You sat next to me at a restaurant on Super Bowl Sunday. Before the game started, you showed me a picture of your daughter. She had beautiful eyes and a sweet smile and I could tell that you adore her. You told me that you moved across the city to be in a better school district; you and your wife wanted the best possible education for your girl, even though she is only two.
We cheered together for the Falcons and you joked around with my husband. When we first arrived, I felt annoyed that there were only seats at the crowded Community Table. But as we all cheered and high fived at the end of the first half, I realized it wasn't so bad, watching with strangers.
My eyes were glued to the screen as Lady Gaga started her halftime performance.
But then, I heard you say, with disdain, as her ballad echoed through the restaurant: I forgot she's not even hot!
And then, as she finished her performance, you complained a little more:
She's got a bit of a gut. I can't believe they didn't put a net over that!
My heart pounded and my ears burned and I wanted to breathe fire on you in that moment but, as I took a deep breath, my husband chimed in: Come on man, that's enough. We left the restaurant after that and you will probably never think about us again. But I am thinking about you today.
You see, I don't surround myself with people like you. I forgot there are still people in this world who could find Lady Gaga's "gut" offensive. I forgot there are still people who would look at a woman - a talented, powerful woman - and see her "gut" and her lack of "hotness" before they see anything else.
I forgot there are people who still value a woman based on her body and you reminded me there are, in fact, people who do just that.
I wondered, in that moment, if you knew that you were inadvertently feeding into the lie that there is even such a thing as a "perfect body."
I wondered if you knew that one day, your daughter will be playing in the room where you're watching TV and that, when you complain about an actress' weight, she will look down at her little tummy and wonder if you're bothered by her's, too.
I wondered if you knew that you are feeding into the lie that women should be smaller and tighter and firmer and take up less space. And that one day, your daughter might worry more about the size of her waist than the magnitude of her thoughts and feelings.
I wondered if you knew you were insulting every woman, everywhere, when you complained about her stomach fat, implying that she should be smaller in order to be more pleasing to your eyes, as you drank your beer and ate your nachos.
In that moment, did you know that you were insulting me, as I sat right next to you? And that you were insulting your wife, as she sat at home with your daughter, generously allowing you to go to a restaurant with friends?
Did you know that you were contributing to a society that will one day focus more on your daughter's looks and waist size, rather than the education you're already paying for? Did you realize that, with your comments, you were, inadvertently, reinforcing the societal pressures your daughter will begin to feel as early as the next four or five years?
Do you know that when you deem one woman more or less valuable because of the tightness of her stomach, you devalue every woman, everywhere? And, when you devalue a woman, you devalue a man, too. Did you know that?
But I didn't ask you any of that. And today, as I finished my own workout with crunches, I smiled at my own "gut." Thank you for reminding me not to strive for a "perfect body" because, as I watched you criticize Lady Gaga's smoking hot physique, I remembered there will always be someone, somewhere who chooses criticism over generosity. I can't stop that. But I can stop my part in it. I refuse to buy into the lie that I must be smaller to be more valuable. Thank you for reminding me of this.