Monday, April 10, 2006

"Well, I'm An Asshole"

those would be my father's words.

he called me today, apologizing. which is almost worse (sorry, Dad) than his saying stupid shit in the first place. "stupid shit" i know how to handle. sincere apologies are a little trickier.

to the anons who've posted so much, so eloquently -- thank you. i am sure your words help us all (not just me). and Em (and Lisa and Hakuna), i love him, too.

and since i've gone this far, i wanted to share a few thoughts about how i perceived what my father said. for what it's worth.

there are people out there who do not find overweight people attractive. i tend to be one of them (though there are MANY differences, limits, and exceptions AND this is speaking from a strictly physical-attraction standpoint). now, do i hold this viewpoint because of how i was raised? of course. but it wasn't JUST because of my dad, or mom, or family, or friends, or TV, or the movies, or magazines, or...

so right. i (we?) know that my father does not, as a rule, find overweight women attractive. so, i know that he wonders -- not in any sort of mean-spirited way -- why/how people DO find overweight women attractive.

i also know, because my father is (albeit in his own, usually sarcastically loving way) incredibly supportive of me. he seems to think i can do anything. when i have made mistakes, he has seemed to hold himself responsible; when i achieve something good, he takes none of the credit.

my weight is the only thing i know he sees as less-than-perfect about me. and he has not (at least since reaching adulthood -- we've both come a long way) suggested i lose weight. his concern has merely shifted to wanting to understand those who have different views about weight than he. he certainly doesn't mean to cause offense.

i chose to include my dad's remark in my post because it is true -- i grew up in a household where fat was not the preferred body type. and i know that has impacted my self-perception, my issues. and i know you would be able to relate.


  1. my father does not, as a rule, find overweight women attractive. so, i know that he wonders -- not in any sort of mean-spirited way -- why/how people DO find overweight women attractive.

    I'm sure he didn't intend to be mean spirited. I guess he just didn't realize that asking how a man could possibly find someone your size attractive might hurt your feelings.

    Now that he knows, hopefully he will never say such a thing again.

  2. well, right. when we talked yesterday, he didn't remember having asked that and apologized.

  3. Ahh...parents. Oh well. My dad, who is the "larger" of my parents, never brought up my weight, and would often attempt to eat healthier himself, BUT would make comments about how my 102 lb mother looked like she had put on a mother who called me up when she was finally able to donate blood because she finally weighed enough...


  4. OH thank GOD! I thought I was nuts when I felt weird about my mother's sincere apology. I'm used to her barbs. I kinda' wince, sometimes, but usually I just roll my eyes and walk away.

    But the last time it happened, I was pretty stressed out, having a bad day, and maybe had a wee bit too much (OK, fine, a bottle too much) wine to drink. And I COMPLETELY lost my shit. "WTF? How does saying 'I think that sweater is too tight' differ from 'I think you're too FAT to wear that', in your mind? What makes you think you have any right to say something like that to me? Did I point out that your new haircut makes you look 10 years older than you are? OOOOPS, guess I JUST did! How do YOU like it? You know what mom, I don't need YOUR help feeling like shit about myself. I do a good job of that ALL BY MYSELF!"

    And then I left. Because it was out of my system, it was OK. Because this is how we do it, she crosses the line, after several toes over the line, I snap back, and then the air is clear and all is well...

    But THIS time, she called me the next day with a sincere, heartfelt apology. And frankly, it was more disconcerting than any shot she had ever taken.

  5. Let me share a little inappropriate dad behavior with you.
    When my father met my boyfriend, Dad asked when he was goinng to impregnate me. The next day while at the beach Dad whipped his dick out right in front of said boyfriend (and the rest of the world for that matter) and commenced peeing. Mortifying for anyone else, but this is what I grew up with. So share that story with your pops and I'm sure he will feel better.

