The “It’s Not You, It’s Me” Mistake

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You Forgot Your BullshitA funny thing happened on the way to the fat hate forums, but it helps illustrate a serious issue.  I got an e-mail letting me know that there was a discussion about my headphones on an internet forum dedicated to hating me No, seriously. Apparently someone took the time to post this:

Each Selfie Sunday (or Monday, or Tuesday…whichever day actually posts), there is one thing that raises my eyebrow more than anything. Ragen’s headphones (among many other things about her) strike me as extremely non-athletic.  Has anyone else noticed this?  I could not imagine wearing that style of cheapie, over-the-ear-, hard plastic with foam covering headphones while biking or especially running.  I’d be adjusting them constantly so they stay on my actual ears. I find it really strange that someone supposedly so into exercise and exercise gear could wear headphones that look like they’re from 15 years ago.

A little background – I have a blog specifically to talk about my IRONMAN triathlon journey (since plenty of the readers here don’t care about that and I don’t blame them!) On Sundays and sometimes Monday or Tuesday or basically wheneverthefuck I feel like it because it’s my blog, I post selfies from each workout for the week.  I find that it helps motivate me to take the selfie at the end, and I like have a little keepsake from each workout. For reference, here is a picture of me in the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad headphones.

mid distance walk run

For now we’re going to set aside the whackadoo nature of this situation – that someone has so much free time in their life that they not only spend time each week looking at the workout selfies of a blogger they don’t like (and I’ll admit I’m a little jealous – I don’t always have the time to keep up with bloggers whose work I do like! And don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the traffic.) but they actually took to the internet to criticize the headphones I wear. In detail.

This is the kind of ridiculousness I deal with everyday, and in this case it’s obviously both funny and pathetic. But what I want to focus on for this blog post is the fact that, ostensibly, this person literally can’t grasp that there are people who like different headphones than they do – they are so perplexed by this that they had to take the internet to get some help working it out (which, if they had asked me, I would have been happy to give.)

I think of this as the “it’s not you, it’s me mistake.” This inability to understand that different people make different choices – and that’s ok –  is at the root of a lot of shame, stigma, oppression, and marginalization (both accidentally because people don’t realize that they are making the mistake, and sometimes very much on purpose.) I saw this illustrated on Facebook in a conversation that was shared by my friend Nikki, posted here with her permission:

J wrote:

Here’s what really bugs me.  I am 5’10 and a size 14.  I used to be heavier. To this day, I NEVER wear shorts, sleeveless or short-sleeve shirts, short tops that don’t cover the tops of my legs…I always wear cardigans if I wear a tank top, long skirts, etc…and I’m not that big.  I am always seeing women wearing stuff that it SO unflattering…Then complain abt what others say…Well what did you think they would say?  I don’t wannwa see my own flabby arms…I sure don’t wanna look at someone else’s!! And if I do see that, I myself will most likely think well damn, that looks bad. I won’t sneer or stare, but.

To be clear, J is allowed to feel any way about her body, and she is allowed to dress however she wants for whatever reason she wants. She’s allowed to think whatever she wants about what other people wear. She does not have to share my view about the concept of flattering.  And on some level she seems to understand that it’s inappropriate to sneer or stare at someone who wears clothes that she wouldn’t choose to wear.  All good there.

Where she goes wrong – and makes the same mistake as Captain Headphones above – is when she forgets that her way may be right for her, but that doesn’t make it the right way for everyone.  She goes wrong when she perpetuates the idea that women who make different clothing choices deserve to be treated unkindly – and should not only expect people to treat them poorly, but blame themselves when it happens.  She goes wrong when she perpetuates the idea that her choice is right, and other people’s choices are wrong. She goes wrong when she suggests that what she wants to look at should have any bearing on how other people choose to dress.

Nikki’s response puts it more succinctly:

I’ll be sure to keep my fat arms in a goddamn cardigan in the sweltering heat this year just because you feel insecure about your own body.

The fact that there are fat people who hate their bodies and/or feel that their bodies should be covered because they are fat, is often used as an argument against those of us who don’t feel that way. As in – “See, even other fat people agree that fat bodies should be covered.” And that’s crap.

In a world that constantly tells fat people to hate and hide our bodies, it’s not even mildly surprising that there are fat people who hate and hide their bodies. And they are allowed to do that, for whatever reason. But nobody is required to hate or hide their body because that body is fat, or because it doesn’t meet the stereotype of beauty in any way. My work isn’t about telling people how they have to relate to or dress their bodies, it’s about making sure that people know that not hating and hiding their bodies is an option (by whatever definitions they are using for those things, taking into account their preferences, religion, culture, values etc.)

