The world of social media has been rife this week with criticism of Abercrombie CEO Mark Jeffries and his brash, controversial business plan to market only to the “beautiful people” — those who are thin and “cool” & good-looking. At first, I thought, “how awful” and I completely agree that he’s a little off his rocker when he has quirks like this and himself could be described as less than attractive. Might want to sweep off your own front porch there, double-bagger. But then I got to thinking……..WHY is it socially unacceptable to exclude overweight people and not question how they got that way or why they got that way, yet completely acceptable to consistently demean and make blind assumptions about people, teens included, who are naturally thin? Overweight people have every excuse in the book: She’s big-boned, her mother was built like that–it’s GENETIC, it’s a thyroid issue, she has a disability & can’t be active, she’s impoverished and uneducated and doesn’t know how to eat healthy, she has a sedentary job, NEED I GO ON?
Yet the underweight set? They get: Well, she has to have an eating disorder. She has poor self-image, she starves herself, bless her heart she must not eat, she’s DYING to be thin, I wonder if she’s anorexic or bulimic or BOTH, she’s EMO, do you think her parents are in denial? Seriously. You have to see the double-standard in this.
I’m going to go out on a limb and tell you that had it not been for Abercrombie in the middle school years of my daughter’s life, she might well have run around naked. Abercrombie was literally the only place that carried jeans small enough, yet long enough for her tiny frame. Slim, long, XS, and even God forbid XXS (you’re cringing, admit it)! There is a tiny part of me that is thankful that this asshole had his obnoxious business philosophy to aid my cool, beautiful daughter. The loud music and horrid scents, I could have done without.
You might guess that I take this issue rather personally and you’d be right. I’ve spent a good part of my child’s high school years defending the fact that she is “off-the-charts-skinny”. I spent many years of my own life doing the same in reference to my own ultra-skinny frame. In fact, right up until I gave birth to the very child I ended up defending. I remember being at Chuck’s family Christmas dinner three months into my first pregnancy. I weighed 118 at the start of my pregnancy. I was 25. At this point I was probably around 130 lbs & I had eaten a large Christmas dinner at my own family celebration. Not wanting to be rude, I took a few small helpings of what his family had to offer. His grandmother was the first to speak up and said, “Ain’t you gonna eat?” I said, with a wan smile, “I am eating – I just had a meal with my own family so I’m not super hungry but this all looks so good.” Always trying to please, that USED to be me. She said, hand to God, “You never eat. You’re gonna kill that baby.” I was young. I hadn’t had as many years of being demeaned as I have in me now so I looked to his aunt for support. She and her husband looked at me and said, “You’re too thin. We never see you eat. It’s not healthy.” (Please keep in mind, they never saw me eat because I lived in Colorado and they lived in Missouri.) I was crushed. I felt at that moment like I had never felt before in my life. I wanted to run, so I did. Right out the sliding glass doors on the back of the house, into my Ford Explorer and back to my own grandma’s home where there was no judgment. Just good food and acceptance of who I was and what I looked like. Another of Chuck’s aunts and my mother-in-law came over to my home apologizing and making excuses for what was just blatant, mean-spirited cruelty and uneducated judgment of someone who, in all honesty, his grandma & aunt barely knew and had NEVER attempted to get to know. It was, as Dr. Phil calls these little snippets of our life, a defining moment. I tell this story for a reason………..Can you IMAGINE if I had walked up to his family’s dinner table and said to his grandmother, “You’ve got a lot of food on your plate there, fat ass! If you keep eating like that you’ll have high blood pressure, heart disease, maybe even keel over from a stroke! Hell, I’m surprised you’re still with us.” And then she could look to Chuck for support and Chuck could say, “No, really! I bet you’re about to bust the scales. Better cut back or you’ll be diabetic! We see you stuff your face all the time!” No one would have made excuses for us and they would still be talking about how rude we were today.
There is no difference. I repeat, there is no difference.
As I said earlier in this post, I have spent 4 years defending my child’s weight. My child that I starved & had a birth weight of almost 7 1/2 pounds! Never mind the fact that she had a negative weight percentile from about 4 weeks of age. I joke that she would hold the record for longest-living, healthiest anorexic. At her school, it’s ok to question the skinny ones, pull them in to social workers’ offices for interviews and accuse the parents of being in denial. It’s ok to give little condescending looks to parents who have offered medical documentation from experts that their daughter is healthy. It’s ok to give a pissy, half-hearted, “I’m certainly glad you are staying on top of things” response when you report, with great relief, that your child doesn’t in fact have a life-threatening genetic disorder that makes her thin and could kill her and the medical experts have declared her “genetically thin”. I’m so glad you are still able to hold out hope that you might be right & we’re in denial. EIGHTEEN long years of denial, mind you.
What I want to know is this: Where is the LONG line of parents whose children attend this school and weigh three times what they should with bellies and breasts pouring out of their tight-knit shirts and pants? Where do they form a line to be interviewed and grilled and told, “We’re just trying to save your child’s life.”? I can assure you many of them are closer to heaven’s door than mine is. WHY is it not socially acceptable to question their parents and conclude that they have poor self-image and stuff their faces with junk food? WHY is that not politically correct but harassing my child, myself and the Abercrombie CEO is noble?
There is no difference.
I agree that Mr. Jeffries business philosophies are crass, elitist and far from admirable. He’s more than a little off the beam. I’ll give you that. But the fact that you are judging the consumers who frequent his brand & then patting yourselves on the back for being so right-minded is cause for concern in and of itself. We might better serve ourselves as a nation if we just minded our own business. Swept off our own doorsteps as I advised Mr. Jeffries to do. We must realize that judging each other & our children for being thin is as horribly off-base as calling someone fat and lazy. “Beanpole” is as demeaning as “fatso”. Both imply gross inadequacy. I know.
If you remember anything after reading this, let it be this:
There is no difference.