Keeping up Appearances
By Jeany Miller
From the Diary of a Fat Woman Blog Series
I have a very close friend who has lost 60 lbs. in just six months. Prior to this dramatic change, she was 5’6” and weighed 220 pounds. Today she feels “full of energy and ready to show the world her new body.”
My friend’s life isn’t all roses, however. She has worked for years as the lead server of a prominent restaurant in my hometown, and she’s gotten mixed reviews about her weight loss. These reactions have come from colleagues and customers alike and have forced her to question the validity of some friendships.
When she was heavy, the people she waited on who were also overweight tipped her well and treated her with kindness. Similarly, her larger coworkers gravitated to her side, and she found herself closest to those people. They went out sometimes after work and shared confidences every day; they were friends.
Conversely, thin customers did not tip well and looked with disdain at her body, often treating her “as if she was beneath them.” It was the same with her thin coworkers, and my friend steered clear of this group to avoid the discomfort and scrutiny she felt around them.
Now, however, these situations have been completely reversed. My friend’s former friends, from the overweight camp, don’t really talk with her anymore, while the once dismissive thin group has welcomed her with open arms. She doesn’t understand this, and rather than be pleased by the change, it concerns her. Are appearances really that important?
Studies show that they are. As a whole, people tend to be attracted to those who seem to be like them. If you watch guests at a party, you will see them instantly gravitate toward people who seem to be similar. Men in suits, for instance, often congregate together while those dressed more casually move in a group. This phenomenon is explained by the four components of similarity: attitude, morality, background, and appearance.
Appearance is multi-faceted and encompasses many factors, including height, weight, and skin color. Also included is apparel, in which people gravitate toward those who dress like them. These same qualities are used to form cliques, as the commonalities of these groups extend to include hobbies and personal interests.
I can personally attest to this phenomenon because I’ve always felt much more comfortable with taller people (I’m 5’10”) than those who are shorter. When I’m with someone smaller, I feel like a giant who’s completely out of place. My best girl friend is almost 6 feet tall, and I’ve always dated men who are taller than I am because I’m simply not at ease with those who are shorter.
In my friend’s case, appearance obviously plays a great role in how her customers and co-workers treat her. She told me that people she doesn’t even normally wait on have commented on her weight loss, telling her how great she looks. With an ironic smile, my friend asked me this: “Does that mean I didn’t look great before – when I was overweight?”
She is presently trying to overcome some of the negative reactions to her weight loss – including the fact that her larger customers no longer tip well – and just be happy with the changes she has made to her body. She’s pleased with her appearance, but she’s troubled by the obvious ways in which society reacts to body size. Her situation asks the question: is there any size that offers true and complete happiness without negative implications?