You are not imagining things. I did just ask that question, that forbidden question: How much do you weigh? And I do not expect you to answer it. Feel free if so inclined, but no pressure. I am not going to answer my question either. Even though I have it in my head. Yes, I am one of those crazy souls who weighs herself every morning. (This problematic behavior did not start until after I became pregnant with Toddler, but that is fodder for its own post.)
So. How much do you weigh? This question is not alone. It has subversive sisters. Many of them...
How old are you?
How much money do you make?
How big is your home?
How much did your home cost?
How many people have you slept with? (a.k.a. With how many people have you slept?)
What was your SAT score?
What was your child's ERB score?
What do these questions have in common other than being snapshots of rude? They are about numbers. They call for objective, measurable replies. And while so much of this fine world is swirly and subjective in nature, when it comes to objective things, to numbers - pounds on a scale, square feet in a home, points in a score, notches on a belt - we can actually compare. We can actually render objective judgment. And we do.
What else do the above questions (and so many others) have in common? They are about things about which we are all insecure. All of us. Feel free to spend your days polishing the resume, scrubbing that impeccable facade, but you, yes you, worry about your weight, your intelligence, your age, your income, your home, and the objective markers of your progeny. I am not adamant about too many things, but I am adamant about this.
But here is my curiosity du jour: are we obsessed with these numbers, these markers, these more tangible badges of health and wealth and success because it is in our nature to be deeply concerned with these things, or because society tells us to be, or because we are not supposed to talk about these things? The bottom line is that these things matter to us. They do. Some more than others. To this day, I will not reveal my LSAT score because I don't think it was very good. To this day, I will not reveal my weight because I feel like it is not low enough. To this day, I will not talk details about money because this is how I was raised. But I think about these things. All the time.
And something tells me I am not alone. Something tells me that you think about these things, that some of these questions rattle around in your head too. But they are sequestered there, right? Because you are not allowed to ask them. But is this healthy? Is this healthy for us to spend so much time fixated on things we are implored not to discuss? I don't know.
But imagine the alternative. Imagine a world where these questions were deemed appropriate. Where the barista asked how much your watch cost (wait, this has happened to me), where your new friend asked how much you pay in rent (wait, this has happened to me), where your colleague asked your jean size (lawyers don't wear jeans). Imagine a world free of filters. This would be a nightmare, no? I think so. I wouldn't want to hang out in this world.
But that leaves us with so many things we are not allowed to say, questions we are not allowed to utter (except among the closest of company and maybe not even then). And what do these unasked questions do to us? Where do they go? Do they pile up in our mind? Do they fade with time? By not asking these questions, these oft frivolous and superficial questions, do they shrink in importance? I don't know.
But as long as we are a culture that is obsessed with numbers, these questions aren't going anywhere. As long as we are a culture that puts height and weight of babies in swirly fonts on thick card stock at birth and splays the stock ticker at the bottom of every screen and broadcasts the weights of withering celebrities, these questions aren't going anywhere. No. They are here to stay, variations on a theme, blooming in fertile and fearful minds, waiting to be released into a world where they are at once universal and unwelcome.
What do you do when someone slips and asks you one of these taboo questions? Do you answer? Do you chide them for asking? Do you blush and change the subject? Do you judge this person for asking the question that you have had the sense not to articulate? Do you feel that it is ever appropriate to ask these questions?
Apparently, I do write about weight and body from time to time. But note that I am not at all obsessed with these things: