“Oh my god, if I ever look like that, just put me out of my misery and shoot me.”
“It’s a rare land whale, seldom seen in such parts.”
“It is just disgusting, how can they even let themselves get to that point?”
This is the conversation I half listened to as I watched my children play joyfully at the beach park.
Let’s not beat around the bush here, we all have judged at one time or another. Whether it be the overweight lady at the beach, the skinny albino-looking kid who has no friends at school, or the old woman who lives next door and always talks to her cat like he is an infant child.
If we’ve seen it, then more than likely we’ve talked about it to someone else in a mocking nature.
But what I hope happens to me also is true for every other person who has impulsively judged another. Although I may have participated in the gossip game and unkind dialogue, in my heart of hearts there is a struggle surfacing. And it is this struggle that I hope will begin to make an irreversible change in the way we treat others.
This person who is clearly in earshot of our mindless jibber jabber has feelings, too. They are a human being no different than me. What gives me the right to judge them so brazenly? And what would happen if the tables were turned on me?
“Oh my god, did you see the ego on that one? Betcha it needs some serious stroking! How pathetic.”
“That is downright the ugliest personality I’ve ever seen.”
“What personality? No wonder she compensates with selfies and selfishness.”
It is entirely possible. And yet still in this day and age it is the people with the physical differences that don’t match up to today’s ‘beauty standards’ who have to listen to the off-colour comments and rude innuendos.
I am sick of it and want no part of it any longer. Now when I see this type of banter from near and far, all it makes me think of is how unhappy these people must be with themselves. So much to the point that they pick apart complete strangers for no other reason than to provide a small bit of self-satisfaction: “At least I am better than them.”
I decided to walk away from the conversation completely. Maybe I should have said something to them. Maybe I should have stood up for their objective mark.
I admit, I didn’t.
Instead, I walked over to the kids playing on the jungle gym. I watched as children of all sorts weaved in and out of their play.
Kids with missing front teeth, kids with straggly hair (that was Sophie), little kids, big kids, kids of different skin colours and kids who didn’t speak English. And the entire time I watched these children interacting, not one of them at any point ever leaned cattily over to another and said, “I can’t believe we are playing with ol’ freckles, like can you say ew?” or, “Please just shoot me if I ever look like that kid who has no front teeth.”
Yeah, sounds pretty ridiculous coming from a child right? This is how we sound when we come down on others who do not add up to our aesthetic tastes.
Children have become the role models and we the pupils in life’s lesson plan on how we should treat our fellow human beings.
And there is a disastrous yet subtle element brewing in this equation.
That is that the children don’t know they are the role models. They still believe that our actions and words never fail. We never falter. These children will see us behaving in this sick and twisted way towards our neighbours, friends, the stranger walking ahead of us and soon it will become a learned behaviour. Some say that children are the worst for being cruel and mean. I would rebut that with the idea that those children must have learned the unkind behaviour from somewhere and usually that somewhere stems from home.
One day our beautiful babes who today play catch with the overweight kid or talk openly with the child about her prosthetic arm will be the ones sniggering behind their backs. A meanness will surface in them and we will wonder where it came from. We will wonder where our lovely little Sally went. Where our polite and courteous Gordy has gone. And we will only have ourselves to blame.
I’ve heard it called ‘fat shaming’ but in reality it is simply marginalization due to difference. And for the sake of this next generation and all those to follow, it has got to end. Now.
Lindsay Brown is a Sylvan Lake mother of two and freelance columnist.