I was well in my thirties when it happened. ‘Oh my, look at you, you’ve lost a lot,’ she gushed. Inside, I bloomed like a Bougainvillea but pretended as if it wasn’t a big deal, ‘Thank you, but the weighing scale says otherwise.’ The inner joy however was short-lived. When the same lady greeted every second woman with ‘Hi, you’ve lost weight,’ I realized that the weighty compliment was her way of saying, ‘Hello, how are you.’ It meant nothing. Zilch.
While I understand that flattery is an imperative social tool, the blatant chicanery of a social butterfly stung me like a bee. That is when I decided to be honest. Upfront. For almost a decade, I took pride in my candid observations of telling friends that they had gained or lost weight. Back then, honesty for me was this romantic notion, like agent of change Arvind Kejriwal and looming Achche Din. What would my friends do without an honest someone who said it ‘As It Was’? In black and in white.
The chasm of credibility between what was stated, and what transpired, ensured that after every genuine weight related compliment, I was given a doubtful look, ‘Does she think I was fat earlier? Does she mean I look sick? Just because I didn’t wear any concealer today?’ Worse, every time I warned a friend that her tummy had begun to poke me while hugging, I lost a friend. However many genuine remarks I made, my friends drifted apart citing board exams of their kids, net addiction or plain social apathy. Over the years, some have forgiven me for calling them slim but those who were warned about excess calories, take it out by mixing extra vodka in my fruit juice.
Research says that the best way to please a woman is to mention her weight loss. But complimenting women about weight can be complicated given that some are likely to misinterpret your compliment. They either feel they did not look good before, or, that you are checking them out, or, that they look sickly. So essentially, women want to talk about weight and yet, not talk about weight. What does it tell us? That women are like Sheldon Cooper? No. That women are insane? Yes.
Oops, err no. No, no. It tells us that there is something about women and weight. It’s complicated. While my husband can still fit in his wedding shervani after more than two decades of marriage, I wasn’t able fit in my wedding trousseau six months after marriage. Therefore, it is not surprising that most small chats veer towards weighty issues like aerobics, gym, yoga and diets. It also tells us that weight has become an indicator of aesthetic appeal. Beauty. In my entire social history, there has been no instance when I was called fit. Maybe, I wasn’t. But movies and media do their bit to bracket us. If Sonakshi is fat, Sonam is flat. The choice is between being fat and being flat. So much for fitness.
Decades of weighty social escapades coupled with moral mortification have taught me two things. First, do not, I repeat, do not comment on a woman’s numerical relationship with gravity. Just say, “You look lovely, fresh, ravishing, stunning. Anything. But refrain from weighty issues. Second, never say you look like your mum. I can’t really elaborate because my mum reads this. Just don’t, wokay?