Defending “Miss Skinny Minnie”
By Guest Blogger Monica Dutcher
It’s absurd but true—I take a lot of heat for being thin. On the surface the remarks appear to be in jest, but sometimes I wonder if they are Freudian slips that reveal an unwarranted disdain. Some larger women I know will often sneer at me, maybe even curl the corner of their upper lip a little, and dish out a mixed bag of comments: “Well aren’t you just so skinny?” and “Oh, look at that Miss Skinny Minnie” and “Must be nice to just be so skinny.” That last one gets me the most. Because, for me, there is no “just” in the fact that I am a healthy weight. An obese America is literally hanging its life on the fat gene, a coat rack of excuses that discredits the importance of personal action.
One of my favorite people in the world is Miss Donita [name changed for purpose of this article], a beautiful 49-year-old African American woman with a golden spirit and a passion for Southern soul food. She always talks about how, growing up in small town South Carolina, the dinner table was a place to connect, a place where her mother showed just how much she loved you by filling your plate up so you couldn’t even see the plate. “There was always seconds and there was always dessert. My momma made sure of that. It’s the same way in my house today. I cook a lot because I love a lot,” she tells me.
Endearing, yes. But not so much when she steps on the scale. Unfortunately, due to this cultural facet of her food relationship, Miss Donita is clinically obese and consequently has been hospitalized several times for high blood pressure. Her doctor has also explained to her that her body is at rest. Her metabolism is dragging along like a tortoise moving toward the finish line through a pool of caramel.
“I’m so tired,” she’ll often sigh. So one day I invited her to exercise with me.
“I can’t because I’m tired,” she responded.
“You’re tired because you’re not moving.” I said.
“You’ll never understand,” she snapped.
I explained to her that I had to start from somewhere, too. That no one is naturally geared to launch an exercise routine. But, once you get your mind in the right place and commit, your body craves the workout—the endorphins, the energy boost, the immune system flush, the toning.
Miss Donita wasn’t listening and insisted that I “didn’t have any problems” and therefore had “no room to talk.”No problems? What? I have moderate exercise-induced asthma that requires constant maintenance with a variety of inhalers and makes me more susceptible to respiratory infection, including bronchitis and pneumonia, which I have been hospitalized for. Yet I eat right, go to spinning class three times a week, and play tennis on the weekends. I say this not to paint myself as a victim (we all know Dr. Veronica is not a fan of victims!) or to engage in medical history sparring with Miss Donita. It’s not about who is more “disadvantaged.” My point in telling Miss Donita about my respiratory health was to prove that my figure is something I have to constantly work for and that sometimes it’s not easy to go to the gym.
I am not just some Skinny Minnie who can eat hamburgers all day. I am health conscious, always on the lookout for this sacred temple that is the human body. What are you going to do to show your body some love? Because it sure needs it, no matter how fat your parents were or how thin you might “naturally” be.
Monica Dutcher lives to write, dream, and feel the energy of life coursing through her body. She is working on a novel that explores the psychology of one visionary’s journey toward escaping corporate America and the grip of social expectations.