It’s not complimentary to scrutinize my body without warning, especially in a public setting. It feels invasive and uncomfortable, almost accusatory, creating this space where I’m not sure how to respond. Sure, social cues lead me quickly to thank you, put a smile on, and pretend I’m not silently wondering if there’s judgment behind your words. But more often than not I’m left feeling uneasy and off-balance, like when a train passes and you’re standing a bit too close to the edge. A rush of wind and it’s gone, but you still feel its presence moments later.
Here’s the bottom line: You never know what someone else is going through—whether they’ve lost weight as a result of illness, diet, stress, or anything else. You don’t know if they want to look skinny. I’m not even sure why so many of us are steadfast in the idea that “skinny” has a purely positive connotation. It’s a word like any other, with varied meaning and significance to every person who hears it. My particular aversion to the word, of course, has a lot to do with my past. But that doesn’t make it any less polarizing when you’re speaking to someone who hasn’t acquired my specific baggage. Instead, when you think someone looks particularly good, tell them just that: “You look so great.” Complimenting your friends, loved ones, and co-workers without bringing their bodies into the conversation is always going to be a happier, healthier way to interact. If the person with whom your speaking wants to bring up their weight-loss, they can. Let’s leave this one in the past and move on, yeah? We’ll all feel better for it.