Tonight (with the caveat that I am playing with the post scheduler, so the “tonight” that I’m writing is not the same as the “tonight” when people are reading) I attended a class at my yoga studio for the first time in months. It was awesome, my groins are stretched, and my butt will be sore tomorrow.
It also meant that I’d never before seen the person on the mat next to me. We smiled and said hi though we didn’t make much contact (eye or verbal) except to check that we weren’t going to impinge on one another’s physical space. But after class, as we were rolling up our mats, she told me, “For a bigger person, you have a beautiful practice.”
Which left me in sort of an awkward position.
On one hand, I interpreted her statement as intending to be genuine and complimentary, not backhanded at all. So my standby line of, “Um, I’m not sure if you noticed, but you actually just said that out loud,” seemed like it would be too harsh.
On the other, the qualifier “for a bigger person” bothered me a lot; it implies that there’s a lower threshold of beauty that “bigger” people can attain. I was also troubled that someone could feel adding such a qualifier would be an innocuous thing to do. From my best reading of the situation, she honestly expected me to accept that size caveat as an understood truth.
Which I couldn’t do and which kept me from just smiling and saying, “Thanks.”
So I told her, “I’m not sure what you mean. Everyone’s practice is beautiful, regardless of size.” Which is a little bit playing naive, yes, but in the moment, I thought that was our mutual best way out.
But it sort of creeps me out: Not that someone would say something dismissive of fat people, but that they might be so accepting of their own biases that they don’t recognize said statement as belittling at all.