Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Way Girls Compete

First off, is there anything more mind-numbingly boring than listening to women excoriate themselves for their "sinful" and "addictive" behavior around food?

Second, I can't count the number of times I have been "the fat girl" in the group listening to the (relatively) "thin" girls compete for who has the most disordered eating.  I used to believe that these women were merely being insensitive when they nattered on about their shameful food-related confessions.  As I get older, I recognize that this is, in fact, how "mean girls" (of any age) put each other down. 

Twenty years ago, the massage school where I had been newly hired to teach sponsored a buffet brunch at one of Seattle's nicer seafood restaurants.  I loaded up my plate with a little of everything that looked good (and trust me, it all looked good).  I happily plopped myself down at a table with two other young women, both of whom had been my instructors, and for whom I still felt a certain measure of awe. I was thrilled to be acknowledged as their peer.

Neither gave me more than a cursory acknowledgment.  In fact, one immediately turned to the other and said, "Do you want to split a muffin with me?"

I looked down at my plate, heaped with crab, smoked salmon, cheese, eggs. A giant muffin, too large to perch on the plate, sat conspicuously off to the side with a pat of butter.  Taking advantage of the school's singular act of largesse, I hadn't thought I should offer to "share" my booty with anyone.  Not that the two ladies were inviting me to. 

"This food is positively sinful," one of the instructors declared, picking at her salad. 

"I know," the other commiserated.  "It's terrible."

Terrible?  It was delicious!  Plus it was free!  What's not to like here?

It suddenly occurred to me that I probably weighed about as much as the two of them together.  And suddenly I had lost my appetite.

The two instructors clucked on in this vein for the next thirty minutes, studiously avoiding eye contact with me.  I hadn't been snubbed like that since I had tried to crash the popular kids' lunch table in high school.  I tentatively tried to enter the conversation a couple of times, but they weren't having it. It slowly dawned on me that they weren't "overlooking" me; they were engaged in a subtle conspiracy to humiliate me.  Why?  Simply because they could.

Not surprising I lasted only two quarters as a massage school instructor, which was a shame in a way, because I was probably the most knowledgeable (certainly the most academically qualified) teacher there, and was well-liked enough by some students that I was invited to speak at their graduation ceremony. 

Now I'm a mouthy old broad who would call these ladies on their shit (in the nicest possible way, of course).

I'm so sick of women who use food and weight as an opportunity to put other women down.

Maybe if enough women see this Amy Schumer sketch, they will learn not to act like this.  Can women ever stop using food intake and weight as an arena in which to compete with one another?


  1. <--- just ate two double chocolate peanut butter chip cookies.

    Sooooo ...

    1. You're so bad!

      I just had three martinis with extra olives. That makes me worse (better) than you.

    2. I think the olives can be considered health food, right?

  2. While I've thankfully been spared the sorts of experiences you mentioned (in my case, the most boring conversations I've ever had to endure have probably been ones about house prices), I used to notice the tendency for certain foods (usually the tastiest ones!) to be labelled "sinful", "naughty" or "wicked" (mainly in ads in women's magazines), and always found it more than a little weird (that said, I wonder if it's any stranger than the unfortunate way a lot of people who have religious upbringings are brought up to believe that any sexual urges they might have are more evil than mass murder). It once made me think of writing an Onion-style parody in which a judge sentences a woman to life in prison without the possibility of parole for eating an entire bag of potato chips. I would've had him thundering away about how he'd never seen an act as depraved as hers during all his years on the bench, and mentioning that he might've been inclined to show her leniency if only they'd been reduced fat chips!

    One food I have a particular weakness for myself is chocolate, which I happily consume in sizeable quantities on a more or less daily basis. It's a vice that I find particularly amusing given that it combines a stereotypically masculine lack of remorse for eating unhealthy food with a stereotypically feminine fondness for chocolate. I wonder what all the peddlers of tedious sexual stereotypes would make of it!

  3. Ugh. That's so annoying. Sometimes I think the women are just oblivious and self absorbed, but in this case it sounds like it was deliberate. Makes you wonder how they are giving touch to their heavier clients. I think at some level people pick that up.

    I had an inkling of something like that with a potential instructor for (particular variant of physical therapy). I was going to return, then canceled.

  4. The great thing about living in Europe is not having to put up with that crap. Food is an unashamedly good thing.

    It has occurred to me, though, that disordered food behaviour comes out of disordered food environments. Every time I go back to the UK, or visit the US, I'm overwhelmed by food in every direction. Big portions, lots of colour, and food on every corner, 24 hours a day. Every offering comes with decisions that have to be made about fat content, protein content, calorie counts, you name it. Plus, there are always people eating everywhere. On the tube, at their desks, all over the place. There are snacks in every fridge and on every meeting table. It's really in your face. You have to be going 'no, no, no, no' all the time, which is exhausting. Whereas where I live, food doesn't take up massive cognitive space, because food is served at strict times, including in restaurants. And there are strict social norms around foods, e.g. sitting down to eat. Even at the public festivals, the fair food is served on china plates and you're handed normal knives and forks.

    It's actually incredibly liberating having all these strict social norms around food. Food's just food, not a way to score points off other people. It's not a class marker, either - the verb 'cooking' refers to putting something ready to eat on the table, not 'preparing a restaurant quality meal'.

  5. I bet those women were insanely jealous of you for eating that delicious food, while they were too insecure about their body image to touch any of it.

  6. Where I'm from (hint: it's in California), women are taught to have a love-hate relationship with food. Growing up, I would feel genuinely guilty for liking food, especially delicious things like pizza, steak, burgers, chicken wings, etc. Even now, I am one of the few, if not only, women who eats something besides a salad for lunch. (How do people get full on those?? Salad is a side dish - not a meal! I need my carbs!)

  7. slightly off topic, but for some reason in America (at least the parts I've lived/been to?) the 'fresh veggie produce' is absolutely DISGUSTING and not what that fruit/vegetable should taste like! For example, tomatoes should NOT be tasteless and slimy! There supposed to be a bit crunchy and a delightful mix of sweet, sour, and tangy! :P

  8. Lol. My metabolism is higher than average so the women in my office keep offering food to me. I usually accept since free food is free. But my bf laughs at me and said they're trying to sabotage me. Fyi, these women "skinny-shame" me then offer me high carb food after that. So i think he is saying the truth. Also... I experienced *mothers* of fat girls trying to feed me junk food then skinny shame me. Amusing.

    Those 2 instructors are extrovert girls. They hv some crazy female hierachy war with each other. Not all women act like this *points to unpopular kids*.


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