Two weeks ago the wife and I went for a nice long walk around our neighborhood. The changing leaves, slightly cooler air, and the decorations up on the homes made it a nice venture. We walked to different neighborhoods than we typically do (ended up walking over eight miles) and it was nice to learn more about the area that we live. As we were on our way back home we were walking on the sidewalk next to a slightly busier street. As we turned to get off the road and head our way back to our house a young high pitched voice rang out of a vehicle from behind us:
“Put a Shirt on!”
I turned around and started to walk back to the source of the voice. I see a car now stuck at the stop light and a woman in the driver’s seat looking nervous at me and then down at her lap. I keep walking my way back to car as it is stopped at the light and she waves for me to essentially go away. I keep walking up and smile and wave back and at this point she opens the window and at this point I notice that it was actually her young daughter (probably middle school age) that shouted at me and is trying to hide in her mother’s lap. At this point I laugh a little and the mom says:
“I’ll handle it, she knows what she did was wrong.”
“It’s ok, just tell her body shaming isn’t cool.” Is all I replied calmly.
I laugh for a moment and see the look of terror in the child’s eye (maybe it was shame). When the light changes the SUV drives away quickly. I laugh some more and my wife is annoyed that girl would yell something like that, and asked me what happened. We talked it over for the next few minutes while walking.
Let’s be honest here, I’m in my thirties, I’m pretty pasty, and I’m definitely not spring break ready. However, it did get warm on the walk, I like getting some natural vitamin D, and feeling the wind blow through my back hair (or as I call it my mane) is a thrilling sensation that is hard to put in to words. She’s entitled to her opinion, but I do wonder what her motivations were. Does she come from a jacked and tan family that any sight of pale skin with some adipose is a revolting thing to behold? Is there an unspoken (or spoken) rule in her family that people in this family wear shirts and we never have our torsos exposed? Is she a proto typical mean girl that enjoys making fun of other people? I don’t know. All I know is the end sum is that maybe she learned something at best, at worst she just spewed some negative energy out in to the universe and got me to write a post about it.
Thankfully my self esteem is not wrapped up in the opinion of prepubescent girls opinion of me and my body. However, this did make me think about this type of interaction happening to someone who isn’t sure of themselves. Who maybe after years of creeping obesity has now decided to get outside and get after it and what are they approached with? Some person yelling something derogatory at them. Now, let’s not kid ourselves and think that everyone is brittle and even the smallest negative comment might cause them to break down and stop trying, but I have encountered people working on their own health and fitness journey that something so small might have derailed it. I know that part of me training and getting in better shape was helped by positive comments from my friends and family. Sure that was a long time ago, but I still remember those nice words. To this day when I’m training and I’m tired when I see someone who is overweight and working hard it inspires me to finish my workout, to get in that final set. Because, hard work is always going to be hard work, and I should never forget that you always have to put in the work if you want to stay where you are it, much less move forward.
At the end of the day, we can help encourage those people that are trying and at the beginning of their journey. Let’s not yell stupid stuff from our cars, or deride them in gyms, but try and lift them up. I guess this brings me back to the whole “what would Alvin do” mentality. We can make this place better, and all it takes is each of us to say something nice to one another. So keep on keeping on and try to help inspire those around you to keep up the good work.