“Wow. You are so skinny.” I’d said, “Like, so skinny.” Sigh.
"It’s just how I am.” She’d replied.
“She’s always been skinny.” Our friend Hannah added.
She probably had. But in the past I’d never noticed. I’d never given too much thought to her weight or my own. That had changed. Over the previous few years I’d developed an unhealthy obsession with my weight. I’d lost 10 kilos. But I still wasn’t happy. I now looked at myself in the mirror and saw all my flaws. There was still and inch to pitch and I wanted it gone. I’d work out every day and eat like a bird. I’d nibble on a small bowl of muesli for breakfast, a can of tuna for lunch and a tiny serve of chicken and salad for dinner.
I was thin but I had no idea.
Not surprisingly when you become obsessed with your own body you also become obsessed with the bodies of those around you. Like I did with my friend.
“You really are so skinny.” I’d said. And in my mind I thought I’d added. “I’m so jealous.” Or “It’s not fair. I wish I was naturally skinny too.” But I can’t remember if I did.
I also can’t remember if my friend was obviously offended. I can’t remember if she looked hurt when I’d commented. And I hadn’t mean to offend her at all so it didn’t occur to me that I might. I mean, I’d just called her skinny. Isn’t that the biggest compliment you can give someone? Well to me, then, it was.
It was only six months later, when I was cast in a play alongside her boyfriend, that I realised that maybe I had “done something” to offend either him or her. But at the time, I had no idea what it was. He had some kind of issue with me. That was clear from the beginning. He seemed to dislike me. That part didn’t bother me. But it was the snide remarks he’d make about my weight that cut deep.
By this point I was actually getting a little bit healthier. I’d started eating three decent meals and I’d stopped obsessing over my size and how many fingers I could see if I held my hand below my belly, palm facing up (If I could see all of them it was a good day).
I’d stopped weighing myself daily and stopped scolding myself for eating chocolate occasionally. I was healing.
And then I had to deal with this guy.
The play we were in was a physical theatre piece that involved me being lifted, often by him. More than once he commented on how heavy I was. He did so in such a way that it was clear that he was not joking and also that he was doing so to make a point of something. Once after filming a rehearsal session for ideas, I commented on how one contortion wasn’t coming across very flattering on camera. He replied: “Not for you.”
The snide remarks kept coming. But they were subtle. Made in such a way that it was hard to know if they were meant that way or not. As far as assholes go, he was deft and cunning.
“Right.” I said “One of you stand with arms and legs spread and the other pat them firmly all over to wake up the muscles.” I started patting away against Krystal’s legs. “Then move on to the jiggling!” Hold the muscle and give it a wobble! That’s it! Jiggle the wobbly bits!” I said as I started wobbling Krystal's thighs. “Jiggle the fatty bits!”
That’s when he stopped. “Shut up!” He snapped at me. “Krystal is not fat. YOU are fat!”
I was shocked. Not only at his rude outburst. Or that he’d just called me fat in front of others. But because he’d defended Krystal against my supposed nasty comment and in doing so had no qualms in calling me fat to my face. It made no sense. He’d defend her against potentially rude comments about her weight but had no issue making rude comments about my weight. At the time I just apologised to Krystal and explained that I didn’t mean it like that and continued with the warm-up. This guy clearly had an issue with me. He was doing this out of revenge. That’s when it occurred to me. I must have done something to offend him in the past. Or someone he knew.
It didn’t actually make sense to me for years. That the person I had offended was originally my friend. And her boyfriend, being a loyal, had taken it upon himself to give me a taste of my own medicine. Thing is, it was lost on me. For I just thought he was an asshole. And rightly so. He was an asshole. If he’d had an issue with me calling his girlfriend skinny he should have told me. If my words, which were meant as a clearly misfired compliment, had caused my friend to have an eating disorder of her own, he should have told me. But instead he chose to taunt me. All he managed to do was to reinforce my belief that I was at least 10 kilos over weight. Which I was not. At this time I was a healthy 62kgs on a 5’4” frame.
Miscommunication, like assumption, is the mother of all fuck ups. It has seen sisters refuse to speak to each other for years. It has seen countless friendships end. And all because of misconstrued ideas of events or intentions. Sometimes what people say isn’t what they mean.
Eating disorders too are evil diseases of the mind. They mess with your thoughts and make miscommunication even more likely. When your mind is invaded with obsessions about food and body image, nothing else comes up on your radar. Not even when you have accidentally offended a friend.
In hindsight. Now I am more aware of how I approach the subject of anyone’s body. If I comment on someone’s figure I always make it clear that it is in the context of a compliment. I’m never vague about that now.
In hindsight. I wish I’d called Tom, the asshole out right where he stood. I wish when he’d made one of his remarks I’d stopped and said “What now? Did you just call me fat? What’s your fucking problem with me?” Then I’d have known what I’d done and I may have been able to fix it.
And perhaps Tom would have learnt that being an asshole about a girl’s weight is always a dick move. Even when it’s done as a chivalrous gesture for your girlfriend.
But there’s a very good chance that Tom is actually, just an asshole.
Note: Names have been changed. Maybe.