My College Flaunt, by Rachel Cohen

RachelCohen“Oh my gosh, she should not be wearing that shirt.” With disdain, remarks like this are whispered everyday on my college campus, numerous times a day, by many different people—particularly girls. To some credit, “Wow, that dress makes her look so skinny!” is probably spoken a similar number of times around campus. But these comments are not about liking or disliking a piece of clothing. Truthfully, they are about someone’s body weight. And more often than not with young adults, these comments are flagrant jabs at how much these girls weigh, at how being “overweight”—or, among my generation, being not thin—is not just subordinate, but ugly. To some degree, I think all of us are guilty of this: seeing someone and thinking that what they are wearing is unflattering. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with noticing things we like and also those we don’t. It’s in our nature. I also realize that we are in the middle of an obesity epidemic, and perhaps that’s why so many girls my age are paranoid about their weight. Perhaps it’s the media. Either way, there is also an “insecurity epidemic” going on these days, and girls in my generation are fueling this fire. The mean comments made about girls’ weight are almost never directed at people who are obese. I’ve noticed that they are mostly directed at young women of average stature who aren’t “skin and bones.” And that’s the troubling part: we are taking our own insecurities about self-image and projecting them onto others just like us. Like Meg has said in her blog, we all have insecurities. I happen to be an athlete—but no, I don’t look like the girls with colorful sports bras in the Nike ads, and no, I can’t eat whatever I want and not gain a pound like most of my teammates. I have to make a conscious effort to understand nutrition, eat healthy, and exercise regularly (as I believe most people should) to stay fit. But what I have come to realize about these girls on campus is that if you are nice to them, they’ll be nice to you. So I try to go out of my way to compliment other students, particularly females, even if I don’t know them. Compliments don’t cost anything, after all. And when people feel better about themselves, I find they are more reluctant to put others down. I’ve also found that after I give someone a compliment, feel a little more beautiful, too.

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