Weight for Me

“So — how much do you weigh?” the older man asked the younger one.

“One forty-nine,” the younger one said.

“God, you’re fat,” the older guy said.

My daughter and I listened to this exchange, appalled.  For one thing, it happened at dinner.  Dinner!  Nobody asks a question like that at dinner.  For another thing, these guys are related to us, the older one being my husband/her father, the younger one my son/her brother.  After all these years, we know them quite well.  We still don’t understand them.

“A woman would never ask another woman a question like that,” I huffed to my daughter.  “How rude can you get?”

“I know,” she said.

“Plus,” I added, “you’d never get a straight answer out of a woman about her weight.  She’d always adjust it a little.”  I should know.  I am one of the founders of the rounding-down method of weight calculation, which I perfected during two pregnancies.

A couple of days later, to further emphasize the differences between the sexes when it comes to food and weight, I had to listen to a long critical exegesis of another woman’s eating habits.  “I’ve gained seven pounds,” she announced, even though I hadn’t asked or noticed and didn’t particularly care.  “I’ve been eating candy day and night.”  She went on to deliver a running commentary about who-was-eating-what-and-why.  I contemplated going into a coma.

You can look at this a couple of ways.  One is that women are polite and discreet about weight, even if they’re almost always thinking about it.  And men, in their occasional oafish displays, are not.  Women hint and sneak around and obsess.  Men call one another lard-ass.

Women and their weight.  What a fraught area, complete with self-blame, shame, misery, temporary victory, more misery.  We were “good” or “bad,” depending on our dietary or exercise habits, depending on the numbers on our scales.  What a waste, I often think, looking back on a lifetime of this endless absorption with numbers — pounds, calories, BMIs.  We all joke about it, but the laughs are pained and self-conscious.  Our scales let us know what we’re worth.  Out of all the qualities we value about ourselves — intelligence, charm, compassion, ambition, wit — why does this one measure carry such significance?  It’s depressing as hell. 

It kills me to admit it.  But we’d all be better off if we acted like men, unself-conscious and brazen and crude, unencumbered by this ridiculous shame.

So, what do you weigh? I’ll ask the next time we have lunch together.  You can go first, lard ass.  This time, I promise, I won’t round down.

(Copyright 2008 by Ruth Pennebaker)

5 comments… add one
  • Jean miller Link

    I know what you mean.  At my office it is absolutely the number one topic of idle conversation among the women.  We’re all smart, educated, usually funny women and all we can talk about is what are you eating, what do you weigh, what do you want to weigh etc.  I hereby vow to never mention it again.

  • After years and years of body image/food/calories/measurements I threw scales away and no longer base my day on what my scales tell me to feel about myself.
    I eat well and exercise. But it has taken me years and years to let go of all the paraphernalia around it all.
    I blogged quite a few entries on the saga.
    Why on earth are we all so obsessed with the exterior when the only importance is of the interior?
    It’s a form of dementia, how can we live our lives when our heads are full of this stuff?

  • So funny and so true! I used to be obsessed with my weight and am so…glad to have that behind me. Most days. 🙂

  • Steve Link

    You don’t have to wait until our next lunch:147.    Oops!–you were probably speaking of lunch of with a female friend. 

    I suspect the lunch conversations between us are different from the conversations you have with female friends.  Another mystery of relationships between the sexes.

    I would never call you “lardass!”  🙂

  • ruthpennebaker Link

    I just ate a pint of Haagen-Dazs and am feeling quite cheerful.  To hell with calories!

    Steve, by the way, I don’t know what you’ve done, but your comments are no longer considered spam.  Way to go!

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