Last week, unbeknownst to me, three people at a Fijian resort played a little game with me. First, they placed bets on my nationality, age and weight. Then they orchestrated a conversation to reveal that I was a 34-year-old, 129-pound American.
“I knew it!” one of the men yelled upon converting my weight into kilograms. “Sixty! You don’t look it because you’re so skinny – but you’re tall!”
That he also guessed I was from Australia and twenty-two was conveniently left out of his victory speech.
Ordinarily, it would shock me to learn that perfect strangers were discussing my weight. But I’ve found myself having lots of conversations about that lately.
People who see me in a bikini want to know what I eat. (Enough.) People who see what I eat want to know what I do for exercise. (Run.) And people who see me exercise want to know if I’m aware that my left leg comically slips out to a 45 degree angle while I’m mid-stride. (I am. What about it?)
If anything, I have to give the strangers at the pool credit for being so direct. They skipped all the formalities and asked what everyone really wants to know: “Just how much do you weigh?”
The last time I checked, I was 129 pounds. But like the man at the bar pointed out, that figure stretches a little thin on a 5’9” frame. I probably looked more natural when my weight bordered on 150, but I’m not interested in putting any back on because I much prefer the way I feel when I’m twenty pounds down. Not like I intended to lose it in the first place. My appetite slipped away in the sweltering heat of Hong Kong and Indonesia and by the time I got to Australia, I was so used to running on a fraction of what I used to eat that I felt uncomfortable when I consumed any more.
I had to follow the advice I gave my girlfriends time and again over the years: Go by how you feel, not the numbers on the scale.
Gentlemen, let this be a lesson to you. If a woman ever poses a scenario about her appearance that ends with the question, “Don’t you think?”, the expectation is that you will agree, no matter how asinine the statement that came before it may have been.
For example, when I recently asked my friend, “I think I look better this way, don’t you?”, his response should have been, “Yes, absolutely.” And if the next day, I changed my mind and decided that I should fill out my size 4 self, the answer, again, should have been, “You know, you’re totally right.”
Evidently, my friend never received that tip before. Or perhaps he did but he assumed it only applied to conversations with girlfriends. Or maybe he just thought we were operating on a platform of complete honesty and a blatant disregard for manners. I’m not sure. I don’t know how idiots think.
“I wouldn’t say you look better or worse,” he answered carefully. “Just different.” It was exactly the sort of diplomatic response that revealed he did have a preference, albeit one I wasn’t going to be happy about.
“You’re really skinny now,” he added. “It depends on what you like.”
“You can go fuck yourself,” I said with my eyes. And then I proceeded to do exactly what I would have done had he agreed with me in the first place, which is to say I ordered an appetizer for dinner and drank a liter of water before bed.
Because that’s what I like.
Like any opinion that has the misfortune of being both insulting and valid, I couldn’t let my friend’s comment about my weight go.
“I can’t believe it,” I complained the following day. “Women are told we need to be skinnier. Even the skinny ones have to be skinnier. Then, when we get skinnier, you decide you liked us better before!”
Drawing on the lesson from the previous day, my friend said nothing.
“We can’t win,” I continued. “First curvy is sexy. Then skinny is sexy. Then strong is sexy. Just pick a thing already!”
“Guys get bored,” he explained with some reluctance. “We have one thing and then we get tired of that, so we want to try something else.”
Horrifying as that logic may be, I had to appreciate his honesty. With it, he confirmed what I suspected all along: There’s no point in trying to please men because even they aren’t sure what they really want.
As if to prove it, my friend told me about his last girlfriend, a person with perfect hair and flawless skin who also happened to be in possession of six-pack abs and “a huge ass.” I never thought such a combination was possible, but apparently it is on the rare occasion a woman is blessed with superior genes and also enjoys doing cross-fit. Alluring as she was, my friend now prefers something else – exactly what, I don’t recall. It’s hard to remember the details when you’ve been rendered temporarily incapacitated due to rage.
“But she was really hot,” he bragged. “She could wear a lot of things that other girls couldn’t.”
I rolled my eyes. “Well she sounds very talented,” I sniped.
I’ll admit now that it was a nasty thing to say considering that this girl never did a thing to me. Besides, if we’re going to talk about daring wardrobe choices, I can also wear a lot of things that other people cannot, like Nike platform dunks and earrings the size of my palm – both of which distract nicely from the huge chip on my shoulder.
I envy men for a lot of things, but most of all for the simplicity of their appearance. To be considered an attractive man all one needs to do is be in reasonably good shape, dress well and not sneeze on anyone. Sure, they get bonus points for being tall or having a full head of hair, but most people are willing to overlook those things so long as the person is otherwise presentable.
I don’t wish the same criteria were true for women just so we could all get in the express lane to hot. I say it because we collectively waste so much time and effort trying to maximize our attractiveness. It’s energy that we should be pouring into our careers and our personal ambitions and our relationships – assuming, of course, that we aren’t talking about a relationship with a someone who finds fault with your appearance.
My ex-boyfriend has a saying: Tens go with Tens. It was a line he spouted off whenever I did something he disagreed with, like registered as an Independent in a swing state or ate Greek yogurt. To this day, I find that it’s the most efficient way of pointing out when someone is being both unreasonable and unjustifiably elitist.
As put-downs go, it isn’t much of a burn. In fact, it’s so simple and seemingly benign that some people don’t even realize it happened. That’s the beauty of “Tens go with Tens”: You shut it down and laugh it up without having to get specific. And yet, you know exactly what you said: I’m better than this.
“Tens go with Tens,” I shrugged to my friend when I decided I had enough of our conversation.
And I meant it. I’m a Ten at 150; I’m a Ten at 129; and if I decide to sink to 125 or bump up to 155, I’ll be a Ten there too. Anyone who suggests otherwise doesn’t go with me.
Editor’s Note: I feel it necessary to point out that my friend’s comments were made over the course of a ten-day trip, during which he also patiently waited for me to throw up on the side of a road when I got carsick and then raised my spirits by turning the car around so that I could watch four kangaroos hop off into the sunset. He has redeeming qualities, is what I’m saying. And importantly, this post does not reflect all the equally offensive and idiotic things that I said, which still happens occasionally despite the fact that I am, indeed, a perfect Ten. xx