Etiquette Hell, I am hoping you can help resolve a disagreement.
Some quick background:
I am a large woman: 5’3” and 320lbs. Recently I have started exercising and eating better. As part of my exercising I’ve hired a personal trainer, joined a gym, and even walked two local 5K’s. At both the gym and at the 5Ks people have been very supportive. Here are a few examples:
- Guy at gym sees me doing leg presses and gives me a thumbs up.
- Zumba instructor pats me on the back and says “Great Job today!”
- After finishing run/walk intervals on the treadmill a lady on the bikes behind me said “You are killing it today!”
- Cute guy on elliptical next to me said “Nice Job” when I finished.
- Family passes me during 5K and the mom says “Keep it up! You’re doing great!”
- Guy passing out water at 5K says “Way to go!”
I have a close friend who is also overweight. I will call her B. B mentioned that she would like to work out but isn’t willing to be harassed by a bunch of jerks on the street or at the gym. Before I started working out, I was also concerned about rude comments. But my experience has been the opposite. In general, other people at my gym are too busy working out to care what I’m doing one way or another. And if a person does take the time to make a comment, it has always been positive. So I shared my experiences both at the gym and at the two 5Ks with B.
Now to the disagreement:
B insists that the people making encouraging comments are even WORSE than someone making a rude comment. Because the people being encouraging are being “condescending” and “patting themselves on the back for encouraging the fatty to lose weight”. B also said something along the lines of, “I don’t need a bunch of fitness obsessed jocks to validate me. I am valid. They can go ‘f’ themselves with their fat-shaming”. I argued that being nice and encouraging is neither condescending nor fat-shaming. People taking time out to say something nice to me at the gym and at the 5Ks really made my day. They made me smile and made me feel good. B insists that just as it is rude to comment on a person’s weight in any manner, it is also rude to comment on someone’s physical activity in any manner.
As I understand it saying “Wow, you’ve lost weight” is rude because people with serious illnesses often lose weight quickly. So you don’t want to congratulate someone for a weight loss that is actual due to a life threatening illness. But does that same rule apply for physical activity? Are the people at my gym being rude when they take the time to say “Well done” to me? Does that “Well done” imply the follow up of “for a fat lady”? Should I consider that “Well done” to be a condescending pat on the head? Usually I am so grateful they took the time out of their day to give me a little encouragement that it seems ungrateful to take offense.
Is my friend B right? Are they being unintentionally rude by commenting on my physical activity? 0829-13
There are people in this world who are so cynical that they see evil where none was intended. A person can drive themselves mad trying to discern the true motives behind comments, assuming there even are ulterior motives at all. Life will be a lot simpler if you simply take people’s words at face value. If you feel edified and encouraged by people cheering you in your exercising, then be grateful you have joined a club where the atmosphere is one of positive affirmation and kindness.