Off the Field of Battle

August 20, 2004

“I hate her.”

Boy, do you hear this a lot. Travel a few boards where women are talking about weight and food and working out, and you won’t get far without hearing it.

“I hate her.”

Who is she? You work with her, or she’s a friend of a friend, or you see her every day at the gym or at Starbucks. She is thin and pretty, with no acne or little red bumps on her arms or scars on her knees. She is perpetually tan, but not too much, always with the white teeth and the smooth, subtly highlighted hair. And, of course, she has the little flat stomach you will never have if you work out for fifty years, because past a certain point, you’re not getting that.

“I hate her.”

She compliments you that you look great, and even then — especially then — you are overwhelmed by the urge to poke her in the eye. How dare she? She knows nothing. You have seen her sucking down her chic full-fat white mocha or her chicken Caesar salad on which she has not asked them to go light on the dressing. You have seen her. She is secretly contemptuous of you, you are certain. She thinks she’s better than you are.

“I hate her.”

She complains about those torturous five pounds she wants to lose. Poor dear, with her five pounds. Poor dear, with her suffering. Poor dear, afraid she won’t be the prettiest girl at spring break. She knows nothing. She eats whatever she wants. She prattles about carbs, maybe, but it’s not like it matters. When there are donuts in the office, she always has one. Maybe she doesn’t eat all of it, but she always has one.

“I hate her.”

And really . . . it’s time to stop.

There are enough people to worry about. The rude, the nasty, the insensitive, the stupid, the vapid, the obnoxious, the patronizing, the self-righteous, the dishonest . . . the cheats, the blowhards, the bullies, the fools . . . it’s enough.

Because really, she didn’t do anything. At least not just by being born lucky, which is, in all honesty, what makes her so infuriating. Sure, yes, perhaps she and her friends are the same people who enforced the social order that caused so much agony for everyone else, but . . . she was thirteen. It was a long time ago. You have friends now. You have a job. She’s not in the girls’ bathroom trading Bonne Belle LipSmackers anymore. You don’t have to talk to her if you don’t want to, and you don’t have to go to each other’s birthday parties if you don’t want to, and perhaps you wouldn’t want her friends, and perhaps she wouldn’t want yours.

In the end, I’m a pragmatist. Hating her is exhausting. It floats around me like a cloud of sour ashes, and the only person who’s less pleasant because of it is me. Sure, if she’s dumb, she’s dumb, and if she’s small-minded, she’s small-minded. But just for being lucky? Just for not having to get up every day and figure out how many points are in a cup of Berry Burst Cheerios before she’s even had her coffee? Nah.

How do I know her day doesn’t start with Prozac? Or a call to a dying relative? Would I really dare to say I’d trade my battles for hers without even knowing what hers would be? Is she automatically luckier than I am, overall, just because she seems to be luckier in this one regard? Hell, maybe it’s me who knows nothing.

It’s just such a trite business now, women sniping at each other over this one’s hair and that one’s ass and the other one’s obsession with her nails. I’m tired. Some of my friends are conventionally beautiful, and some of them aren’t. Some of them are thin, and some of them aren’t. Some of them are someone else’s “I hate her.” It gets us all nowhere, the epic battles left over from who felt stupid in gym class when we had to climb the rope — not to mention who felt stupid in math class when we had to do problems at the board, or who felt awkward when she got boobs before everybody else.

Enough. I don’t hate her. Among other things, there are few enough people I really like that I can’t afford to rule anyone out for reasons that aren’t entirely convincing. It’s all about supply and demand.

27 Responses to “Off the Field of Battle”

  1. Stephanie Says:

    Thanks for summing up so well something that’s nagged at me for years. Being on the “hating” end is, as you said, totally exhausting and unproductive, and it doesn’t even feel good. “Losing the Cow” has really helped change my outlook on health, losing weight, and being happy. Thanks so much.

  2. lindsay Says:

    Great post! You’re so right, the only people we’re hurting are ourselves by ‘hating’ others. Envy is a bitch of a character defect that has kept me down on more than one occasion (and still does!). It’s definately something I know that I need to let go of. Nobody benefits from it, and you can bet that the last thing the person who you ‘hate’ is thinking about is what you think of them! And why is it that we equate envy with hate? Maybe that’s something else to contemplate. 🙂

  3. Katie Says:

    I loved your post. You definitely described me and my feelings and envy to a tee! Like Lindsay echoed in her comment, envy is only hurting ourselves.

    Love your blog and your viewpoints. You rock. Kate~

  4. DeAnn Says:

    As someone who was born with a skinniest-of-all-skinnies sister, I know this very well. I want to hate her, but I know that her battles are far harder than mine. They have nothing to do with weight or the myriad other things I battle. But they’re hard. And she lives them every day.

    And, also, I can’t hate her. Because I love her.

    Having an uber-skinny sister honestly is a good lesson for a weight struggler like me. Because I learned early on not to judge the skinnies. Even if I want to.

