Monday, June 29, 2009

Excuse Me?


All photos: Getty Images

I'm a thin guy. I'm a VERY thin guy. Basically, I look like a normally proportioned 5'8" person who somehow got stretched to 6'4". I'm not sick (thanks for asking!); I'm not anorexic (thanks for asking!); I'm not a junkie or speed freak (no, really, thanks for asking!); I'm just really, really, abnormally thin. So anyway, you'll have to excuse me, ladies, for not being delighted by this conversation, one which I've had approximately ten gazillion times (usually in the cafeteria):

Female* friend/coworker: Oh my god, I HATE you, you're so SKINNY!
Me: Um... thanks?


This is usually followed with a pronouncement that "You're so lucky, you can eat anything you want!"

Lucky! Oh, lucky me! How did I ever get so goddamn lucky?


Image via. OK, I'm not this thin.

Lately, though, I've gotten a tad militant in response to this conversation. I point out that the word "skinny" is never ever a compliment in our society when applied to males. Then I bring up that they combined the insult with a declaration of hatred. Nice. Next, if they haven't run away yet, I reveal that, in fact, being skinny –as skinny as I am– is hardly what is considered to be the masculine ideal.

I'm fairly comfortable with my renegade skinniness these days, despite the constant well-intentioned reminders, but it wasn't always the case. I used to be ultra self-conscious about it. I used to wear boxy, baggy clothes all the time in a ridiculous attempt at disguising the undisguisable, not unlike a 300-pound person wearing vertical stripes. Have you ever seen the movie Zodiac? In one scene, investigators puzzle over the fact that a male victim is wearing several shirts and pairs of pants in the middle of a heat wave (a true detail). They never explain it, but people like me nod our heads: we know what that's all about. In fact, cartoonist Dan Clowes, my physical near-twin, once told me that he used to do that.

I'm glad I got over the self-consciousness that used to practically paralyze me. And I'm pleased to report that, as a gay man, there are plenty of guys (even bears!) who actually find my freakish scrawniness attractive. But seriously, I would love to not be reminded of it on a weekly basis.



Oh, boy, there is so much more I could say about this subject! I'll spare you.

But anyway, do you know somebody like me? Are you tempted to tell them how "lucky" they are that they can "eat anything they want" and that you hate them because they're so skinny? Just don't, OK? We know.

*Sorry, but it's always a female. Men know that the word "skinny" isn't a compliment.

EDIT: Also, don't offer to "help" by suggesting dietary and/or exercise regimens in the comments section.

36 comments:

pat1755 said...

Want to shut people up? Look sad and say that you have Marfan's.

I have a friend in England who does this and it works like a charm. Alas, she actually does have Marfan's, but she doesn't mind you borrowing the tactic. It has the added advantage of making people feel guilty for their tactless comments in the first place.

Princess Sparkle Pony said...

"Why yes, I'm diseased."

Uh, no.

Thanks, but I'm not looking for suggestions, here.

Anonymous said...

Oh PSP, my boyfriend is also very very thin and short, so I know he is sending you *hugs* over the internet right now.

Anonymous said...

We can't imagine why anyone would make uninvited personal remarks. We were taught as children that this was the height of rudeness. But people do it anyway. We imagine that Miss Manners would suggest a tight smile and a reply along the lines of "How thoughtful of you to be concerned."

Princess Sparkle Pony said...

Wow, that's a double-whammy, because if he's also short, then any time he acts assertive, he's accused of having "Napoleon syndrome."

vuboq said...

It's not only women who throw the "skinny" word around. A gay male acquaintance refers to me as a "skinny bitch" almost every time we hang out. Both may be true, but it's definitely not a compliment.

Princess Sparkle Pony said...

My point, vuboq, which you have just demonstrated so elegantly, is that a man would never call another man "skinny" and think it's a compliment. As you've just demonstrated, it is meant as a pejorative.

AustinBear said...

Pfffttt.. based on the fact that you've got whiskers, are tracking daddybear Bill Richardson's facial hair, and have mourned the clean-shaven look of junior bear King Abdullah of Jordan along with the rest of us in the ursine circles, you'll always be our Princess Sparkle PonyBear! (I just checked - while PSPBear is taken, the ID SparklePonybear is still available on bear411!)

Karen Zipdrive said...

I'm still shocked that Sky Saxon died.

