Fat people get a lot of negative messages about our bodies every day. One way to fight this is to change the number of positive messages. Unfortunately I’ve found that some people don’t know the difference between an authentic compliment, and saying something really offensive. It’s cool though, I’m here to help.
Allow me to elucidate using personal experience from a meeting to which I wore a sleeveless shirt and a skirt (and where I typically wear pants):
“Look at you, rocking a dress!” (said positively, no hint of sarcasm).
Compliment. Well done. (Yes, it’s technically a skirt and not a dress, but that’s not important right now.)
“Oh (makes pensive face), I didn’t think you wore dresses. I actually think pants suit you better.”
Nope, not a compliment. Not a thing to say at all really. Maybe should have used your inner monologue on this one.
“Wow, I don’t think I’ve seen you wear a skirt before. You look so cute.”
Compliment. That’s how you do it!
“I just wanted to tell you that I think you’re very brave to wear a sleeveless shirt, I always feel like my arms are too fat” (said by someone less than half my size).
Swing and a miss, I’m afraid. Not a compliment. I appreciate that you’ve made it clear that this is your issue and not mine, but really if your “compliment” starts with “you’re so brave” and doesn’t end with the equivalent of “for saving those kids from those wild animals”, you might consider skipping it.
An open letter to that fat person I saw and made all those assumptions about.
World of no. Galaxy of no. Universe of no. No. These people should stick to posting facebook updates with adorable animals and keep the stereotype-ridden open letters in their diaries.
So a quick summary of indications that what you are about to say is not a compliment:
- You would be offended if someone said it about you (“I just wanted to tell you that I think you’re very brave to wear your hair like that”)
- You can imagine that immediately after saying it you’re going to have to follow it up with “but I meant it as a compliment!”
- …or “Don’t be so sensitive, I was trying to be nice.”
- You are complimenting someone for not conforming to your stereotypes about them (“You’re not like those other fat people.”)
So, it’s pretty simple:
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