I was wrong

I was wrong.

I have been soundly, and rightly, spanked for my assertion in a recent post that "you look great" is anything more or less than it says. I was ungracious and feigned unearned virtue.

I could try to explain and excuse and contextualize, but I have caused offense and it is more important to apologize sincerely than comfort myself.

I am sincerely sorry.


  1. Were an apology necessary (and I'm not sure it was, in the current context), one as gracious and sincere as this could not but be roundly accepted.

    Since that post, I've been to two gatherings, and been thinking about the whole "YLG/(insert self-deprecation here)" thing. When exactly did it not only become IN to engage in self-hate, but become almost a requirement of (women's?) interactions? Well, I've had a bit of a time of it. I was in a group of 6 or 7 women, from 20s-60ish, standing around chatting. "I hate my this" "She's gotten so that" "I'm going on diet X" - no matter how many times I tried to steer the conversation away from this stuff, it just kept veering back, drawn by some weird conversational black hole.

    Perhaps I should have simply stated "This is making me uncomfortable, how 'bout those Olympics?" But it seemed like being so outnumbered, that might be rude.I finally excused myself, out of a combination of frustration, tedium, and sadness.

  2. If people were offended by your discomfort about a social greeting/intended nicetie, it says little more than exactly the point you were making in taking umbrage yourself with this kind of exchange. It's just another end of the spectrum.

    I don't see anything awkward, socially inept or inappropriate in talking about what people are doing vs. acknowledging an appearance-based comment. You're still responding to the person and their greeting of choice. There isn't a rule that says you have to reply with a "you look great, too!"

    I actually think it's more thoughtful to be more creative. And, actually, if you are at a gathering of people you *don't* know well (or a cocktail party/work party/opening/etc.), it *isn't* so acceptable to make small-talk based on a trait of physicality. It's too personal. That's why people talk about the weather and sports teams.

    Noticing that person's cast on their arm is probably going to evoke more conversation ... and it is a natural question for the circumstances. It isn't like the person had a permanent handicap that would be rude to remark.

    Besides, if your discomfort is socially-limiting because others are offended at your lack of reciprocity, then you incur the consequences ... i.e., people whisper that she's the weird ED-book/blog mom who's extreme about appearance comments.

    Who cares? I don't think you should. That's what health, wellness, being centered, balanced and having self-confidence is all about ... you're comfortable in your own skin, with your own values, ideas, relationships.

    You speak against convention all the time in your advocacy for families dealing with eating disorders ... I don't think you should bow to criticism.

  3. You know, I don't think there is anything wrong with occasionally letting others know why you have a hard time with standard "oh, you look greats" or "have you lost weight?" remarks. Most people would be empathetic when they know the history behind it.

  4. Anyway, I think we are ALL sensitized to things we never use to give a second thought about....it's just that most of the world doesn't understand very well and it's hard to explain without sounding overly sensitive (and a bit nutty) or long-winded if we try to explain. But WE here understand. And for sensitive people in the world, like our daughters (and sons), words sometimes do act as catalysts.

  5. I agree with anonymous -- living with ed or parenting a child with ed sensitizes us to these types of remarks and the power they can wield.

    When my daughter was in the depths of her ed, she participated in a regional spelling Bee. She lost in the first round (it is really hard to memorize lists of words when your brain is starving) and was devastated.

    My mother was at the Bee and her comment to my daughter (who was so hysterical that it took us about three hours to get her to stop sobbing)was, "well, at least you looked good up there." I almost fell over.

    I think we can take baby steps by not reflexively responding with "you do too!" Maybe a more honest type of interaction between people could result.


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