  6. Could someone elaborate on why the apology part is harder?

    The one time I received a truly sincere apology from my dad, it made a HUGE difference to me. It somehow allowed me to let go of many years of hideousness from my childhood. I've been so grateful to him for that ever since. His apology was not about one comment, but about pretty much my entire childhood, so I guess that's different.

    Still, I'd like to understand why receiving an apology is more difficult for some people than the thing that led to it, if someone wouldn't mind explaining.

  7. Apologies are harder to deal with because they engage you emotionally. It's easy to distance yourself from an asshole-ish family member who is always cutting you down with snide remarks. But to actually get a sincere declaration of feeling, that draws you back in again to the same person who hurt you. How do you know they won't hurt you again, once they win you back?

  8. anon 12:05,

    Just from my personal experience (and not speaking for anyone else who's mentioned it), I think it's not necessarily harder, just uncomfortable. Because when you're used to your parents (in my case, my mom) constantly flinging little barbs at you, you develop defenses (not caring, tossing a few of your own, whatever) and protect yourself. For me, when my mom apologized to me, I didn't have any defenses for that. It made me uncomfortable because for once she took my feelings seriously... Like for once, I was an adult to her, not just a child who got upset about silly things. It's in the same category, for me at least, with realizing that your parents are getting older and their health is not a good as you imagined... It's the beginning of the process where your roles will eventually be reversed--where they stop taking care of you, and you start taking care of them.

    What about everyone else?

  9. Geez, could I have qualified that any more? Or used the phrase "for me" at least one more time? I should really proofread these things BEFORE I post them.

  10. well, for ME, the reason the apology was uncomfortable is because -- like Nikki said -- that's not our usual mode of communication. jokes and sarcasm, off-handed remarks, that's just how the Sammi (plural of Sammis, of course) do. and thankfully, my father ended our conversation with a sarcastic quip that made me feel much more comfortable.

    i just want to say that i believe my father and i have a good relationship and much of our mutual love and respect is unspoken but understood.

    the OTHER reason i didn't like the apology is because i don't like making my father feel bad. especially when i know that he made his comment so innocently. it's not his FAULT he feels as he does and i believe he even feels GUILTY for it.

    should he have been more sensitive? yes. my father is not maybe the poster boy for Sensitive To Women's Issues, but he has come a very long way over the years.

    As perhaps an aside, my point was really that the sentiment (overweight = unattractive to him) exists. I don't think that's an unreasonable, uncommon, or changeable perception. So given that I know my dad thinks this, I can't honestly be surprised when that sentiment comes to light every now and then.

  11. Are people who are overweight less deserving of love and understanding,respect? why? Are people who drink - more deserving of love, understanding? why? Are people who wear white after labor day less deserving of love and understanding? are people of religions, different skin color, greater/lesser income, different geographical regions,... what about people with different educational backgrounds? a parent who takes fear, anger, ego out on his kids/spouse had a parent who took fear anger ego out on him/her. and that parent had a parent who took same out on that parent. we all make mistakes. parents are lucky if they get to hear this stuff and adult children if they can say it, start healing. K, the universe has a great sense of humor and a great way of teaching us life lessons...fathers hating fat, yet being sandwiched (so to speak) with family who struggled with weight.. that's not an accident... your dad will probably go out today, see a heavier woman, look into her eyes and sincerely say hello to her. he might just like the twinkle she gives him and he might really change his perspective ...

    the confrontation that can lead to forgiveness that can lead to healing is uncomfortable. the more specific we can be (dad, i felt ___ when you ____ because____) & the apology that comes from it is so wonderful because you hear that they know you know they know you know they know. Kristy? Give up trying to be perfect and celebrate that you're not! no body is. not even our fathers (tho darn close to it!!)

  12. I was bothered by your father's offhand comment in the original post. My dad makes an art of the abrupt comment, but he's never disparaged my looks. Many years ago, I lost some weight and Dad said to my brother, "Did you notice how good your sister looks since she started rowing? She lost 20 pounds!" I was mortified and corrected him downwards.

