeping things to myself because then others can't share their 2-cents! Unfortunately, with weight (and pimples!) it's not something I can really hide! Thanks for understanding-it means so much.

  • Anonymous

    *shudder*

    Um, I've commented un-anonymously here before, but this is a little different, so apologies in advance for the retreat into the shadows. And also for the tl;dr – this touches a very sore spot for me, as for many people here, it seems.

    Generally, when I get the "have you lost weight?" question, the answer is either "yes" or "no, but I don't mind you thinking I have," so although the ideology behind the question is troublesome, I tend to give it a free pass, at least when it's aimed at me. Of course, in the queer and disability communities, where I spend a fair amount of my life, that particular question is *really* loaded, since sudden fluctuations in weight are often *not* a good sign … so much so that when my boss (a gay man Of A Certain Age) lost 25 pounds as the result of a great deal of effort, he was a little put-out to realize that nobody was going to mention the change in his appearance for fear that it meant he'd become ill.

    But speaking of queer-and-disability stuff, my partner is a transsexual man (FTM) with a number of serious chronic health conditions. And, oh god, the things people ask me because they think it's more acceptable than asking him: what medicines is he taking? what surgeries has he had/is he planning to have? why those surgeries on that schedule? how many times has he been hospitalized? has he tried [X] treatment that Reader's Digest wrote about last month? does the fact that he's FTM mean that he's an ex-lesbian, or was he ever attracted to men, or [insert question about who he might be sleeping with]? speaking of sex, how do you two, you know – do it? and does he pee standing up or sitting down? are his health conditions the result of [X lifestyle misbehavior]? do your families know about his transness? what do they think?

    Repeat ad nauseam. Really, people? On what planet is this OK?

    And yes, this makes marriage-and-kids questions *especially* awesome – since he's only out as trans in limited contexts (and everywhere else goes unnoticed as a short-ish but ordinary guy), it's difficult to explain that it's not legally possible for us to marry in most states, and that we already know (in our mid-20's) that conventional conception isn't going to be possible, either.

    The question, of course, is how – as a pretty gregarious person myself – I'd prefer someone to express genuine interest in my life without going off the deep end of awkwardness. And other than the should-be-obvious prohibition against asking about any part of anybody's body that you, personally, are never going to see… well, I don't know the answer.

  • Antoine and Kanicia

    Ok so this is the first time i've commented on your blog (which I really like reading) but I can understand the irritation. I've had one friend who when she saw me with another group of friends yelled out 'all that weight you gained looks great' after she quickly said hello. it was awkward…is that a compliment or a put down? but i think its a similar situation that one other comment alluded to that sometimes people just express themselves in a way that wasn't intended…your previous workmate may have been genuinely interested in the outcome of your relationship since she'd heard so much about it in the past…maybe my friend did think i looked great…i guess its good to take the positive route of looking at things or we may find we are offended all the time πŸ™‚ but as a general rule i steer away from questions about anything that i'd feel a sensitivity to being asked myself. Nice read!

  • Leah H.

    One of your best posts, by far! Bravo πŸ™‚

    I'm 21 and recently engaged. My fiance and I have been together three years. One of the first questions I recieved was "Are you pregnant?" I was asked this question by one of my close friends but I was in SHOCK that she would even ask me. Of course I was not and am not pregnant, but people assume since I'm young that I couldn't possibly get married right now without a good reason.

  • Sara

    The best response I have is "why do you want to know". That tends to make people stammer.

  • Chelsea

    No one has ever asked if I've gained weight… thank Cher! But I'm sure it'll happen someday. I would probably curl up in a ball and cry myself to sleep. I'm really a CRAZY sensitive person, especially in this regard, so it would be the ultimate challenge to DEAL without going over the deep-end and feeling completely dissatisfied with my body. I know that I probably need a tougher skin and better rebound time, and I'll get there… but this shit is an ongoing and lifelong process just like quitting smoking. I get the unhealthy URGE to smoke still (3 years post-quit), but I have to make a conscious decision every time I even think about it (ahem, while drinking or after a big meal) to never do it again.

    That said, I have had many people ask if I've lost weight, or congratulate me as I've done so. Sometimes this didn't bother me, like when I was on Weight Watchers and feeling really proud of getting my overeating under control and feeling healthy and vibrant, and yes THINNER. It was flattering. But then I think about my aunt (by marriage) and how when I was in middle school and was growing taller but not losing weight, she would tell me EVERY TIME she saw me that I looked great! And had I lost weight? This taught me to associate the two… if you lose weight then you look great.