Nixie Bunny said...

I recommend that you say, "OMG, I HATE you! You're so FAT!"

That'll shut them up.

mamabigdog said...

We all have our crosses to bear- for the tall "How's the weather up there?", the short "no, that doesn't come in a petite", the pale "wow, trying out for Twilight?", the naturally dark "sure, that's not a fake-n-bake?" the list goes on and on.

I'm sure being called skinny as a man is very annoying, and people should learn to mind their own business.

I can tell you from personal experience that being overweight also means people assume I am lazy, stupid (of which I am neither) and have poor hygiene (which I don't, TYVM). Luckily, those don't automatically apply to skinny people the way they do to fat people, so you're off the hook there.

Jenn said...

I totally get your point and it's rude.

But I do have to say that skinny people who complain to their fat friends (or their fat girlfriends!) about not being able to gain an ounce no matter how hard they try need to be punched right in the face. That's just inconsiderate of someone's feelings.

Muscato said...

As a distinctly portly person, I admit to a scintilla of envy, even though I know that this is genuinely annoying. I'm reaching an age where more than occasionally I've actually had someone ask "is that really your hair?" (Why, yes it is, TYVM - grandpa had a full head at 95 - why shouldn't I at 45?).

Princess Sparkle Pony said...

Luckily, those don't automatically apply to skinny people the way they do to fat people, so you're off the hook there.


Yeah, it's so much better to be automatically judged as weak, unhealthy or drug addicted.

rptrcub said...

I was once a larger guy, 319 lbs and 5 11. Now, I'm 175 or so. At my heaviest, I got no attention and I was told I needed to lose weight. Now, I get too much, downright obnoxious attention and I'm told that I'm too skinny. So I've gone to chub to bear to cub to otter to whatever subspecies there is and people still try to box me into a particular category.

And people say they're jealous of me until I tell them that much of the weight loss came due an illness.

It's like you can never win.

People are going to judge all of us no matter what we do. You've got otter/whatever hugs from myself. Lurve from ATL.

And no, no one can eat anything they want. Lord knows I can't. Skinny people can get high cholesterol and arteriosclerosis just like anyone else.

I'm channeling Mr. Rogers today. Sorry.

dguzman said...

Assholes. Hmph.

uncdevil said...

Luckily, most people aren't twits who will comment negatively like that. And I think you should go ahead and either write the others off completely or see it as their own anxieties coming out to say "hi."

I haven't been following all that long, but the one picture I saw of you (jeans and tie) looked just fine to me, man.

Karen Zipdrive said...

Listen, Peteykins, you're a very dapper, stylish guy with a unique look that people envy.
When you hear stupid comments, just smile and change the subject.
Fred Astaire would have done that.

Lulu Maude said...

Oh, bodies. The American obsession.

anonO said...

hmmm. some sympathy here but jeez, wish this was even close to the bottom of the well of ill human behaviors which it is not. it sucks but its going to happen; like being cut off in traffic. dunno if people really change. The one I hate is 'what do you do?' especially with an emphasis on one or the other of the last two words. There was a time when people carried social cards but perhaps I'm getting old...

desertwind said...

Thanks for calling us all out, Princess.

I don't know why we do it. In fact, we women are really much worse to each other. (I've got the memory of my own crackass remark to an old friend -- meant as a compliment, of course, but really not -- that keeps me in check. I hope so, anyway, because it's been 15 years and I still cringe in shame when I recall the physical sensation of dead, cold temperature drop from my friend.)

Madduane said...

bodies? I'm not an animal.

Bartman said...

Photo number one: Are those the kind of lines Gov. Sanford crossed with his other ladies?

Brad Sumner said...

more food for thought - tall people are frequently asked to reach up and retrieve items for small people - the same small people who would balk at the request to 'scoot into that cabinet and get me the bottle of vinegar' for example - now that aint right

Sometimes stupid words just pop out of our mouths without our giving them much thought - because we are careless. Once I was on a visit to the orthopedic floor of the local children's hospital to draw blood on a patient. THis was a quiet Sunday morning. All the patients I had ever seen in that room had broken bones - arms or legs - from sports injuries. In my so-charming off-hand way and still half asleep I tossed off "Oh, bum leg huh?'. Taking a closer look I realized the referenced leg and just been amputated. I finished up and slinked out of there as fast as possible. I never ever made any attempt at levity at the job ever again.

