A waitress friend of mine recently snapped a pic of an overweight patron’s meal. Why? So she could text it to several of her friends. Sure her customer’s meal was appalling – One of every appetizer? Yes, please – but even more so was the realization that now, more than ever, eating is a spectator sport. People feel they not only have a right to see what other people are eating but also to pass judgment on it. Even though we don’t.
I blame the media for this. Or at least for beginning the trend with shows like the Biggest Loser that have cameras recording participants’ every bite and advertising that relies on monitoring a person’s food intake to sell their product a la Jared the Subway Guy. We won’t even talk about the media hoopla surrounding Marie Osmond, Kirstie Alley, and the grand dame of weight loss struggles, Oprah. Jessica Alba can’t take a bite of food without a telephoto lens documenting it.
I know all this because every weight blip is broadcast to an eager audience, one I am apparently a part of despite the fact that I have never seen even one episode of The Biggest Loser (culturally irrelevant, that’s me!) and the last time I ate in a Subway was Homecoming dance my junior year of high school when I got food poisoning from old ham and spent the rest of the night upchucking in the E.R. Remember when Jared TSG showed up looking a bit meatier and immediately the Examiner exclaimed, “We’re sure Jared will lose the extra weight in no time. After all, his career as a Subway spokesperson depends on it.” highlighting the fact that we have entered the era where losing weight is an official career choice. And a lucrative one.
But if eating has become a sport, not eating (i.e. dieting or “making lifestyle changes”) has become the national pastime. Instead of Ladies Who Lunch, we have ladies who pick at their lunches and talk about how they really should have ordered the salad. I’ve often wondered if my inability to have a conversation with a new acquaintance without talk turning to weight loss, exercise or food stems from what I do for a living or because everyone just talks about it that much. Both?
The weird twist, however, is that while we feel (too?) comfortable commenting on a stranger’s weight whether it be on TV or texting their menu choices to friends, many of us don’t dare broach the subject with our friends. Perhaps we are afraid of offending people or losing a friendship but my personal theory is that people are already keenly aware of what they weigh and whether or not that is healthy for them and therefore do not need me to tell them about it.
The other day I came home from the gym and noticed during my post-shower grooming ritual that mostly involves random tweezing and lotioning my brillo-bad kneecaps (they have actually ran my nylons – back in the days when I wore nylons. Which I don’t now, but I digress.) a realllly long, dark hair on my jawline. It was so bad I should have been getting better radio reception everywhere I went. It was clearly visible and so embarrassing. My first thought was: why didn’t the Gym Buddies tell me I was rocking a chin-stache??
My chin hair gave me an A-Ha moment (paging Oprah!): I wish my weight weren’t an issue at all – that nobody would notice it one way or the other – but since that is not the case (not for me, not for anyone) I would rather my friends talk to me about it than a stranger.
Which would you prefer – strangers commenting on your weight or a good friend? (Sadly, “nobody” is not an option.) Do you feel comfortable commenting on a strangers weight? Would you talk to a friend about hers or his? Is anyone else’s worst nightmare having a waitress text pics of your cheat meal to all her friends???