La La How The Life Goes On

You’re Like School in July = No Class!

Posted on: July 14, 2011

One of the key qualities I want my girls to have is that combination of abilities we refer to as “social skills.” We grew up rather poor, as did my mom, but she always felt that appropriate social skills would take us far in life regardless of our origins. That you may not have on the best clothing, but if you can chat with anyone—up or down the socioeconomic scale from you—then you would do just fine. If you could find something worthwhile about every person you meet, regardless of his or her background, you would project a likeability that would carry you from success to success. She was right, of course. But this discipline required us to be polite to people we despised (“Politeness does not imply that the other person deserves it, but it does imply a lot about YOU”). It required us to pretend to like gifts we hated from a very young age (“If you’re going to be rude about this gift, why don’t I just take back all the other gifts too?”). It required us to think of something nice to say about someone—or to keep our cakeholes shut (“If you can’t say something nice…”). It required us to refrain from discussing another’s appearance, weight, religion or apparent illness without that person first bringing it up. (“Mummy, why does that lady have such fat ankles?” smack! to the head—with prejudice—and then an interminable lecture about the definition of “incredibly rude”).

All great lessons, all of which I endeavor to teach my girls; some of which I still remember to practice. What makes these lessons difficult, of course, is the terrible behavior of grown ups around my kids.

“Oh my god, she is so little!”
“Oh, the young one is much bigger. She’s going to be giant.”
“I love her hair! So much nicer than it used to be.”

Okay, adults. Here’s a refresher course for you, straight outta Grandma Jones’ Book of I-Will-Kick-Your-Rude-Ass-If-You-Embarrass-Me Discipline

A polite person does not refer to a person’s appearance in any way, beyond offering a compliment. Please note that a compliment involves a single sentence stating that the person “looks great” or “has a beautiful smile” or whatnot. Please understand that the moment you add any additional commentary referring to any improvement you perceive, your feelings about the improvement, your thoughts on why the improvement/complimented quality is important/different/ better—you have just crossed the line into delivering an ASSESSMENT. Everyone loves compliments. NO ONE loves assessments—or the people who deliver them. Don’t assess my kids, and I’ll make sure they don’t assess you–or your fat ankles.

In addition, whatever the practice may have been in 1930 or 1940 or even 1977, in today’s world we do not talk to young girls about their size. I mean, you can if you want to. But you’d better save up your money because please believe I will be sending you the therapy and hospital bills when I have an anorexic or bulimic on my hands. I’m really very serious, my friends. If you want to fuck a girl up, you just go ahead and discuss her body size as if you’re discussing the weather. The overt and covert messages being delivered to young girls today about what is a worthy size to be is beyond what you can even begin to imagine. In our house we do not discuss body size or shape at all, except to say that we are all the precise body type that God created us to be. If Mama were any taller I’d look silly because I was born to be petite. If a tall person were to be shorter, they would look funny because they were born to be tall. We all look exactly the way we are supposed to look. End of story. Our skin color, our hair, our feet, our arms, our faces, our legs—all are exactly as God designed them for us through our birth parents. If anyone tries to tell you that you should look different than you do, they are “dumb” because you can’t and shouldn’t change who you are.

And yet the “compliments” continue. Oh, she’s so cute and petite! Thanks. And her little sister—who is bigger but NOT DEAF—just heard you fawn over her older sister for being what you consider to be an “okay” size. You think you delivered a compliment. But what you did was deliver your ASSESSMENT of my child’s build—with a side of body dysmorphia. And I am displaying excellent manners by not punching you in your fat stupid face.

Likewise, the older “petite” sister gets irritated when people just have to stop and say “how big and tall she is! She’s going to catch up to her older sister in NO TIME!” And now you have offered your ASSESSMENT of my younger daughter’s size. She may be clueless to it now, but it won’t be long until she hears the word “fat” where you said “big and tall.” She will begin to compare herself to her older sister, in the tradition of impolite adults around her, and I fear she will internalize some sense of obesity even though she is and has never been remotely overweight.

I could go on about the stuff said to me regarding my hair, my weight, my face, whatever. But I’ll just put it like this: Good manners are pretty damn simple, folks. Say something nice: “You look fabulous!” And then STOP TALKING. Thank you!


3 Responses to "You’re Like School in July = No Class!"

Amen Sister Jones… I wholeheartedly agree! And you look fabulous 🙂

Children, like religion and politics, are a universal Axis of Asshattitude, causing people to act like twits.

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