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MATRONIZED

From Chris Wayan's 1996/5/25 journal


At the San Francisco Farmer's Market, I spot an acquaintance in the crowd. Have an urge to hide, avoid Tamora--unsure why. Finally grow curious and decide to test the intuition. I walk over.

She says "You've lost weight! You're too thin!" Tamora is older than me and twice my weight.

"I haven't lost weight."

"You need to eat more fat!"

"I already eat a high-fat diet."

"You have to eat peanut butter."

"I'm allergic to it."

"Well, tahini then."

"That too."

"Eat more ice cream. And avocadoes, no one's allergic to avocadoes!"

"I am."

She keeps listing foods I react to--and do like, and miss, and just can't have. Thanks for reminding me, Tamora! At last she gives up ordering me to eat, and leaves.

I don't know what that was about, but it felt creepy, not just absurd and pushy. It may sound odd to you, but I can't quite put my finger on WHY it should eat at me...

I'm bewildered, but in a way PLEASED I'm upset! My intuition was right.

Suddenly, I reverse our genders and body types mentally, and replay the whole scene:

Tom, a bony old man, so skinny he looks anorexic, publicly tells Chris, a young woman, "You've gained weight! You're so fat now! You can't have any of your favorite foods--no more ice cream or avocados or peanut butter for you!"

Instantly visible as rude, yes? But a fat old woman publicly nagging a skinny young man to eat isn't--at least I'm blind to it. Trained by my feminist mom to assume women have social smarts and it's only men who can be patronizing jerks. But as soon as I invert it all, it's obvious why it's offensive: she said I'm ugly and sick and incompetent even to feed myself.

Funny that the word used for advice that condescends and belittles is usually "patronizing," which literally means "acting fatherly." I suppose some fathers, somewhere, nag about food the way I've just been nagged...

But I think I just got... matronized.



LISTS AND LINKS: urge and impulse - anorexia - body image - gender - self-defense - Red Diaper Babies: radical guilt - tales of the waking world

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