FOrgive us Pony - we are only human - we are not Princesses - we do NOT always sparkle

Brad Sumner said...

How surprising to learn that my new Google account shows my real name - how priceless and special - especially after composing that anecdote -

Toriko said...

I've had that exact conversation many many times in America. Oddly, not here. The fascination with us skinny people and the only-semi-fake "I hate you" we receive seems to be a US issue with weight.

I also find it odd that you had responded to your slenderness in the same way I had -baggy clothes. So much so that I am 5 months preggo and still able to wear 90% of my closet. It is ironic that these comments of jealousy towards thin people drive some of us to hide the very thing that seems to be desirable.

Princess Sparkle Pony said...

Toriko, really? Wow, congrats! I didn't know! Fun!

CPT_Doom said...

But yah are a skinny bitch, Blanche, yah are!

Why, in fact I do have a friend with the same problem. He's this great funny guy with an odd taste in movies who works in a museum and blogs as Princess...hey, wait a minute :-)

As you know (if you can figure out who this is, ... he, he,he) I have the same problem, but in reverse. I have the "big guy" problem, in which people seem to see no issue in bringing up my size (think Pro Football running back with a bit of extra poundage) and, thinking it's a compliment, mention how great it must be. Oh, sure, I love being too small for the big/tall store and too big for the regular store, so I'm never able to find any clothes in my size, having to buy seperate suit pants and jackets because even with tailoring nothing fits just right, having shoulders wider than an economy airline seat, etc.

I think the reality is that we always envy that which we don't have. I hear that Michael Jackson may have died of anorexia, and weighed only 112 lbs at his death, and I think - "damn, to be that skinny" (sigh!). My boss just showed me new pics of her grandaughters, aged 9 and 6. One has perfectly straight hair, one has totally curly. I predicted in a few years, when they are both teenagers, the one with straight hair will be spending all her time getting permanents and/or curling her hair, while the curly-headed girl will be flat-ironing.

z7q2 said...

Back in the 80s I had a transitional HMO doctor I saw maybe 3 times. He was a crotchety old wise guy, and quite thin. I'll never forget this one time, he takes the skin on his upper arm and pinches it so that you can see light through it. "You see this? There's nothing there," he goes, then pinches the fat on my arm. "You don't need this," he advised. "Get rid of it, and you'll live longer."

Anonymous said...

Unless you're a family member or close friend genuinely concerned about the health of your loved one don't comment on body shape at all! Tall, short, fat, skinny whatever! It's inappropriate and awkward. Why does body shape matter so damn much! I'm growling with frustration on this issue!

lebecka said...

I got your back on this one, PSP. People need to shut up, except to tell you how awesome your outfit is.
As a very tall and voluptously curvy(!!) woman, I have observed 2 main reactions to my person (being overlooked is not an option in my life).
1. Terror-stricken babbling with a quick escape (usually WASPy type neurotic white guys).
2. Hey, hubba-hubba, you hot mama (usually from black, latino, italian, and, yes, gay men).

Guess whose opinion I think is right? Guess who I think is a dickless wimp?

J said...

Cruelly, I'm afraid that I would be tempted to suggest to the purveyor of the skinny comment that she concentrated on eating less.

Maxwell said...

Ohmygod. I FEEL YOUR PAIN.

Anonymous said...

I had no idea you had any frustration or difficulties with your body type. I know you and see you practically every work day and like you I am slim as well. You always seem so comfortable with yourself and I have often wondered how I could tap into some of that confidence myself. I am in awe of your slender gorgeousness and always have been. You deinitely have an admirer in me. I haven't dared tell you because if you don't like being slim yourself I imagine you would not be attracted to that in someone else. Plus I always feel like I am too boring and have nothing to say when we do talk sometimes. Maybe you've taken that as me being not interested or not really wanting to talk, but I do! I just don't know what to say. Anyway, you shouldn't worry about being too thin. Someone out here thinks you're perfect the way you are. I'd love to see the tatoos on your calves!

Princess Sparkle Pony said...

Wow, talk about intriguing!

Anonymous coworker (!!): one of my points in this post is that I am, now, totally comfortable with my thinness; it's just that other people dote on it.

*goes back to wondering who this person could be*

Anonymous said...

I would do wonderful things to/ with you, Mr. Lithe and Lissome.