The New Scarlet Letters


For those of you whose high school experience did not include the required reading of The Scarlet Letter by Nathanial Hawthorne, I would encourage you to read at least the plot synopsis linked in this paragraph.

I’m truly sick and tired of the hypocritical, judgemental and pseudo-righteous attitude of a portion of humanity.  And sadly, it is most often perpetrated by the female of the species — just as it was primarily the female Puritans who encouraged the public shame of “fornicators and adulteresses.”

It is the phony, saccharine-sweet, “concerned” commentary given to total strangers as if that person has a right to tell someone else how to live their life.

Now, you all know that I am what the medical establishment calls “morbidly obese.” Additionally, I have also been very clear about the work I am doing to get more healthy, not only psychologically but also physically.

You also know that I have chronic pain in both my lower back (from ruptured discs and arthritis) and arthritis in my ankles and feet.  Walking any distance further than half a football field is painful for me.  So, when I shop at our local Walmart (which is, sadly, the most economical choice local to me), I inevitably use what is called a “mart cart.” (essentially a little scooter).  I have to pick and choose where I spend my energy (or spoons), and even with using the scooter and having a stock person help me load my vehicle, I am often exhausted by the time I’m home (20 minutes away from home).

Yet, at this same Walmart, I have the occasional person who seems to believe they can tell other people what to do and how to live with your life.

Today, having required a run to Walmart for art-related tools and supplies, I met up with one of these women.  I’m assessing one particular purchase, when I hear a soft “Excuse me” from behind me.

Thinking someone needed an item I was parked in front of, I look up from my item and start to move forward a little.  She quickly said that I didn’t need to move, she just wanted to say something.  So, I smile up at her thinking that she is going to give me some unsolicited advice about the item I’m evaluating (it’s still irritating to get, but I have occasionally been given good advice that way).  She smiles down at me, and leans closer.

“You know, honey, if you took the time to walk around the Walmart you might lose some weight.”

Frankly, since my mind was focused on my artistic needs, it took me a few minutes to change mental gears.  This woman, who perhaps looked no more than 5-6 years YOUNGER than myself – and not exactly a slender woman on her own, stood there looking at me like she had revealed some pronouncement from God.

I took a deep breath, and let it out.  I know she expected me to say thank you.

“Ma’am, I don’t have to justify my choices to you, but for your information,……….” I listed every single chronic pain issue I have, along with a temporary issue that I am trying to deal with (occasionally one or more of my nerves will become caught and pinched between my vertebrae where the ruptured discs are, which mean I need a chiropractic adjustment to move the bones just enough to relieve the nerve. Until I can get that, it feels like I am walking with an ice pick lodged in my hip joint.)

The more I spoke, the more shocked and embarrassed she became.  And, because I was calling her on her shit, the more defensive she became.  She started to try to turn it into a screaming match, but I said, “If you will excuse me, I have an important business decision to make.”

She spluttered, but walked away because I wouldn’t give her the argument she seemed desperate to start.

For me, this kind of body shaming is no different than the social shaming described in The Scarlet Letter.  It is the simple arrogant assumption that anyone different must not only be judged for their choices, but somehow be forced to conform to someone else’s set of standards.

It is no different from the failed experiment of Prohibition.  A relatively small group of people set themselves up in moral judgement of others, and got enough momentum  to make an Amendment to our Constitution saying people weren’t allowed to drink.  (Sharia law, anyone?) It failed spectacularly, because people went on drinking, even if they went to jail for it.

Forcing YOUR standards on me is no different.  It doesn’t matter if it is your moral standards or anything else.  I don’t tell you that you can’t pray to your God, and you don’t get to tell me that I cannot pray to mine.  I am doing my best to make my body the healthiest it possibly can be, and if that doesn’t conform to YOUR idea of healthy – I still get to be the judge of my actions and choices.

My therapist is horrified each time I relate an event like this to her.  In her mind, not only is it an unhealthy choice for the perpetrator (to judge everyone else) but it is also unreasonably rude.  She has trouble believing that there are a lot of people like that out there.  But she does not believe I am lying either.

So, please, if you come across someone you think you have the right to judge, do us all a favor and keep your mouth shut.


Categories: Body Health, Body Positivity | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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