    My fiancΓ©e (eep! just got engaged… blogging about it soon, but couldn't NOT use the correct term, could I??) has gained and lost a lot of weight recently after finishing her military service (a common trend in veterans), and my boss always tells her that she looks so skinny and has lost so much weight! Nic doesn't really care because she's never had body image issues, and actually appreciates the acknowledgment of her hard work, but I can't help but want to shake my boss because it pisses ME off that she thinks only skinny is beautiful. And that she always acts so proud of me when I'm hitting up the gym regularly. And comments when she thinks I've lost weight or toned up. This woman is my mentor and hero in SO MANY ways, but is so F-ed up when it comes to body image.

    Officially my longest comment ever, but I got some issues with your issues, woman!

    As my aunt (not the mean one) would say, NUNYABUSINESS (or nunya for short).

  • Charlotte

    Bottom line here seems to be, if you are compelled to comment on someone's appearance, "You look great!" is a good place to start–and to stop.

  • Lady Cardigan

    Without being too specific, there is an older woman close to my family who has been catty to me from the time I was a young teenager. So I hate personal questions/comments of the type you described. I always try to be polite, and I think that actually attracts nastiness because people know they can get away with it. I avoid people like that because life is better when they're not around.

  • Gordita

    Has anyone ever told you that you have a lot of shoes?

    Ha ha. Totally kidding.

    I enjoy reading your blog because of the variety of your styles. I enjoy seeing how you combine things. I think your non-outfit posts are thought-provoking and fantastic. Just in the few months I've been reading your blog I have had my body image more on my mind, which has resulted in a more positive outlook.

    I've been married for ten years and we don't have children, and I know many people are curious and some have asked us about it. I wrote a little post on my own blog about that: http://ikrod.blogspot.com/2009/03/impertinent-answers.html

    Thank you for writing. And please keep writing.

  • cwhf

    Another great post, Sal!

    I come from an overly bossy and nosy Southern family. My weight was always a favorite topic of discussion in my childhood at get togethers, with my aunts, grandmother, etc lamenting my portly figure. I was fat. It was always amazing to me that people seem to think you don't know you are fat and they need to point it out so you can benefit from their wisdom. Not like the entire world treating you like a second class citizen wouldn't clue you in.

    When I was a teenager I remember being in line for the movies and this drunk and at baseline I suspect not very bright girl asked me when I was due. I was not pregnant (so far from being pregnant you cannot imagine, just call me virgin mary). I stated I was not pregnant. She then proceeded to argue, loudly, with me that I was pregnant. Everyone stared. I finally just said I am just fat and walked out before seeing my movie. Never went back to that theater since. Not the only time I got the pregnant crack though. Honestly, unless I see a baby crowning between your legs, I'll die before I ask if anyone if she is pregnant.

    Fast forward about 15 years, I lost a lot of weight. Honestly, the weight loss questions never bothered me; I worked hard and I was proud of it. I realize I looked awful before (poor self esteem I guess). I am still probably unhealthily focused on not gaining said weight back but that's another issue.

    As far as the when are you going to have kids…ugh. I have been married 2.5 years and am 37 years old in a high pressure academic environment. I have plumbing issues that make it impossible anyway to get preggers and I am not sure if I want to anyway. Way to complicated to explain. Annoying enough to ask the question, really crossing the line to BADGER SOMEONE ABOUT IT. One time I got so pissed (with tears in my eyes), I just let them fall and said "we've been trying for years, but I can't have children. Thank you for asking." That woman hopefully will think twice before repeating that scenario again I hope.

    It's easy—would you want to be asked that question? If there is any hesitation, don't ask. Duh.

  • whenlifehandsyouapear

    You betcha I have. Probably the strangest experience was back when I was pregant and a man I was sitting next to in church casually asked if I was going to breastfeed – like it was any of his business. I just felt icky thinking of him even mentioning what I intended to do with my breasts!

  • Kate

    I've gotten the weight questions (yes, i lost weight… i call it "the grief diet", thanks for asking!), the divorce questions (do you REALLY think we're close enough that I'd tell you I was having an affair??), the kids questions, religion questions, the pregnancy questions (altho oddly enough, not really since i have ACTUALLY been pregnant).

