My genetic susceptibility to liking bad TV has forced me to get sucked into yet another reality show, The City. 'Tis The Hills, transported to NY, a bit glossier and higher-fashion and less tan, but basically the exact same people and scripted pseudo-drama. If you watch it, you’ve likely noticed the crazy attention paid to Whitney Port’s legs in nearly every scene (admittedly, they are quite gazelle-like). Models strut catwalks, dresses run extremely short, and everyone is rail thin.
During Monday night’s episode, Willowy Whitney's pal, Allie, a model, is repeated asked by her former boss (who runs fashion company People’s Revolution) if she’s “okay,’ because she “seem[s] a little skinny.” Allie swears she is healthy and naturally thin and the questioning/accusations upset her. If you’re interested, or looking to kill some time at work and yesterday’s PETA ad is too likely to set off Inappropriate Email alarms at work, take a look at the City clip here.
"That's my life -- I'm used to it," Allie tells Whitney. "I'm a model, I'm supposed to be skinny."
So, this brings us to the age-old question: Is it appropriate to ask a skinny woman if she is “okay”? Good intentions or schadenfreude aside, what makes people think it’s acceptable? Does it matter if they REALLY care about the skinny person and are fearful she has an eating disorder? Because even if they do truly care, Skinny Girl may just naturally be thin. Or, sadly, she may be sick with something like cancer or Crohn’s Disease. On the other hand, she may have an ED but (and I speak partly from experience here), asking a woman with anorexia if she’s OK because she looks too thin is like being paid the ultimate compliment.
I’ve written about public weight commentary before - remember my girlfriend, R., who was out with her little girl when a grandpa-aged man approached the two of them and announced, completely unsolicited and pointing at R's daughter, "She needs to go on a DIET!"
Her daughter was, at the time, five months old.
I have been on both sides of such commentary, starting from when I was younger and constantly greeted with comments from my parents' friends of, "Oh, she's so big!" (I was tall). In grad school, I was on the thinner side, dolled up at a black-tie benefit and a doctor I worked with grabbed my waist and told me I needed to eat more. Both sucked.
I really don't understand what goes on in peoples' minds. Why is it considered acceptable by so many to comment on total strangers' weights? If you really, truly care about someone’s health, that’s a different story – you sit down and have a serious heart-to-heart, stating your concerns and encouraging them that you love them and will do whatever they need to get help. You don’t just toss off a comment at dinner between the first and second course.
What do you think? Does it really matter if Model Allie is too skinny? She IS a fashion model, after all, and her job requires a thin frame. If she’s eating and not subsisting on coffee and cigs, she could be naturally thin. Regardless, when is it (if ever) OK to ask a thin person if they’re “OK”?
PS Feeling proactive? Visit the Healthy Model Coalition - they’re launching a letter-writing campaign to introduce legislation that would require models for adult clothing to be at least 16 years old and have a minimum BMI of 18.5, the World Health Organization's standard for a minimum healthy adult's BMI.
PPS The following message is brought to you by the Emergency Public Sexercise Broadcasting System:
My NeverSayDiet editors are looking for some adventurous readers based in NYC who a) want to be on TV b) have a partner with whom they feel comfortable doing something called “sexercise” and c) are up to combining the two. It’s a super fun-sounding press event at New York Health and Racquet Club, led by NSD virtual coach Amy Bento, who will take you through a series of exercises designed to get you in shape with your partner as part of our "Help Him Help You" initiative. The class is at 11 am on Feb. 11 at the 23rd & 6th branch of NYHRC. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info. To whet your appetite, here are two sample move you could try out:
Cheek to Cheek Bends - Couples will stand back to back and take turns bending forward and back supporting the other partner's stretch. When they return to the neutral position they will bring their arms over head for pause and blood flow to return to normal down the back. The reps will alternate between partners.
Tantric Hamstring Stretch - You will assume a missionary-like position on the floor. The partner lying on the floor will be stretched by the kneeling partner. One hamstring at a time will be stretched as the kneeling partner will be between the lying partners legs pressing their body weight forward for max stretch.
Allow me to say, I would SO do this if I lived in NY. Need proof I’m not just talking the talk? Read this Women's Health article I wrote a while back. Sorry, Mom.