How to be skinny.

by Lindsay Timmington

This is not a blog to define the word skinny. It’s not a blog about mass media’s portrayal of women. It’s not a blog about body image or eating disorders. It’s a blog about what happened on a date with a guy I thought I might smooch at the end of the night. 

Third date. Guy seems very interested in me—we’ve been out a few times, we’ve had a laugh and he asks me what I like about him. I respond honestly, saying that I think he is a “genuinely good guy” and that I wasn’t sure there were many of those left on the singles scene. In turn, I asked what he liked about me. He immediately replied, “I like your legs. ” I paused and pressed him again thinking maybe he was kidding. He answered, “I like that you aren’t skinny.”

“I like that you aren’t skinny. I like that you aren’t skinny.” I can’t get that out of my head.

He meant it as a compliment, I’m sure—a friend offered after hearing the story. He’s trying to tell you he likes your body as it is, another friend said. But I just keep hearing, “I like that you aren’t skinny,” over and over and over again.

In the moment I wanted to throw my drink in his face. I didn’t. Something stopped me. First, it wouldn’t have been nice. Second, I was still puzzling around what he’d offered me by way of a “compliment.” Third and MOSTLY— I really needed that drink now.

I’m currently at a weight that I’ve seen only a few times in my life: before college and when I had to be naked onstage. I’ve dropped some weight recently as a result of a hard summer and a lot of running.  It’s likely I’m as “skinny” as I’ll ever be, and even more likely that I’ll gain some of the weight back.

What will I be then if I’m “not skinny” now?

I struggled with whether to write this. To share it. But after two days of repeating this phrase to myself, of watching every bite I put in my mouth and tacking extra miles onto already long runs this weekend, I realize this is fucked up. It’s fucked up for me to be thinking this way, responding this way, and feeling tortured by someone’s social ineptitude and frankly, rudeness.

I’m 35. I don’t want to be caught up in unhealthy, disordered thoughts about my weight, my eating and my outward appearance because there’s SO much other shit I should and could be doing and thinking about. But to me, it’s a reminder about the impossible standards of beauty we have and how our culture decides one woman is of higher value than another because of  her weight. And I don’t want to be quiet about it. I don’t want to journal privately and get over it. Especially because I can’t quiet the voice in my head repeating that stupid phrase over and over and over. I’m not alone in this. Many women, most women, ALL WOMEN  hear a voice repeating some variation on that theme, regularly.

To have a guy (who presumably wanted to have sex with me at some point) respond to “Why do you like me” with a wholly superficial comment is troubling and indicative of a larger issue that I’m not going to discuss here but I think we should. I’ve dated guys a hundred pounds heavier than me, I’ve dated guys twenty pounds lighter than me and never, ever, ever did I measure their weight in relation to their worth. Never (as far as I know) did they measure my weight to my general likability.  But this guy had no problem doing it, and the bigger problem is that apparently, neither do I. 

I would have kept dating this guy…probably. Everything else was looking good. Until that. Until he reminded me that we as a society have decided that weight is tied to worth and somehow along the way it became okay for a man to say to a woman, for a human to say to a human, “I like you because you aren’t skinny.” Maybe he did intend it as a compliment. It doesn’t matter. It’s not. It’s superficial and irrelevant and when I really think about it, it’s demeaning and offensive. And instead of coming home, counting calories and running eight miles instead of seven—I should have said to him, “You’re right. I’m not skinny. I’m strong. And you, YOU are dumped.”

So I did.