Body Issue Talk
(or, Why I Can’t Date Latino Men Anymore, Reason #421)

The other day at my day job, I walked to the elevator and saw this guy who sometimes works contract for us, who I haven’t seen in a long time. Who is latino. Of whom I am wary, because once, in the past, I saw him in the hall and he said, “Why don’t you smile? You look so ****ing pissed off all the time.” And he said that in a pissed-off way, and it pissed me off and freaked me out.

So, I see this guy. And he’s smiling, and I give him a standard Corporate American greeting. And he says, “Hi. Wow. How are you doing? You look good. You lost a lot of weight, huh?”

And I say, “Uh, Rodrigo, that’s not something you should say to a lady. You shouldn’t be commenting on…”

And he says, “But you lost a lot of weight. You look good.”

And the elevator door opens, and we get in, and another woman is in there, and I say, “Okay, thanks, but what if I lost weight because I was sick or something? You shouldn’t comment on a woman’s physical…”

And he says, “But you look good! What should I say then? I mean, I want to say you look good. How should I say it?”

And the other woman was simultaneous smiling and raising her eyebrow, and I didn’t want to get all into it, so I just said, “You can tell someone ‘You’re looking well.'”

And he goes, “You’re looking well. You’re looking very well.” And I return the sentiment, and get out of the elevator and hightail it home.

What I should have told him was that I’m not looking for any man’s verbal approval of my physical appearance, and it’s impertinent to offer such a thing unsolicited.

I think about this a lot now. This is what I think: It’s wrong to criticize people for things they can’t help. If you want to criticize someone’s manners or work habits, I won’t hate you for it and I might join you, because I’m a critical bitch like that. But if you want to criticize someone’s face or race or mental abilities… then you’re just an asshole. Why would you criticize someone for something they can’t control?

In the same way, to a lesser extent, I think it’s purposeless to comment positively on someone’s face or skin color or hair texture or intellect, because what is the person going to say in return? “Thank you. I chose my DNA myself”?

I think that, if you must compliment or critique someone, it should be on their actions. Like, I would compliment you on your nice clothing, because I know you selected it and put the outfit together, and you did a good job. Or I would compliment you on something you wrote, or said, or built.

It’s a fine line, I know. You could argue that people do have some control over the presentation of their bodies and faces and hair. However, I think most of us can tell the difference between, “Congrats on your weight loss, you look great” and “You look good” said while the speaker looks you up and down. And the difference is the offering of approval. And I don’t want it. And yet, since the moment I was born, there has been a never-ending supply of Latino men willing to offer it. Approval, or the retraction of. On my body, my face, my clothing, my behavior. My words, my facial expression, whether or not I’m chewing gum…

And I don’t want it. When I want their opinions, I will ask for them. And I never will want them, so I never will ask.

And I’m picking on Latino men, here, because they’re the ones with whom I, personally, have experienced this phenomenon the most. But it’s not just them. It’s men of all corners of the rainbow, I’m sure, and it’s women, too. But mostly men, because that’s what men get raised to do in our society — offer their approval of people they find attractive. I mean, I know that I would never feel comfortable offering a man my approval of his looks, unless he was a very close friend of mine, or unless I was trying to get him into bed.

And you can get mad at me for saying all that, but that’s the way I feel. And you might be a woman who feels differently and enjoys that kind of attention. And if you are, I support your right to feel that way. And I’m sure I’m just reinventing some wheel that a feminist rolled back in 1972. But it’s a feeling that’s been boiling in me for a very long time now, independent of any dissertation or magazine rant.

in other body issue news

I didn’t really want to work out last night. Instead, I decided to do this new thing I Tivo’ed from Fit TV — a new dance show called Shimmy. It was about belly dancing, as you can probably guess. Belly dancing provides a decent, ballet-like workout, and it’s kind of fun, so it doesn’t really feel like working out.

So I turned on Shimmy and moved along with all its isolations and slow routines. My kids and I giggled at the dramatic film of women shaking sequins in the snow. Then I went to bed. Then I woke up.

And, oh my god, I feel like somebody beat me with a pillowcase full of soda cans. Every muscle in my body — quads, glutes, abs, triceps, biceps, trapezius! kidneys! the balls of my feet! — is sore.

Shimmy tore my ass up. I laughed at it last night, but Shimmy has the last laugh now.

What Jealousy Means to Me

Right now I kind of hate one female writer I’ve never met, and I really, really loathe one male writer I’ve never met.

Why? Not because their writing is bad. I’ve read and enjoyed their stuff in the past.

Why, then? Because they have things that I don’t have. What do I do when this happens? Easy — I make voodoo dolls of these people, then scream at the voodoo dolls and slap their faces!

No, just kidding. I force myself to think, in great detail, what it is about these people that I hate. In other words, what they have that I don’t have.

And then I silently thank those people for showing me my own true path to happiness. Because that’s always it, for me. The things I bitterly covet from others are the things I need to work on getting for myself. And the faster I face that, the faster I can get to work on making myself happy.

Something That Everyone Already Knows

Kids don’t really like clowns. So quit decorating their rooms with clown pictures. Sheesh.

Y’all know I hate clowns — it says it in my first book, on the very first page, I believe. But hearing this story on the radio made me think more about it. The DJs talked about how clowns used to be more popular back in the heydays of circuses and parades, back before Stephen King’s It came out. And they are so right.

However, I did think of one clown I’ve always been able to tolerate, and that is Mr. Ronald McDonald.

Then again, Ronald has never really been a clown, in my mind. He’s just some weird-looking guy who hangs out with other weird-looking guys named Grimace, Mayor McCheese, Hamburgler, the Fry Guys, and that chick who has the head of a bird. Maybe they’re aliens. Maybe they’re Egyptian gods. Maybe they’re mutants or something. Either way, I don’t hate them, because they were obvioulsy born looking like that, and I don’t hate people for how they were born.

Thrift Report

I’ve been meaning to tell y’all for a while now that I finally, finally scored an awesome leather jacket at the thrift store. Brown suede, slight motorcycle style, high quality, perfect fit. For TEN DOLLARS. You can’t beat that with a stick.

(You could probably beat it with a Shimmy, though!)

(Okay, that’s it. No more cutesy self-referencing sentences within the blog post.)

And then… I want to tell y’all that my kids got into the act, and that they scored some completely outrageous finds, but I can’t, because that would be revealing the kids’ personal businesses. And you know how kids are. You know how they get. You know how, when we were kids, the cardinal sin was getting caught with clothes from K-Mart. Even, illogically, if a classmate saw you shopping there because she, herself, was shopping there. The rule seemed to be: first person to call out someone for shopping at K-Mart is the winner, no matter how they got the evidence.

So I won’t say. I’ve probably already said too much. I mean, I think my kids can stand up for themselves and their awesome thrift finds, but just in case, I’ll hush.

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Posted in lookism, sexism, thrifting, writing on 01/18/2008 11:55 am

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