    I've gained back that weight and then some, but when I saw Dad a few weeks ago he told me often how good I looked--in my nice outfit, in some pictures he took. It's good to know he thinks I'm beautiful no matter what.

    However, don't get me started on our conversations about babies. Dad suggested that I consider getting artifically inseminated because I'm of a certain age. Geez. That is really a conversation I DO NOT want to have with my father.

    The short version of this is: I respect your father for apologizing and I hope he's more thoughtful about what he says to you in the future.

    Our self-esteem is closely linked to the messages we get from our parents--perhaps, for girls, particularly from our fathers--so I'm grateful that my dad's acceptance of me and my looks is unconditional. I only wish more people knew what this felt like.

    My mom, well, she's not as good as Dad, but would never, ever call me fat.

    I don't like that you think it's ok for your dad to think you are unattractive because you are fat. It's NOT ok. You are attractive. Period. Maybe you would also like to lose some weight. It is possible to be pretty AND overweight. (And this leaves aside all your other wonderful personality related qualities that make you especially attractive--else why would so many folks be here reading what you have to say.)

    I do want to compliment you on your openess about all this. It is refreshing.

  13. lisa, i appreciate your thoughtful feedback.

    i just want to say, for clarification's sake (for you and others) that i am not angry with my dad. i believe i have a much more matter-of-fact, head-shaking attitude about it.

    and i don't think i'm trying to be perfect -- though i hear what you're saying. i just want to improve myself (in more ways than external) and as part of that process, i want to be thinner and in better shape.

  14. well, being in better physical shape will definately improve your internal self, that is true... the great news is youre a player the moment you say NO to a food choice that isn't in your plan for the day (3 squares, 2 snacks, 8 glasses of water. period.)

    i was once angry with my father. it was very difficult for me to admit that to him/anyone because he was such a strong force and i was afraid to upset him... but once i did own it and said what i had to say to him, it paved the way for a very honest and cherished relationship with him. I am thankful for this. i can know him as an adult. what do you mean exactly by matter of fact, head shaking?

  15. i just mean that i have had very long, very open, very frank conversations with my dad about all of this stuff. as i said, we have both come a long way.

    sometimes he will slip, and sometimes so will i. and so the matter-of-fact attitude is really just my way of saying, "sometimes, that's just how it is."

  16. Hurrah to your dad for apologizing. I think that proves he is as great as previously conjectured. Sure, he may have biases and such, but how easy would it have been for him to think that you were just being oversensitive?

    Yay him.

  17. I just have to point out how lucky everyone is to have a parent who can see the insensitive comments as something they should apologize for...

    I recall a thanksgiving dinner a couple of years ago when my parents showed up to have dinner with my friends and me... My mother related a story about a cousin of mine who is starting down a slippery path into drugs, jail time, stealing from his grandfather, and basically becoming a menace to society... she tells us that she was discussing the kid with his mother, and how she could have it so much =worse, "at least YOUR kid isn't gay."

    That's right, my mother just compared my homosexuality with drug addiction, theft, and other criminal activity. Not only did she compare them, she basically stated she would rather I were in jail and a deadbeat than live with my boyfriend of 4 years, and our lovely house and dog and cats and friends...

    To this day she has no understanding why that bothered me and my friends so much... my friend Maria actually burst into tears at the table over it! What's worse, she will never apologize, because she sees nothing wrong with that sentiment.

    Hug your dad and be thankful. (and yes, new people ARE reading your blog. :) )

  18. kristy, i can't tell if you are glad your dad apologized, or if you would rather he'd not said anything.

    i'm glad for you that he apologized because i think you deserved that. and i appreciate his willingness to hear criticism from anonymous people and reflect on it in a way that led to an apology rather than defensiveness. he could have dismissed those of us who posted about his comment because we don't know the whole story, don't know him, etc. but i think he demonstrated openness and his great love, respect, and concern for you by not doing that.

