DEAR ABBY: How do you respond to an overweight person who says she's fat? Or a short person who says she's short? Or to anyone else who points out a true physical flaw that goes against today's ridiculous standard of beauty? I am in a sorority and this happens all the time.Abby's advice to her was to find some other praiseworthy physical qualities in these girls:
Please don't tell me to say that their personalities are beautiful -- even if it's true -- because what these girls want to hear is that they are physically beautiful. -- THE UGLY TRUTH FAIRY
The girl with the weight problem may have beautiful skin or a fabulous head of hair. And the short girl may have such beautiful posture that people regard her as graceful. Get it?This earned some snorts and eye-rolls from us but as you will see, our own advice is much, much worse.
Lulu: The classic problem of the self-put-down-er. It's a tight spot, because you can't agree, but you also can't contradict them, because it's not true and they won't believe you. But it would feel so false to me if I was like "I'm fat" and someone were like "But you have a fabulous head of hair!"
Ashley: Yeah, there's no way I could say that. And it just encourages that behavior--putting yourself down to fish for compliments. That's bad! Don't train that! I understand why she says that, but I don't think it's helpful in the long-term, not if you don't want to keep that up forever and ever.
Lulu: I wouldn't either, but of course, my instinct, to say, "Yeah," or "We all have our cross to bear," or "Anyway how bout them Knicks" can make people be mad at me.
Ashley: My response is to look as if they've interrupted something important, and be like, "okaaaay?" But again, then they stop talking to me forever. Which, if they want to talk about how fat or short they are, I'm okay with.
Lulu: I guess this girl needs to get along with her sorority sisters.
Ashley: True. I guess she could offer simple solutions that they must have considered already? "I'm fat." "Try a diet." "I'm short." "Wear heels."
Lulu: That feels like agreeing to me.
Ashley: No, no, it's not making a judgment. It's just acknowledging their perception, and offering solutions. Like I sometimes do with you. "I'm hungry." "Have a cookie." "Oooh."
Lulu: I don't really think straight when I'm hungry.
Ashley: That is part of the truth. I mean, really, you can just be like, "It doesn't matter" because it doesn't. Who cares if you're short?
Lulu: Another tactic is to contradict by making unnecessarily effusive compliments. "You're not too fat! I think you're beautiful. I wouldn't kick you out of bed."
Ashley: Brilliant. How about "I wouldn't kick you out of bed" as an answer to every comment?
Lulu: I am not sure this will help her get along with her sorority. On the other hand, Sappho was Greek.
Ashley: Make them uncomfortable to talk about their body around you!
Lulu: She might have to have sex with some women. But that is just the price you pay when you listen to our advice, and I am okay with that.
Ashley: She can do it in a jokey way. It's still impossible to respond. What can they say?
Lulu: I think context is important, too. She could be oversensitive on what she is counting as fishing for compliments. It's annoying when someone just complains, "I'm fat!", and I kind of feel like if they're doing that it's okay to be mean. But I can see also see the letter-writer getting uncomfortable if they're saying it in reference to something else, like an explanation: "Oh, no, I'll stay over here, I'm too fat to pose in the wet t-shirt contest." In that case, I would be annoyed if someone used an obvious counter-fishing tactic, because I wasn't fishing; I was just trying to communicate.
Ashley: That makes it easier, though. Just take what they say at face value, and address the actual situation. "Of course, no one HAS to do the wet t-shirt contest."
Lulu: Right. It doesn't matter what the reason is.
Ashley: I wouldn't do one cause my boobs aren't big enough, for instance.
Lulu: I choose not to comment.
Ashley: Say, "I wouldn't kick you out of bed." SAY IT!