What Happens When You Call A Girl 'Fat'
In FRIENDS, there was this one time when a very serious Ross Geller gave Chandler Bing a piece a advice: "If she asks you whether she is looking fat, always say no".
As Ross gave his advice, the live sit-com audience watching the episode laughed in the background. I’m sure when you watched it, you must’ve chuckled a few times too. And isn’t that a common, snort-worthy code of conduct among men? When they go like, "Dude, never tell your woman she’s looking fat, she’ll rain hell on you!".
Like thousands of other jokes on women, this, too, isn’t actually funny. This fairy tale joke has a Grimm’s tale side men — and some women — should, but ironically don’t, know about.
Let me tell you what happens when you keep telling a woman that she is fat.
But hold on. You must be thinking, “What is wrong with that? She is gaining weight. Can’t we have the kind of relationship where one person can be honest to the other without offending them?”
True, boo. Your argument is flawless. I’ll get to that too, don’t worry.
Okay, let’s say we are talking about a young girl, or whatever age suits your imagination (because funnily enough, the expectation from women to stay thin is stuck on them throughout their lives).
THE AUNTIES TELL US
Girl X has relatives. In recent years, her aunties have become more and more keen about the pounds she has been gainned. And every chance they got, they reminded her that. No, not to tell her that obesity is a dark future, or to discuss if she felt that food was her only friend. The aunties poke at her paunch only to remind her that no man will marry her if she doesn’t lose weight.
Lose weight. Oh, the two words that bob around almost every woman’s head almost her entire life.
Again, funny thing: We don’t do it in free will.
THE MAGAZINES TELL US
You see, while boys were introduced to a world of sports and half naked women in magazines while growing up, most of the magazine Girl X laid her hands on told her the two ‘magical words’: LOSE WEIGHT.
Lose weight in 10 days…Lose weight with this super easy diet…Keto diet…Juice fast…Diet to become Size 0…Diet to lose pregnancy weight…Diet to get flat stomach…
Honestly, if so many articles came out to encourage girls to study, we’d have a better world.
THE HEROINES TELL US
So, yeah, since her teenage years, along with enlightening her with tips on how to be ‘fair’, Girl X was told how to be thin.
Why? Because all pretty girls are thin, silly.
From Kareena Kapoor to Jennifer Aniston to Jennifer Lopez to Jennifer Lawrence. Glossy images of tight-tummied actors screamed at Girl X’s 14-year-old, pimpled self: If you are not thin, you are not pretty.
Even today, when she is pushing 30, Shraddha Kapoor comes up on her screen – when all she wants to do is watch a YouTube video in peace – and tells her to lose that belly fat instead of hiding it. Because, yeah, drinking this magical tea is what got her that figure...just like if you wish with your sachcha dil hard enough, the whole Kayanath will come together to get you Justin Trudeau. Easy-peesy, mac-n-cheesy!
THE CLOTHES TELL US
Girl X used to fit into 28-inch waist jeans when she was in college. Now, the 32-inch ones need extra tugs to slide up her ass. Every time she walks up the store helper to try on a different size jeans, she gives a look. The same look you give her, the one that says, “Duh, didn’t you know you were fatter than this?”
Oh, yes, baby, she knew! She was just hoping against hope that she had shrunk, because as educated and feminist as she is, a part of her brain believes like an idiot that if she is not skinny, she is not hot.
She knows better than you about her weight. Her old skirts bite into her hip these days, and she has to tuck her saree extra carefully around her waist. The shirts won’t button up, the shorts are extra snug. And the bras. The bras are extra pain.
Her clothes scream insults at her every time the love handles show, every time her paunch pops. And every time Girl X has to buy clothes of a larger size, she is humiliated in her own eyes.
That’s when she hits the internet for LOSE WEIGHT tips, and chooses to starve. Because, hey, skinny is the age-old pretty, right?
FOOD TELLS US
Girl X touches a slice of pizza, an alarm goes off in her head. Fuck it, she thinks, and she chomps it down.
Later that night, she considers shoving a finger down her throat and throwing it up.
She follows a strict diet, she exercises. She watches as others eat the food she wants while she swallows down salad. Just a couple more pounds, she soothes herself.
The next time she stands on a scale and sees no change…it hits her like a smack across the face. Her own body is conspiring against her.
So she deprives herself a little more. Not starving, just “eating healthy”. Which is a good thing, undoubtedly. But when she chooses greens over meat and says no to the alcohol, won’t you be the first one to taunt her, honey?