    but his one comment and the apology for it may not feel that significant to you in the grand scheme of your whole relationship with him. and it doesn't erase the possibility that even if he refrains from saying something like that next time, he will still be thinking it. so this isn't a movie where now everything is resolved.

    it sounds like you have a good head on your shoulders about him and the weight issue -- understanding where he is coming from, giving him credit for trying, and not letting it diminish the great parts of your relationship.

    but even if you kind of wish none of us had commented on his question to you, i am glad people did. even though it is great for you to be able to see your dad in such a circumspect way, i think it's also good sometimes to hear the perspective that says -- "nope, let's not consider the whole entire scope of your relationship. let's just look at that one moment because it mattered."

    in any case, i think you are pretty brave for confronting these issues where your family and friends can see them. if i had a blog, it would be entirely anonymous!

  19. ANON 12:05, I gave a lot of thought to why the sincere apology bothered me more than the callous comment, and I've come up with the following:

    1. My mother's sincere apology came only after I blew up, not because she felt she was out of line. So in other words, it's OK to hurt my feelings, as long as they're not really hurt.

    2. The apology came because I made her feel bad. I'm used to her making me feel bad, not the other way around. The role-reversal was uncomfortable.

    3. I had the distinct impression she was expecting one in return (which brings into question the sincerity of the apology, that is another story for another day) and I wasn't sorry. Nothing pisses me off more than lip-service "I'm sorrys."

    Hope that sheds some light on it for you.

  20. I completely understand being uncomfortable with the apology from your dad in part because you didn't want to make him feel bad. When you have a parent/friend/whatever who is wonderful and supportive so much of the time, it's so hard to tell them they hurt you and then have them apologize and feel bad. I know that when it happens to me, most of the time I end up apologizing for making them feel bad in the first place, no matter how justified I was in my anger and hurt. I love them, and I don't want to hurt them any more than they wanted to hurt me. Does that make sense to anyone else?

  21. I probably should post this in the original thread about this, but on the bus this morning I was thinking about this whole parent-weight-comment thing and I thought "What if one of our parents said to us "Oh does he like girls with big noses/moles/acne?""

    Would we be so forgiving?

    I mean, my point is, there's certain physical facts about ourselves, no matter how changeable they may seem (a nose job is just as much an option as lyposuction!) that for some reason we let society say are ok to comment on, while others aren't.

    One time I was being hit on by a semi-cute guy at a bar. My friend was friends with him. When he left to go to the washroom, I let her know I was interested and thought he might be too. She turned and said "Oh yeah, Chris likes fat girls."

    It changed the situation from being one where I felt noticed and special, to one where I felt embarrassed and ashamed of myself.

    My friend would have NEVER felt comfortable saying "Oh yeah, he likes girls with big noses", nor would she have liked if I had said it back. But for some reason, she thought she was being *encouraging* by telling me he preferred bigger girls.

    It's just another side of the same coin.

    Kristi's dad saying what he did would have been considered completely rude by 99% of the population if it had been a comment about some other physical feature besides her weight. "Oh, does he like girls with crooked teeth?"

    I'm not trying to make him feel bad (he clearly didn't know he was hurting her in any way and she's clarified her feelings on the issues and they are both ok with it), but I'm trying to draw attention to the fact if our closest family members feel it's ok to comment on something like our weight, what does that say about them and ourselves?

    Why is it something we let slide when we'd never let it occur about some other feature?

    I can't tell you how many times I've had to sit silent while someone makes a damaging comment towards me, without them realizing it, and how my hands have felt so tied because I know they don't mean any harm, but they are harming me by what they are saying. They are discounting my value as a person.

    There's such common misconceptions about fat people: that we are ok with our fat, and that by being fat we are ok with people openly judging us for being that way.

    Substitute the word fat with "black", "female", or "mentally challenged" and you'll see my point.

    Those are all taboos people don't openly comment on these days, yet we (overweight people) are supposed to be let comments about us slide because hey, we ARE fat, after all, aren't we? We *should* lose weight therefore these people are right about us.