  5. Liza Says:

    Thank you! This infuriates me. I have an otherwise friendly and feminist friend who inexplicably believes it’s acceptable to call any skinny women who wear tank or tube tops or other summer wear “whores.” What?

  6. Katrina Says:

    Oh yes, the dreaded skinny woman….I know the hate.
    I wouldn’t say I exactly hate them…but you appear to be much better than I since I really am very jealous of them..:)

  7. Nicole Says:

    We’ve all got our crosses to bear. Some people are naturally thin, some have to work at it, and some may just never get there (or want to). I think we all have that gut instinct to assume that thin women are that way naturally, when really that woman may have worked her butt off to get where she is (on her only treat day of the year of course).

    Also, it’s all in your perspective. I have a friend who is heavier than I who teases me for thinking that I need to lose weight. Yes, it’d be good for my body to lose another 10 pounds or so because it’ll keep my body in better working order plus I’ll be getting their by eating well and exercising (not by starving myself), but my friend actually needs to lose the weight to help ensure a long happy healthy life… but are our weight loss struggles and triumphs really all that different? I don’t think so…

  8. Mindy Says:

    DeAnn, I also have a sister who is both wonderfully slim, but incrediably attractive as well. Believe me, she had more struggles growing up than I ever had as a chubby school nerd with thinning hair. People judge those of us who are overweight harshly and unfairly. They judge people who are naturally pretty as well. I think when my sister was growing up she had a hard time dealing with all the people who wanted to befriend her just because of her looks…had more than her fair share of predatory boyfriends…and also had a difficult time transitioning when her peer group started demanding more of her than looks. Thanks for the thought provoking entry. I like the idea of saving my hate for people who really deserve it.

  9. Zeb Says:

    Ive been both places.If only the people that hated me when I was skinny knew that I was an obease teenager who stopped eating for almost a year(mostly liquid) to get thin.They wouldn’t have been enviouse ‘dissers’.Now that I am the fat girl hating the thin…again.We’ll your right.Its a waste of energy.So iv’e been thinking of a nice compliment and say it,everytime I find myself thinking something evil.The Skinny smiles and graciously accepts the compliment and often compliments back.

  10. Sharon Says:

    Ah, but it’s so difficult to not hate those women. Then you have those who reach their goal weight at Weight Watchers after losing 17 pounds. Big f-ing deal. Yes, I’m jealous and I guess I’m a much smaller person than you for hating them, but well, that’s human nature.

    I love your journal, though. 🙂

  11. Sophie Says:

    This isn’t just about fat hating thin. This post really resonated with me because I have breast envy. I can’t even fill an A-cup now that I’ve reached goal weight, and even at my heaviest I was still just an A. I’m tall, and am constantly aware of how ridiculous this looks on my big frame. Lots of shirts don’t fit without safety pins to keep them from gaping open, I rarely find bras that fit because training bras — the only ones with workable cups — will never fit around the rest of my body (Has noone ever heard of 38A?!). I have never felt sexy one day in my life.

    Do I think unkind thoughts about other women with B-cups? Absolutely. C-cups merit snide comments from me. Terrible habit. I guess it’s time to get over it, stop trying to wear a bra, and focus on something positive.

  12. Ellewiz Says:

    WONDERFULLY stated. I have felt this way so often myself while being fat, and then it was weird to be on the RECEIVING end of it as I got slimmer! I will link to this essay on my blog too! Thanks!

  13. Michelle Says:

    Amen sister.

  14. Sheryl Says:

    As long as she doesn’t hate me for being fat, I sure am not gonna hate her for being thin. We are what we are.

  15. Sara Says:

    What a great entry! Your journal is such a wonderful read.

  16. Elsie Says:

    If I were a “Sing it, sistah!” type of gal, that’s exactly what I would have said. But that’s not the kind of gal I am. I’m more of a “F—in’ A” type of gal.

    That was fabulous.

  17. Carol Says:

    I’ve sometimes had those thoughts, but I know how ridiculous they are. Because I have a baby sister and a very dear friend, both of whom are lovely, naturally slender women. Both of whom have been through experiences I would never wish on my worst enemy. And both of whom are subject to the sort of male attention that makes my skin crawl, not only when directed towards them, but also the few times it’s directed towards me (I’m lovely but I ain’t little).

    Thank you for that entry. You better believe I’ll be linking it on my ‘blog.

  18. Kimmy Says:

    I admit that this is one of my problems. And I used to be effortlessly thin, so you’d think I would know better. But I do find myself thinking snide things about thin people on various occasions, just because I’m so jealous. I think I’ll put this on my list of things to work on in pursuit of self improvement. Thank you.

  19. Zorbs Says:

    I used to be effortlessly thin as well in high school, eating massive amounts of junk food every day and still weighing less than 3 digits. Now I have to struggle to keep every pound off. If you saw me in public, you might catch me pouring sugar in my coffee, or eating pizza. But please don’t hate me because that’s maybe 1% of the time. I AM BUSTING MY BUTT AT THE GYM to look the way I do. But you don’t know that when you look at me and think “I hate her!” right?

