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Monday, November 28, 2011

WTF Moments

The other day, I was at a social gathering making small talk with various people I had never met before. I started chatting with a very nice woman who was friendly, unassuming, and charming. We had been making very nice small talk and she eventually got around to that inevitable question:

Her:  So what do you do for a living?
Me:  I’m a freelance writer and editor. I’m a blogger, actually.
Her:  Oh, what kind of subject matter do you write about?
Me:  Non-fiction, mostly … lots of opinion pieces, movie reviews, stuff like that. Actually my blog is about size acceptance. I want to try to help full figured women with self-esteem and help them feel good about themselves.
Her:  (looking like she’d just seen a rotting corpse on the table)  Oh …

Then she made a beeline for the other side of the room and avoided me for the rest of the day. I was totally perplexed. I should add that this woman was extremely thin, so I don’t know whether her reaction could have possibly been due to her own body issues … but it was so sudden and the change in her demeanor was so obvious that I just thought to myself: WTF?

At the very same gathering, I had another WTF moment. There’s nothing like a social event to spark WTF moments, right? This next exchange was with an outgoing lady who was the type you could tell had no shyness about talking to anyone. Eventually, I ended up beside her at the kitchen table. Our conversation went something like this:

Her:  So you have a daughter?
Me:  Yes.
Her:  Just the one?
Me:  Yes, just one.
Her:  Where do you live?
Me:   In Toronto.
Her:  Oh, you live in Toronto?
Me:  Yes.
Her:  It’s just the two of you, right?
Me:  (pausing, befuddled)  Uh … no, I have a husband.
Her:  (looking surprised) Oh, you have a husband!
Me:  Yes. (thinking yes, I have one of those … WTF.)

I sat there, wondering why she would have assumed it was just me and my daughter. In her defense, I should add that I came to this get-together without my husband, so I suppose she could have assumed I was single because of that. But the surprise in her voice when she said, Oh, you have a husband! was pointed enough to put my ears on edge. Did she think a big girl like me couldn’t possibly be married? Why else would she have asked that specific question? I wasn’t offended … actually, I was quite amused. But I couldn’t help thinking … WTF!

In the grand scheme of my life, these were really harmless, benign little interactions I am so used to by now that they barely register anymore. And these were definitely not rude, ill-mannered people whose intention was to hurt me or treat me badly. I could tell that they were totally unaware of how they had unwittingly revealed something about themselves. It was really just a microscopic example of the kind of assumptions and attitudes that large people face on a daily basis.

I try not to assume that my size is the primary characteristic that everyone notices about me, but when I have exchanges like this, it really makes me wonder … does my personality ever transcend my size? Do people ever just see me as a person and not as a big, threatening blob?

I try to give people the benefit of the doubt and assume that not everyone is a superficial twit, but … lemme tell ya … really rewarding conversation is extremely hard to come by these days.

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