It was a warm night, and the terrasse was open at the bar downtown. As I cycled past, a voice called out, “Hey! Where’s Waldo!”
Taunted because of my resemblance to a make-believe character.
It didn’t especially bother me, because, let’s be honest, my heckler wasn’t completely off the mark. Even in the dark, I appreciate that a bike helmet is not my best look. In the right light, I resemble one of those thin-stemmed mushrooms – enoki, I think, or in my case, edorki. And yet when I had to bike past again a few minutes later, I cringed in anticipation of being made fun of – a skinny guy wearing glasses and a funny hat.
Let’s leave the helmet and glasses aside for a moment, though in popular culture glasses continue to be code for “geek,” “nerd,” “loser,” “Clark Kent.” After all, if I wanted to, I could lose the glasses. I could get contacts or laser surgery. I could squint.
But I can’t do much about being skinny. Nor do I expect much sympathy. Why? Because I’m skinny, something we’re told, along with being rich, you can never be too much so. Though apparently that’s not the case.
“You’re too skinny. Aren’t they feeding you?” a woman said to me last month at a public event – Blunt Speakers’ Day, let’s call it, because minutes later, someone else walked up and asked, “Have you lost weight?” No, I don’t think so. Beard weight, maybe.
A few days after that, I had an 11-year-old girl say to me, “You’re skinny like my dad. He has really skinny legs too. I call him ‘Chicken Legs.’”
Now, if I were fat, I doubt those same people would walk up to me and say, “You’re too fat. Stop eating food. Have you gained weight? You probably have Type 2 diabetes like my dad. He’s missing a leg. I call him ‘Stumpy.’”
Yet, people have no qualms about pointing out my shortcomings in the girth department. (Incidentally, if you ever get a job at Target, the Girth Department is absolutely the worst assignment.)
Again, I don’t expect sympathy; remember, I’m skinny. Many of you reading this probably want to slap me for even typing that, though you’ll probably follow up with a joke about worrying I might snap in two if you did.
And it’s true, the plight of the skinny is a minor one. No one has ever complained that I take up too little room on an airplane. No one has ever judged my moral character for lacking the will to work out my upper body once in a while. No one has ever yelled at me, “Dude! Why don’t you eat another cheeseburger,” non-sarcastically.
I don’t earn a lesser wage because I’m underweight. Politicians don’t tell me what I can do with my body (because there’s really not much it can do). I’ve never been pulled over by a cop just because I’m skinny. And no one has ever patronizingly told to me that they have lots of friends who are “persons of thinness.”
Really, being little is no biggie. And absolutely no one is buying this idea of “thin shaming,” a supposed backlash against the slim that is little more than an opportunity for thin folks to try on victimhood. It’s like white males complaining that they too are hurt by sexist jokes, slurs and stereotypes. You may be hurt but you will still be a hurt white male.
So maybe that’s why people feel so at ease telling me that they’re looking for some big, strong men to move some heavy objects, and have I seen any. And really, I’m not offended when people call me thin – I’m far too thick-skinned. Nor do I fixate on it (current evidence to the contrary) or label myself as “skinny”; I know that I am greater than the sum of my scrawny parts. But, particularly as a man, I am self-conscious about it. For instance, if someone grabs my arm, I imagine it must feel like they’re squeezing an empty paper towel roll.
The bottom line is, skinny people might have body image issues just like everyone else. So, unless you’re some bozo in a bar, you really shouldn’t be casually remarking on anyone’s physical appearance.
Although, the other day, someone I hadn’t seen for a while told me I was looking fit. That was nice. And I wasn’t even wearing my bike helmet.