So the next time someone tries to suggest that you have to hate your fat body because they hate theirs, you can remind them – it’s not you, it’s me.

EDIT: Shout out to all the trolls (over one hundred now!) who me let me know in comments, e-mails, facebook messages, and on twitter that I accidentally left a sentence out of my transcription- specifically, “I’d be adjusting them constantly so they stay on my actual ears.”   (My favorite so far: “Why didn’t you post the entire comment about your headphones? What are you trying to hide?”  The SCANDAL! Because obviously this is the sentence that makes posting about my headphones online so completely reasonable…) Regardless, I absolutely made a mistake and it’s been corrected with my deep apologies to the original poster, and my deep thanks for all the traffic to the my blog. And don’t worry y’all, this definitely doesn’t make you look more obsessed and absurd than you already did.

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Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

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19 thoughts on “The “It’s Not You, It’s Me” Mistake

  1. That’s my favorite type of headphones!

    I LIKE wearing cardigans in hot summers. But I like cardigans, they improve everything. I like my arms more at 400lbs than I did at 100lbs, and I like how cute they are in cardigans!

  2. This is a great post, brilliant. I don’t understand why it would matter to anyone what anyone else was doing. Your headphones look fine to me, and they obviously are doing the job for you. I can’t ever fit those tiny ones into my ears, they always fall out, or they hurt. I have great big headphones which are like donuts on each ear, which I found in a bin. I like your selfies too, they are a great documentary of your pursuits and they make me happy.

    1. Same! In-ear headphones are actively painful and fall out constantly because of my small ears. The on-ear style Ragen wears are also not good for me because things that press on my ear are painful due to glasses. So I wear those big donut headphones too. It’s almost like…. people are different!! 😀

      1. I wear the donut ones too. They cost about $40 here, which is twice as much as those smaller ones, and ones that fit in the ear have always hurt me.

  3. I can’t stand wearing headphones that go in my ear! Even if I wear them while exercising, they have to be over-the-head style. Nothing to do with how “sportlike” the headphones are, just my ears do not like stuff sticking in them. But these people obviously never think about things like that; for them it’s always about the weight. 😦

  4. By the way, I’m SO sorry, this is SO off topic…But Torrid now carries up to a 6X! I’m so excited! This is the best news EVER, especially after Avenue revealed themselves as scamsters!

    I don’t know if this is a new size of theirs or not, but I wear a 30 in most, a 4X, and their 4X is a 26. The new 6X is a 30. So that means I can buy new clothes that don’t look like something a grandma would wear, and I am SO excited about this.

  5. I wear earbud style headphones during runs (… or well did when I could run and will again once my doctor approves me to start running again) but they aren’t special “fitness” or “running” headphones. I’ve never heard of this need to get special running headphones before. (And really, who wants to bet these are the same people who would say how you don’t need to buy anything special for fitness, just put on some shoes and go run.)

    Ironically, I find it very hard to understand people who don’t get that different people are different. Reminds me of the team blue and black vs team white and gold thing. A lot of people I knew were able to see both options based on how they looked at the photo, yet for me even in digitally altered version I could never see anything but blue and black (or a lighter blue an black on the digitally lightened versions). Despite that, I realized (and had to realize) that some people saw white and gold even if I couldn’t. I feel like this serves as an important metaphor for life- because even if we absolutely cannot see something the same way as someone else does not mean that isn’t how they see things. Whether that be different cultures, different clothing styles, different bodies and experiences. You might not have the same experience as me, that doesn’t make mine untrue. You might have different preferences than me, doesn’t make me a liar about mine. (And vice versa)

  6. First of all–headphones. If I wore headphones when I biked or walked (and I prefer not to listen to music doing those things because I want to be aware of my environment, traffic, etc.) I would most definitely use the same kind that you do. I cannot ABIDE ear buds or anything IN my ears. It’s just torment to me. What an utter idiot…you’re not using the “right” gear. Bleah.

    Second, specifically, arms. I, too, have big fat upper arms. I have always had big upper arms. I looked at a photo of my siblings and me when I am 8 years old and completely NOT fat, and yet, there are my big round arms. For years and years and years I loathed them. And then, about 14 years ago, I went to work for a small law firm as a paralegal and the woman who I was replacing (who was leaving to attend law school), was a little taller than I, had bigger upper arms than I, and WORE SLEEVELESS TOPS/DRESSES ALL THE DAMN TIME! I had spoken to her over the phone to arrange the interview but when I walked into the office and saw her, I nearly wept with joy. A big woman going sleeveless!! And the world didn’t end. And no one snickered about it behind her back. Over the time she trained me and then later after she finished law school and came back to that office to practice, we became good friends and I became able to wear sleeveless shirts in public. I quit obsessing about my arms. I began to realize that in truth, most people don’t really even look at you more than once and then go on about their own business. It was one of the most liberating things I have ever experienced. I also have never told her that, but maybe it’s time I do. Thanks so much for posting this.

