You’ve either said it or, if you’re me, heard it a dozen times in your life. The ultimate back-handed compliment. The flattery that insinuates a need for justification. You probably don’t even realize you’re doing it, but I’m here to tell you once and for all, kiddos – THIS is what we really hear:
“You have such a pretty face” (If you were thinner, the rest of you would be, too)
“You’re always so well-put-together” (I just assumed you were a slob, because fat people don’t care how they look)
“Where do you get your clothes?” (Do you have to get them specially made, because you’re so fat?)
“You’re so beautiful, for a big girl” (In spite of the fact that you are, by definition, repulsive, I find you to be less so, because your face is attractive)
“I mean, you don’t EAT like an overweight person” (All fat people eat garbage non-stop)
“You don’t seem to have any trouble getting around” (Aren’t all fat people immobile, like Jabba the Hutt?)
“That outfit is really slimming on you” (You’re more acceptable when something makes you look thinner)
“You get hit on more than I do” (I am stunned that men find you attractive)
That last one’s my favorite.
I’ve talked about this very thing in reference to racism that you’re in denial about. The old “He’s cute, for a black guy” endorsement I’d get from friends on a new love interest in my life. Wait, what? FOR A BLACK GUY? What does that even MEAN?
I’m sorry, I’m pretty sure you just said “Even though this person is LESS than the rest of us, I SUPPOSE he’s okay, out of a WHOLE RACE of people who are inherently UNattractive”.
No? That’s not what you meant? OH. MY BAD. Except, yeah, its exactly what you meant.
You say something like that, and you’re letting your secret bigotry cat out of the bag. This is pretty much the same type of insult when you’re complimenting a fat person.
You only THOUGHT you were saying something nice. The thing is, if you have to rationalize the approval, it loses its value to the recipient. We, the fat/black/gay/short/whatever-you’re-trying-to-help-us-get-past(-but-thanks-we-don’t-need-your-help) hear the insult louder than the applause. In fact, we know its coming. We’ve heard it all of our lives.
How sad is that? We know its coming. Be the change, y’all. Stop with the compliment. Do I look pretty? Good. I don’t need exclamations of how amazing it is that I could possibly look pretty under these terrible circumstances of being disgusting.
To sum up our lesson for today, boys & girls:
If someone looks nice, tell them. And leave it at that. Don’t appear to be amazed by it. Don’t ask questions like you’re a child at an old-timey freak show. It IS possible to say a nice thing and just shut your mouth. Do that.