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It makes an ASS out of U

I try not to use my LJ as a rant receptacle, but this needs airing. It's about people's assumptions.

I've made no secret (anywhere!) of my decision to start cycling. I hang my helmet on my cubicle wall, right above my "Bike Commute Challenge" poster, and today my front wheel was stood up in my in-box because I had to take it in at lunchtime and have it looked at. At work, I talk about road conditions, new challenges, the experience of joining the Portland cycling world, and my progress in terms of time and endurance and skill-building, pretty much the same as on LJ.

So today at about 4:30, knowing I had two more hours of work in front of me, I ran down to the little store and came back up with a Haagen Dazs coffee almond crunch ice cream bar. My cubicle-colleague, on beholding my treat, said, "I see you've decided to undo all the health benefits of bike-riding."

I can't even begin to unravel everything that's wrong with that comment, but let me start by pointing out that it was uttered by a straight, skinny, college-educated white guy perhaps five to ten years my junior. Let's call him Norm, okay?

This comment is not the same as "Ooh, that looks yummy!" or "I love those things!" This comment is "Do you think you really should be eating that? YOU? THAT?"

The assumptions implicit in the comment are that "health benefits" equals "losing weight"; that I'm cycling for health reasons at all, and that the REAL health reason is weight loss; that one serving of good-quality ice cream has the power to "undo" health, that my bike-riding is a kind of lie unless I follow some standard path of health righteousness; that it's okay for him to even make such a personal comment; that he knows what my personal priorities are and that they are different from what I've said they are.

The only response I could think of was a mildly sarcastic, "Yeah, you know, Norm, I love it when people comment on what I eat."

Six hours later, I'm still annoyed.


Sep. 23rd, 2009 04:34 pm (UTC)
Even goldfish-face is a better response than the one I would have given up to very recently. Guilt, shame, stammering explanations, anger, defensiveness the whole nine yards of "yes, master," would have been my reaction in the very recent past.

All thanks for my somewhat more empowered response yesterday are due, I think, to a conversation about privilege that I had with serenity_valley on Friday evening. She really raised my awareness.



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