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BellaOnline Literary Review
Three Women by Christine Kesara Dennett

Non Fiction
Regarding Respect

Carole Davis

You have probably seen me before with my plate piled high, the heavy woman ahead of you in the buffet line getting seconds. What smarts is that you have also seen me years ago, in my tiny little cheer leading costume on television, down on the football field at a professional game. I have been in both places, and I can tell you the latter are far more appealing, but not just for the reasons one might think.

Certainly the physicality of the skinny me is a better sight for the eyes, but in appeal, it is not just the external that should be appreciated. After having been in both the overweight and underweight categories, life has spoken to me on each of these levels. In fact, I have visited the pretty and not-so-pretty levels, as well as the younger and older levels, as perhaps have many like me.

Sure, I would rather be the thin version of me, to look and feel better, but what I want most out of being thin, has little to do with looks or health. My desire is to be treated well by other people, regardless of my weight, age, looks, and so on. An individual’s value should not be based on their physical attributes alone.

How many times has the phrase “I bet she was pretty when she was young” or “she’s pretty for her age,” rolled off someone’s lips, when all that needed to be said was “she’s a pretty lady”? One might think that I am simply having trouble adapting to getting older, or no longer being the thin and attractive, professional cheerleader any more, though the real issue has much more depth for me personally.

In junior high, I was the shy, ordinary girl, with greasy hair much like Professor Snape from the Harry Potter series. Then, I felt patronized by the next-door neighbor. By high school, I had figured out the importance of image, and had worn makeup and highlighted my dark blond hair. I quickly learned how to make the best of my attributes, and developed into an attractive girl.

As a college freshman, my new roommate and I were waiting in a line to get our mailboxes. A girl we had never met, (I will call her Jane), stood with her own roommate somewhere behind us in line, surveying the situation. Jane considered my roommate somewhat unattractive in comparison to me, and said to her friend, “That will never work, the pretty girl and the ugly girl as roommates.”

What Jane did not know was that the so-called “pretty girl” would become her best friend and her own roommate the following semester. Indeed, the pretty and ugly girls ended up getting along well, ultimately changing Jane’s notion that all cute girls are snobs and unworthy of the effort to become their friends. Of course, I did not know Jane’s early assessment of me until after we knew each other, but it has been 30 years, and we are still friends.

In recent years, my added weight has made a noticeable difference in the way people behave toward me. Claims I have heard overweight people make over the years have been validated in my mind. I feel trapped in a fat body. Those that have never known me as thin, treat me differently than people I knew before I gained weight.

Pretty people can be nice, blond-haired people can be smart, and overweight people can be some of the best folks any of us will ever meet. People should not have to be geniuses or beauty queens to be considered worthwhile, any more than they should have to “dummy down” their looks or intelligence to befriend others. It is too bad our society does not look past the peeling of the apple, to see how sweet the inside really is.

Age should have nothing to do with how one is treated. Too many people think those older or younger than themselves have no sense. Whereas an older person may no longer be in touch with his or her “inner child” nor may have the time, energy, or desire to try. On the other hand, a younger person has not had the life experiences of an older person and his or her actions show their age.

As a child, I remember being skipped over by a cashier at a quick store, who waited on the adult behind me in line. I thought, “Am I invisible?” A few years ago, my 12-year-old son was ignored by employees of an ice cream store, while helping all of the adults that came in after he did. From both my childhood point of view, and later from my adult point of view, I wonder why age had to have anything to do with treating someone courteously.

Our bodies are only part of who we are. Pretty vs. ugly, thin vs. fat, and older vs. younger are just a few of the biases that should be eliminated. I’ve run the gamut from ugly to pretty and back again, from thin to fat (and working my way back down), from young to old, and probably from being seen as having average intelligence, to being considered a dumb blond. I’ve chosen to stay a variation of blond over the years, because I like the color; luckily, the dumb blond mentality some people have, seems to die down after a blond reaches forty something.

Some of us wish for beauty. Others wish for youth. All I really want is to be known for my actions, my inner being, my real self. I just wish for people to treat each other respectfully, despite appearance.

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