  20. Nancy Says:

    Been there, hated that.

    More than the “effortlessly thin,” though, I deal with my hate of the “bitter thin,” who sit at their little lunch table at work and have the following conversation:

    “She looks good in that dress.”

    “Yeah. But did you know she used to be fat?”


    “Yeah, she lost a lot of weight. She looks good now though. But… she used to be really fat.”

    And in that moment, the person being discussed became less than a person. She didn’t qualify for compliments or admiration because being formerly fat meant she’d instantly lost THEIR approval.

    As if accepting her would have invisibly tarred them with the fat brush.

    So now when they look at her, they don’t see the hard work and the atractive, healthy body. They see a fat person hding behind a thin facade that she doesn’t deserve.

    I hate THEM.

  21. ladymisstree Says:

    Amen to that. Those skinny girls who look like they’re so perfect? Chances are there are problems in their lives that make our own look like a walk in the park.

    Not only that, that skinny you hate right now might have gone through the same things you’re going through right now to get where she is.

    My best friend is slim, blonde and has the perkiest DD breasts you’ve ever seen. We’d walk into a bar and all eyes would be on her. Did I hate her for that? Hell no. I just pitied the crowd for not realising that TWO hot women just walked into the room, dammit!

  22. Debra Says:

    I was just telling the gals at work last week how much easier it seems to be to be friends with men than with women. That with women you always seem to be judging them or thinking (knowing?) that they are judging you. They just looked at me kind of stupid so I presented this case. Think back to the last time you were in the mall. How many women did you see that you instantly thought things like, “OMG, I can’t believe she wore that shirt” or “What the hell has she done to her hair” or “Dang, she needs to stay away from the cookie store, she’s got too much booty on her” Everyone of them laughed and then agreed with me. We judge each other too much when we should be standing up for each other. You don’t see men doing that kind of crap with each other. Frankly, they don’t care what color shoes the other one wears.

  23. Wow. Your writing is very powerful and wise. Big ups. Also, men hate other men for their accomplishments and possessions, not for their looks.

  24. peach Says:

    Man. Not long after I started my new job, we had a staff lunch where they ordered pizzas. They ordered two small cheese pizzas and a few larges. The smalls had 6 tiny wedges; the larges had 8 large wedges. After lunch, a coworker came to my office and said, “I just wanted to let you know that when you left the room to get more water, two other women were talking about how many slices of pizza you’d eaten because of the number of crusts on your plate.”

    I’d eaten four slices of a small cheese pizza. Four. At home, I’d have likely eaten an entire LARGE pizza by myself, so I thought I was being very good that day. But because of those three women (the talkers and the tattler), it screwed up everything about my image, my self-esteem, and made me afraid to do as much as eat a snack in my office for fear of criticism and snide comments.

    Luckily, I’ve gotten over. They don’t know me. I still find myself being conservative at staff lunches, but I’m really trying to get over that. Almost all of the women in my department are shorter than 5′ 4″ and are tiny. Just because I’m not doesn’t mean I have to live by their standards.

    Sorry for rambling on, but yeah, women should just get over it and stop the hating. Yeesh.

  25. Angela Says:

    Great post. My first lesson in the futility of envy was in 8th grade–I told the ‘golden girl’ of my class, the ‘lucky one’ that I envied her. This girl was popular, naturally blond, a cheerleader, tan, with a cute chipmunk face and blue eyes. I felt like the fat kid. I don’t remember why the subject came up, or why I felt the need to tell her what I did. What I do remember was the look on her face–puzzlement, surprise? And the sound of her friend laughing at me. The burn of hot embarassment on my face. She said ‘why in the world would you envy me?’ or something along that line. I found out later that her brother was handicapped, and she worked very hard to take care of him and make his life better. I wish I could have seen past my preconceived notions, petty jealousy, and insecurity–I bet we could have become friends.

  26. Glib Gurl Says:

    I can’t lie. I hate those thin gals. And even though I know intellectually that they have their own share of problems – some of which could be worse than mine – I can’t help but think nasty thoughts. I guess since weight occupies so much of my waking thoughts and is the source of so much pain in my life, I feel that to be without it is to be in bliss.

    I’m working on it because, as you say, the only one who suffers is me. But it’s hard! Just today I was watching “A Birth Story” on TLC and even though the mom in the story had recently gone through leukemia with her oldest child, I found myself being resentful of her going through her latest pregnancy/childbirth. She was so thin – even for a pregnant woman! The only fat was on her baby belly! I kept hating her until I remembered her previous struggle with her son. How sick is that?!?

  27. Lando Says:

    Something else to keep in mind. What happens to a person who can eat whatever they want and not gain weight? What incentive to they have to pay attention to their diet?

    And what effect would a high-red meat, donut, high-fat sugary cfe latte diet have on someone twenty years from now — no matter how quickly the calories are burned?

    Weight gain in the face of too many calories or a poor diet is a sign, usually, that we’re doing something wrong. If your body doesn’t respond to poor nutritional choices, it’s broken.

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