  7. Haha, I may be baffled by people wearing and sweating in giant, over-the-ear, high-end headphones I see at races, but it’s not my head, so why the heck would I care or be bothered by it? How bizarre to write about someone else’s headphones unless you thought they were cool and wanted to know where to get them.

  8. Athletic headphones? Non-athletic headphones?? Heavens to mergatroid. I wear earbuds because they don’t block out ambient noise and I want to hear outside noises, but they constantly fall out and get snagged by my hands–over-the-ear ones would be more practical, if hotter.

    Or is it that the poster perceives them as “cheap,” because you can’t really have a good workout without expensive sound gear?

    I realize I’m not focusing on the real point of the post, but I’m baffled by this!

  9. This attitude is incredibly pervasive all through society, and it is even worse in places where society in general is more conformist than in the US (at least you have the rugged, mavericky individualism meme going for you). I grew up in a much more conformist society, and it was torturous because I was always somebody who listened to zir own drummer, which all too often didn’t drum in the prescribed beat. And some people were vicious in their criticism. Along the lines of “what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger” (which I don’t actually believe; many people just get broken), that fortified me for life in the US — I just don’t care what other people think of me. They’re not living my life, I am, and I damn well live it to suit ME, not them. Deal with that, fashion police.

    I know what societal good conformity is supposed to achieve, and I concur with it when it comes to doing actual harm. But people go too far when they apply it to things that not only do no harm, but might indeed improve an individual’s life. Earbuds hurt or at least irritate my ears; I don’t want anything stuck in there. I wear cheap over-the-head ones (yes, cheap — why exactly should my workout gear be expensive? Does that facilitate anything my body actually does during that time)? Cheap because, well, I am not exactly focussing on the hifi quality of my music while I am huffing and puffing, and cheap because they might fall down and I’d rather not damage my high quality headphones I use when I actively listen to stuff at my computer. Captain Headphones up there needs to “get out more” and talk to a variety of other people to broaden zir understanding of people’s psyches. Funny, how some genuine introspection seems never have to occurred to zir, eh? Yeah, not funny at all. I disdain people who tear others down for petty bullshit.

    I understand hatred of non-conformists, and believe me, it does not cast a good light on those who do it. It’s so much easier to criticize others than to fix one’s own issues, or even look at them closely and with a discerning eye. Nevermind tackling one’s societal prescriptions, because yes, it is damn hard to go up against the masses. But at least one ought to learn not to resent those who do. They ARE battling for more freedoms for all of us, even if you don’t care for any particular thing they do.

  10. Nikki’s response puts it more succinctly:
    I’ll be sure to keep my fat arms in a goddamn cardigan in the sweltering heat this year just because you feel insecure about your own body.

    This reminds me of the joke I have with my 15 year old. I’ll say, “You might want a jacket, it’s kind of chilly.” 15 year old: “No, I’m fine.” Me (in an aggrieved tone): “BUT I AM COLD. SO YOU SHOULD WEAR A JACKET.” And then we both laugh a lot, because it’s so unreasonable. This is what the underpants rule is all about!!!

  11. Earbuds won’t stay in my right ear. My left, but not my right. Never have. I have no idea why this happens, nor do I care, as long as I can still get the “cheapie, over-the-ear” kind. The haters can fuck right off. Maybe they have a more relevant topic to discuss, like the kind of socks you like, or your brand of sunscreen, or maybe your favorite style of water bottle. Because it’s the important shit like that which separates the “real” athletes from the fakey fakers. Jesus.

  12. Well, I don’t find baggy cardigans all that flattering or appealing to look at, but fortunately for J, don’t believe that other people were put on the earth as decoration for me.

    I take issue with the idea that clothes are “appropriate” or not based on the wearer. Clothes are appropriate to a situation. If you’re on the beach, a bikini is appropriate, no matter what the size of your body. If the amount of cleavage on display from a shirt is ok for work, it’s okay whether that cleavage is flat or curvy.

  13. When people wear something that I don’t feel comfortable in, my only reaction is to admire their confidence – because that’s something I’m sorely lacking.

    If the worst a troll could do was headphone-shaming, you’re doing something right.

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