The skinny on skinny

Astounding, really, especially back in the day.

Astounding, really, especially back in the day (photo circa 1995).

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.

Fictionally harassed.

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.

About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
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66 Responses to The skinny on skinny

  1. Karen says:

    Just thought I’d point out that if you were a skinny woman, you’d have folks asking if you were anorexic (true story).

  2. My hubby is similarly… um, structured, let’s say. I worry because he doesn’t have an ounce of reserves for his next bout of [insert medical issue du jour]. It’s a real concern.

    This was a fun read, but I do appreciate your points.

  3. anawnimiss says:

    I have always been “too skinny” – though I never got compared to Waldo. People kept telling me I looked malnutritioned (which I may actually have been) and nobody would marry me. If one were to believe old women, Indian men want to marry someone tall, fair, and well-rounded but slim (whatever that means). And if movies from the eighties are to be believed, these “qualifications” are even required for “personal secretary” jobs – and if you’re a personal secretary, nobody wants to marry you. But I digress.

    These ‘people’ are retards. I was told hundreds of times each day that I was “too skinny” – and it gave me body image issues. Then I put on some weight and now I still have body image issues, thank you very much!

  4. Carrie Rubin says:

    Look at it this way: at least you can rock those skinny jeans.

  5. pieterk515 says:

    I have been skinny most of my life and took up weight training. I’m just less skinny now but look nothing like Arnold.

    My daughter told me she’s got the best looking Dad out of all her friends, as I’m the only one who doesn’t have a beer belly. That was nice. Like being called fit without a biker’s helmet.

  6. You’re right, the skinny aren’t exactly oppressed…but it’s still a real issue. Just as I was harassed and bullied for being overweight (yes, sometimes by strangers), I have friends who were treated the same way because they were “too thin.” Also: the Duchess of Windsor has a lot to answer for. She’s the moron who coined the “never too skinny or too rich” nonsense.

  7. Paul says:

    I can empathize with your situation Ross. I have been skinny upon occassion in my life but my natural state is well-insulated and happy. The way I see it, I’ve been involved in being skinny whereas you are committed to being skinny. The difference can be illuminated with an example : a bacon and egg breakfast. The chicken was involved but the pig was committed.
    Happy skinniness – is there a world skinny day?

  8. People always find something to harp on. Me, it’s height. I’m five foot even and I I know anyone who is shorter than me must have a real hard time since I already get all the short jokes and the little cousins who want to point out that they’re taller than me/how soon they’ll be taller than me. And then laugh because my husband is a tall man and the two of us together…of course then there’s my friend who is a very tall gal, and her dating life isn’t what her appearance and personality should warrant because she towers over guys. That’s just size the other way – there’s still always something to harp on.
    And no, I’m not “fixing” my “problem” by wearing heels. That just means I will be less stable on the chair I’ll still have to get to reach high objects. Anyway being short and tiny means even though I’m an adult, I can still get piggy back rides so there, folks of criticism!

  9. I used to be skinny, but having children solved that problem for me. Now that I have children, the extra padding has saved me from being injured by very sharp, bony little limbs countless times. I can only imaging the pain that you’ve had to endure!

  10. Your post is timely, as I went off on a historic rant this week about people commenting on other people’s physical appearance. And yes, there is a whole posty-post coming up about that. Civility, kindness and respect dictate that commenting on someone’s physical appearance is a jackwagon move.

  11. I have yet to meet anyone who is 100% happy with every part of themselves. I can just take solace in the fact that I am a nice person and leave it at that! 🙂

  12. Ned's Blog says:

    I shaved my beard when I was in my 20s because people kept comparing me to Abe Lincoln. (The stovepipe bicycle helmet didn’t help). I was 6’1″ and weighed 130 pounds until I turned 30 — then BAM! Within a year I weighed 180 pounds and have ever since. If I’m on some kind of 30-year cycle, I’m really worried about ballooning to 230 when I turn 60…

  13. ksbeth says:

    hey, ned, isn’t your wife trying to get you to give up your jeans? trade them to ross and he’ll pass on a bike helmet to you maybe? really, i don’t know why people feel comfortable making comments and doing things with regard to other people’s bodies, it defies logic, like strangers putting their hands on a pregnant woman’s baby bump.

  14. Gibber says:

    Good point people should keep their mouths shut. For the record, I’m not only married to a skinny guy, he’s also 6 ft 8 and I’m 5 feet.

  15. franhunne4u says:

    “unless you’re some bozo in a bar, you really shouldn’t be casually remarking on anyone’s physical appearance”
    AMEN to that.

  16. Where do you get off equating “nerd” with “loser?” Didn’t Rush say ‘The meek shall inherit the earth’ in their epic opus 2112? Or was that the bible? I’m not sure who cribbed who but I agree with the sentiment. I have a skinny problem, too. I can’t wear jeans because I have no ass and the slide right off no matter how tight the belt. We should form a support group.

    Not one mention of opening night?! As if it didn’t occupy every other thought in your head.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Brother, I was lying awake at 3:30 fretting. Oh, and maybe because the lead passed out, cracked her nose and split her chin in our dress rehearsal last night… She’ll be okay, but seriously!

      • That’s showbiz! I saw Frank Langella in “A Man for All Seasons.” At the start of Act 2, he walked on stage and smacked his head on a low beam. He stood for a second, walked off and the house lights came up. A few minutes later the play resumed. At the curtain call he told the audience he momentarily lost his senses and had to compose himself backstage before
        he could carry on! But don’t worry…there’s no WAY that’ll happen to you.

  17. Twindaddy says:

    We all come in different shapes and sizes and the sooner people realize and accept that the better off we’ll all be.

  18. This is great! Just keep your mouth shut – yes!

  19. List of X says:

    Don’t knock your glasses, Ross. We even have some presidential candidates down here, who are not known for their smarts, and so they started wearing glasses to improve their image. But then again, they aren’t known for their smarts.

  20. markbialczak says:

    I hope people don’t tell you not to stand sideways or you’ll disappear, Ross, or walk up to you on the street and hand you protein bars for free.

    I was always on the chubby side of the pointed barbs, and believe me, yeah, those are out there, too. Yes, no is in my vocabulary. No, my car doesn’t automatically pull into fast food drive-throughs.

    I’m convinced that 48 percent of the people on our continent wish they would lose some weight, and 47 percent wish they would gain some weight. That means, of course, that 95 percent of us strongly distrust the 5 percent we can’t tease about their weight.

  21. calahan says:

    I actually weigh less now than I did in high school, so I’m happy to be called lean. I’m finding that being lean in today’s society means having to wear belts with almost all of my pants and sometimes buying tees in the kids section.

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