My preface…She has a beautiful, whimsical heart full of love and playfulness. Her patience as we pursue understanding with one another surpasses mine. Inclusivity. She is a telephone call or a short walk away. She is one of my closest local friends. I love her.
Laughing as we weight for the sun to come out so we can go swimming together!
The joke started out innocently enough. I assure you this is based on a very real and lovely person. I want to protect her here so Alicia is the name I will use for her in this story.
A few months prior when the sunlight didn’t linger but quickly pitched the day into darkness was when it began. Alicia was visiting and our chat ran long. The temperature had cooled off and I swaddled my sweet friend in my old red zip up hoodie. A favorite—broken in and big with room for layers of clothing. The next day as we were walking to church Alicia said something that surprised me.
You are fat. Not now, but before.
I didn’t understand why my FRIEND was calling me fat; this wasn’t seeming very kind to me. Then I realized that she thought I had once filled out the size of the sweatshirt she had borrowed! I told her in broken language that no! The old red sweatshirt was big so that I could wear many layers thus being quite warm. Glad to have settled matters.
We laughed at the misunderstanding.
Later this vein of joking became a common one. Me being fat before and now not. Or if I eat a lot I will be fat. My hair was like an ugly duck before but now it is beautiful. Fat. Fat. Fat. Ugly. Ugly. Ugly. I tire of these conversations centered around what the body looks like and rating it based on its appearance!
Talking about weight in this culture is matter-of-fact. Similar to saying the temperature is 75 degrees today. The emotional charge that encompasses weight in Western culture isn’t present here.
Today I reacted to this joke in a different way. I tried saying, “enough,” before, but this didn’t stop the bantering. Not laughing only made the explanation of this “hilarious” joke go on much longer. After a wonderful and long day at the sea with Alicia and her friends we were riding the bus home. I was absently playing with my hair. Tired. Then Alicia began talking about how ugly my hair was before and then talked about it being nice now. I finally said, “shame!” and “enough”. I felt an emotional wall go up between us after my reaction.
I’m the first one to admit to you that I am a sensitive person. I am. If I could turn back the clock? I would have made more of an effort to communicate with her about her words instead of reacting to her.
And, my weight has always been something that I have struggled finding peace with.
If I am honest? I haven’t been doing Alicia any favors by going along with her jokes. Just laughing along seemed easier! However, I was giving her false information to go by. She didn’t know about my background or my culture or how I am feeling because I hadn’t shared that with her.
I know Alicia’s heart is not to hurt me. The question becomes how do I communicate that her “jokes” are hurtful to me without hurting to her? Learning more about the languages of other cultures and the languages of the heart. And? Not taking myself so seriously. Fight for communication in your relationships! Especially those very special ones—don’t let division rob you of the gift they are in your life. Love always wins.

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