Won’t you then say, “I like girls who eat like there’s no care in the world,”?
Believe me, sweetheart, we love cheese and chocolate more than any man we have ever wanted. But while you were being taught how to play cricket, we were learning how fat will leave us lonely and ugly for life.
THEN AUNTIES TELL US SOME MORE
Girl X’s aunties tell her they are worried. They WhatsApp her tips on how she could lose the weight, shake their head when they find her on the couch, or taking another helping of the kheer. At this rate, they tell her, she will die alone and fat.
Girl X could be having PCOD, or thyroid, an eating disorder, or any other condition that is gaining her her weight. But no, the aunties cannot wrap their brains around that! Their world spins around Girl X getting a husband, which she won’t get if her flab shows through her saree. Her health can go to hell…as long as, of course, she can bear children.
HEROINES TELL US SOME MORE
Gone are the days when Kareena Kapoor flaunted her Size 0 figure on our TV screens. We live in times when models pop up on our Instagram feed to tell us about thigh gaps.
Yeah, a gap between your thighs when you’re standing straight is a thing. That’s the “new level of skinny”.
But for Girl X, as she snorts at these ridiculous fads and scrolls down, an itch starts in her head. Her thighs chafe against each other like rubber.
And then, Gigi Hadid or someone pops up again to tell her the new level of skinny: the prominence with which your collarbone shows is suppose to decide how hot you look.
Somewhere in Ethopia or Maharashtra, irony died a million deaths along with starving children.
OUR MIRRORS TELL US
Some time while growing up, her chubby cheeks stop being just cute. Or the same people who teased her for being skinny now tease her for being “chunky” and “curvier”.
So, as stupid as it is, she stands in front of her mirror and senses regret. There are no injuries. She's not dying. She is healthy and illness-free.
Then why do a couple of pounds bother her so much?
Because the world won’t stop telling her.
IF YOU TOO KEEP TELLING US...
She stripped herself naked in front of you. That’s the most vulnerable a woman can get. And then you tell her, “You are fat”.
You say it as a joke, you have no malice in your heart. Or you’re just stating a fact because you believe in having an honest relationship. What is wrong with that, right?
Nothing, But here's the thing is, you see...
She has heard it a million times over. She hears it at least twice a day: from advertisements, 'concerned' relatives, even random strangers on Facebook commenting about how she should not wear such tight clothes because they don’t “suit” her.
If you tell that too, you join the party she cannot relax around anymore. You join the faces that will pop up in her head the next time she is about to take a bite of a cheese burger.
Ross Geller’s advice to Chandler was meant to keep him from angering his girlfriend. In fact, there have been ample funny scenes made around the line, “You think I am fat?”. We have laughed, and thought of the women in these scenes as conniving and shallow.
What we haven’t seen quite often are the scenes from real life where a girl is making herself vomit in secret, or when for the sixth day in a row, she hasn’t had a bite of a solid food. There haven’t been enough movies, TV shows or ads made on what goes inside a woman’s mind when a man tells her that she could be hotter if she was slimmer.
You see the animated temper tantrum; what you don’t see is that in her mind, she just lost a battle. Someone who saw her naked, around whom she chose to put her guard down, just reestablished her fears. When she chose to believe that brains matter more than what size clothes she wears, you pointed that she was hotter when she was skinnier.
You meant it as a joke. It hit her like a slap across her face. You see the fight and laugh? Imagine her humiliation.
“But hey, why are you asking us if you don’t want to hear it?”
That’s a very fair and valid argument. In fact, I will tell you about the time this one guy told me I was gaining weight.
He told me that with a straight face, “Shay, I'm concerned. A sudden spurt in weight gain could be a sigh of PCOD or thyroid...”.
It wasn't a taunt or joke, or a reminder of what I should be for men. There was genuine concern for my health somewhere in it, and more importantly, he said it only once, leaving me to do what I want of it.
It was one of the nicest things I have ever been told.
From the time we were 13-14, and from the time we wake up each day, women were/are poked about our weight. From ads to humans in person, people remind us that we are fat (or that we are too skinny), to watch what we eat, to try out new ways to lose weight. Because we that is what our world spins around...
We go to sleep thinking about Syria, about our country’s state, about what will happen to Eleven on Stranger Things 4. We want to imagine our futures, and plan what we will do the next day that will make us happy, or make us more money. But then, you crack the joke.
“Hey, remember when you used to be thin…?”