I almost always take the cautious way out. If I think someone is pregnant but they haven’t explicitly stated so, I don’t make a comment. What if they are just gaining weight, I’m not going to be the jerk who asks when the baby is due. If I know someone is trying to lose weight and there is a noticeable difference, I will tell them they look good. But what if there is actually something terribly wrong and they’ve lost weight because they are seriously ill, I don’t want to be the idiot who says ‘you look great!’
Last summer, I was getting ready to leave the house and I put on a dress that I knew was no longer my size, but I thought it had enough of a drappy look to be okay. I looked in my full length mirror and it hit at the smallest point of my waist, what we all strive for, but for some reason this wasn’t a good look. I thought it made me look a bit sickly. But I decided to go with it anyway and left the house. When I got where I was going, within minutes of arriving someone said “Eww stop going to the gym you are too skinny”. I didn’t even know how to respond. I just sort of backed out of the situation, and made sure not to run into that person for the rest of the day, but I know the dress I was wearing and of all the things people have ever said to me, that stands out. It sounds silly to think it would be offensive for someone to say you are too thin, but it was hurtful.
In another instance, I was in a situation where people were ordering lunch. I had a packed lunch of spaghetti squash; again, I recall the details because the comments stung. People were atwitter about what to order and where to order it from. I, as I almost always did, didn’t participate in the conversation. One individual came over to me and said “you can’t just eat healthy all of the time and make everyone else look bad”. Really?! I was confused; I gracefully stayed out of the plans and conversations. I never said word. I could see the reaction if I had joined in and said you people are so wrong, you should have all brought healthy leftovers like I did. Again, I didn’t even know how to react and I sort of backed away and tried to avoid any other food related situation.
Seriously people, didn’t your mother teach you if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all? Maybe people thought their comments were compliments but they didn’t stop to think about how they sounded. Besides people making mention of how I look, people have made some not so nice comments about my running hobby. I’ve heard everything from oh I hate running, running is so boring, to I could never do that. You know running those distances is really not good for your body. Don’t your knees hurt? My honest belief is that almost anyone can run. Now maybe they don’t want to, which is fine, it’s an individual decision, but don’t mix up the words ‘can’t’ and ‘don’t want to’. I’m not saying every single person could run if they wanted to but lots of people who tell me they can’t just don’t want to.
Think about it this way; what if you found a hobby that really clicked with you. It relieved your stress, it made you happy and healthy, and it made you feel fulfilled. It could be any hobby really but my only response was to tell you that the mere thought of you favorite activity completely repulsed me? You’d think like I wasn’t very nice.
I think people are going for a compliment when they say I couldn’t run but it doesn’t come out that way. If what you really mean is ‘Wow, running a marathon is awesome what a great accomplishment’ then please just say that!
So those are some of the negative things people say to me but then there are times when people say something and I want to cry happy tears. A relative I hadn’t seen in awhile saw me last summer and said ‘wow, you look like an athlete’. By far the coolest thing anyone has said. Proof that this person really understood what I was going for. Another time Dan and I were at a wedding and a friend we don’t see terribly often sat in front of us. He turned around and said, I stood at the back of the church for quite awhile, I couldn’t figure out who that was sitting next to Dan.
If you want to give someone a compliment, just do it but don’t say something can be taken in a different way. Of course how well you know someone is part of the equation of what is appropriate to say but don’t tell and acquaintance they are too skinny and need t stop working out.