What's wrong with us anyway? I walked into the office the other morning and immediately rejected the compliment a co-worker paid about my new dress. Actually, what she said was "Wow! You really are losing weight."
Well, yes, I really am. Ten pounds in eight weeks, thank you very much. But instead I responded with, "Ugh, please. I still need to lose another five before I leave for vacation and have to wear a bathing suit."
And when she said, "well that dress looks so good on you," I knocked that one down with the skill of a tennis pro. "Oh please," I said, "I got it on the clearance rack; it was so cheap."
When women talk, we talk like this. We deny compliments, reject flattery even when it pleases us, and we have the hardest time just saying "thank you" when someone says something nice.
What's really scary though is when the fat talk morphs into old talk. Researchers say this happens at age 61. I am 63 and must be developmentally delayed because I'm still fat talking.
According to a recent study written about in the Journal Of Eating Disorders, 81 percent of women engage in fat talk. But once they reach 61, fat talk kind of drifts away and is replaced with its age-disparaging equivalent. "Does my butt look big?" becomes "Where did my eyebrows go?" or "I can't believe how much my bunions hurt when I try to wear heels."
It's all the same thing, according to the study and the New York Times story about it -- and honestly, none of it very good for us.
Truth is, I've always viewed fat talk just as a way women connected to other women, and never really connected it with having much to do with my actual body image. I may never have been a siren, but I've always managed to attract people to me -- mostly because I'm smart and funny.
But around other women? I talk fat talk with the best of them. I complain that bathing suit manufacturers don't understand back fat; I whine how Victoria's Secret doesn't make bras for women with actual breasts; I ask my friends if I look pregnant in a peasant blouse I just bought (I did mention I'm 63, right?); I push back from the lunch table when I'm dining out with friends and announce that I can no longer fasten my pants. Fat talk, all of it.
But old talk, that feels like something more onerous to me.
Old talk defines you as old. When you complain about your arthritis or incontinence when you laugh too hard, it isn't a body-loathing thing; it's being older and having body parts fail.
Fat talk? That I can stop. I might even be able to accept a compliment on occasion. Why when I tell you that my night time hot flashes have me regularly changing sheets at 2 a.m., that's not a body image complaint -- that's just a fact of life, as they say.