Jenny Block asks a favor
I need to ask you a favor. I’m asking for me, but I feel confident that a lot of other people are feeling this way too. Not just now, but in the COVID-free life of the future: Please, let me have my own feelings.
On Mother’s Day, I woke up to posts and articles about how I needed to be careful about celebrating so as to not upset people who don’t have kids, or who don’t have moms, or who have strained relationships with their female parent.
Listen, I get it. My wife lost her mom way too early; to be honest, every holiday is hard for her. But she would never, ever ask someone else to bottle up their joy to somehow protect her from their “devastating” happiness. On Mother’s Day, she showered me in gifts and a beautiful card, because my joy doesn’t cancel out or belittle her sadness.
Last week, I saw a gorgeous photo of Adele looking absolutely stunning. She was beaming, and people were sending her messages of congratulations and honoring her hard work in getting fit, saying how jealous and impressed they were by her trimness and how happy she looks.
And then there were the posts and articles about how awful it is to celebrate her weight loss, because that makes people who are not thin feel bad. If we’re going to be body-positive, that means celebrating all bodies … including Adele’s new, fabulously thin one.
It doesn’t make her a better human, just like not being thin doesn’t make someone wicked.
But it is unfair, unrealistic and, frankly, immature not to celebrate someone’s happy accomplishment because it might upset some non-specific “other” who either hasn’t or doesn’t want to do the same.
I support healthy at any size. Everyone should be represented. It’s not acceptable to make assumptions about people based on their weight. But all of that has to go in both directions.
Celebrating someone who’s not thin should not make someone thin feel badly and vice versa.
I fear we’ve gone over the deep end with all things PC. It’s OK to say “My mom is great,” even if for someone else that might not be true. It’s OK to say, “I’m unhappy at a certain size,” even if for someone else that might not be true. It’s OK to say, “This is good for me,” when it might be awful for someone else. I am allowed my feelings, whether you approve of them or not.
Nobody has a right to be protected from the world. What everyone has a right to is kindness and respect. Barring that, we are on our own. If you find someone’s celebration upsetting, by all means, don’t read it or look at it. If Mother’s Day or Christmas or any other specific day is triggering, that might be a good day to steer clear of social media.
No one can be expected to hide their light under a barrel because it reminds another of darkness. Why not share in their joy? Why not say, “I don’t have kids, and I love seeing how happy you are.” “I am healthy and happy at this weight, and I love seeing you healthy and happy at yours.”
What’s next? Time to get rid of birthday parties because not everyone gets one? Time to get rid of the Grammys and the Emmys and the Nobel Prizes because recognizing skill makes people who are lousy singers, lousy actors and second-rate geniuses feel bad? What are we, a nursery school class?
Women are allowed to say that men suffer from toxic masculinity. Black people are allowed to say that white people (or the cops) are racist. Jewish people are allowed to say that anti-Semitism is publicly rearing its ugly head because of our president … once again. Those things can and are true, even though not all men are rapists, not all whites are racists, and not all non-Jews are anti-Semites.
Just because the feeling or the fact or the issue or the instance or the experience or whatever is not universal does not mean that it is not true. Someone being thin and being happy about it is not a commentary about your weight. Like my dad always says, “It’s not always about you. In fact, it’s never about you.”
That’s the thing. We take everything so personally, and it has to stop, or we’re all going to go mad. I have my feelings, you have yours, and neither gets to police how the other feels. You don’t have the right to force me to protect you from my feelings. That’s your gig.
We know what’s right. We know what’s kind and unkind to say. Adele didn’t write, “Suck it, fat bitches.” She said, “Thank you for the birthday love,” and then she thanked our first responders and essential workers.
Kindness begets kindness. If you feel like you’re not being celebrated, instead of saying, “Look at me. Look at me. My stuff is tougher than your stuff,” or “Don’t celebrate you. If you are able to be celebrated that that must mean I can’t.” That simply does not follow. Try instead to say, “Good for you!” or “That must be hard” or “You did it!” and see what happens. I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
So, do me a favor, will you? In fact, do all of us a favor… including yourself. Keep out of my emotions. Don’t insert yourself. My joy is not about causing you pain, so don’t turn it around on me. Instead, let’s make a pact to celebrate one another in our own joys and choices, and let’s support one another in our own failings and losses.
This isn’t about you or me. It’s about us.
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