Last night, I went out to dinner and a show with an old friend. The tickets were a birthday gift (from her to me, the tickets went on sale right around my birthday, a couple months ago) and the show was awesome.
Dinner beforehand was a little bit challenging. My friend was so negative, so down on everything and everyone – and mostly, about people’s bodies and style. She’s always been a self-described “bitchy queen,” this friend, and passing judgment has been something of a hobby for the two of us, so I had some trouble figuring out what my beef with her negativity was.
Then I read this article in the Wall Street Journal (on a tip from The Product Fiend at Elastic Waist), and it gave me a name for what she was doing: bodysnarking. Picking apart people’s clothes, hair, style, appearance.
And the thing is? I just can’t abide it, anymore. I don’t think that our bodies (or what we put on them, or how we dress them) are fair game for comment. But I don’t know how to address this with my friend, other than to make half-hearted positive comments whenever she says something negative. (We drove past a car with a bunch of lefty bumper stickers, including one that said “Where have all the hippies gone?” She made a snarky comment about the length of the driver’s very long hair. I said that I wished my hair was that shiny. She said “Yeah, but she didn’t use any product.” I thought “Umm, me either, I guess my hair is ok ’cause it’s not very long.”)
It doesn’t seem fair to change the rules of our friendship, fourteen years in, but having reclaimed my feminism and made some baby steps into fat acceptance I don’t want to spend my time with someone who tears others down like she does. Oh, and I hate to admit it – because I know that folks are going to say that I should kick her to the curb, but in a friendship that’s lasted this long it’s just not that simple – but sometimes she does it to me, too. Last night, I excitedly showed her my new shoes, which I had mentioned to her the last time we were shopping together. She said “I approved those?” A few weeks ago I hosted a party, and rushing around in the last minutes before the rest of the guests arrived I ticked off a list of things I still had to do. Standing next to me in the kitchen, she looked me up and down and said “Ummm, change clothes?” (ok, I was covered in flour, I definitely needed to change, but it still pissed me off.)
So what do we do, when the change we’re trying to make in ourselves and in the world bumps up against the people we love?