    Rather memorably (well, maybe since it was just the other day), from someone who hadn't seen me much lately: "WOW! Look at you! You haven't gained any weight!" while staring at my 7 1/2 month belly. I think ended up mentioning that, well, i'd gained some…and she finished with "You look great!" which i guess means I just gained a belly and not anything else? (Not, by the way, true, so even more befuddling.)

    I'm all about the Miss Manners "Why do you ask?" response, but I don't think I've ever had the presence of mind to actually deploy it.

  • Hannele

    I couldn't have said it any better than you! All of it.
    Reading your post brings me such
    comfort to know someone had the guts to say it. Kudos!

    Even with a Fashion Design background, I've still had to justify certain habits.

    I've dealt with considerable weight fluctuations my entire life and feel very close to what you're saying. It bothers me to no end that some people feel entitled to a routine check up. Ones I've had to put up with include the falsely admirative "Do you still workout?" or "Did you work out this morning?"
    and the unecessarily competitive, sympathy-lacking "You look like you've lost more weight(?)". I usually respond without indulging them with the details, simply but politely which has begun to deter the repeat offenders. Vagueness also works. Whether someone has gained or lost, asking about it is equally invasive.

    You've got a great blog, consider me one of your follower!

  • Miss Peregrin

    Sal, this article is amazing. I'm a little late to the party here, but I just had to congratulate you for writing it!

    I'm victim to a few of these intrusive questions – namely "when are you and The Boyfriend going to get engaged/married/have children? Hurry up or you'll be last!" Freakin' hell, we're only 21 and 23.

    But the one I hate the most is related to me having a cleft lip and palate. The question is "What happened to your face?" How on earth does anyone think they have the right to just walk up to someone and ask that?

  • Anonymous

    love the article, you manage to put an issue out there that can look overly-picky, but its so true!! its one thing to have your granny comment 'you look healthy' (and god, how paranoid i used to get when she would..) but really it highlights just how casually, off-handedly intrusive people can be. i spent about a year recovering from being severely underweight, and had to put up every time i met friends with comments on the weight gain. they meant well, definitely, but at the same time WOULD I COMMENT ON YOUR BODY MASS INDEX?! nope! worst part is you can't tell them such, as that would be making a big deal out of it:P

  • Christina

    oh, man, i think i've been asked all of these questions at one time or another. lost weight, gained weight, dated for a long time before getting married, married for a long time before getting knocked up, difficult pregnancy w/ bedrest… my whole life has been an opportunity for the tactless to ply their trade.

    the best answer i've come up with is cribbed from _Office Space_. instead of "i really don't want to talk about my flair" i sub in whatever topic the question brought up for "flair." if i'm feeling really prickly about an aggressive question, i'll use very blunt terms and ask the other person if they'd like to talk about the topic they've raised.

    best example:

    after i gave birth a coworker asked me if i'd had a vaginal birth. so i just said "i really don't want to talk about my vagina. would you like to talk about your vagina?" the conversation ended abruptly. it was painfully uncomfortable with her and wonderfully amusing for me.

  • Pingback: The question of health is a private one. And often irrelevant.()

  • People ask me when I’m going to have a baby all the time, and I want to punch them in the nose!

  • becky

    hi sal,

    i know this post is super old, but i just wanted to thank you for it. i work part time in a lingerie store, and people think that this gives them the right to comment on my appearance. it doesn’t. someone asked me once for a bra fitting because i didn’t ‘look perfect like those other girls’. well when forced to wear an unflattering uniform you bet your ass i don’t. while i can appreciate her thought process, such a comment is unfair. likewise, i had a customer tell me i was lucky to have such ‘normal sized breasts’. at a 12G at first a laughed. and then i was upset that someone thought my job meant that they were entitled to look and voice an opinion on my appearance.

    each persons appearance is their own business and people need to realise this.

    thank you again.

  • Pingback: Talk to me about… | sometimes she blogs()

  • Kim

    Um I work in the food industry, I keep on getting weird questions like are you and kevin married?Kevin is my uncle. But the point is they shouldn’t even have to ask. So I think next time I hear those kind of a question I will ask do you really need to know that information?

  • Hilary

    Someone recently asked me if I had lost weight, and I responded, honestly, “I have no idea,” since I hadn’t stepped onto a scale in at least a year. Even if that doesn’t happen to be true for you, it’s still a good deflector and a subtle hint that since it’s not important to you, it shouldn’t be of interest to them.