I mostly already forgot about this incident since it happened, but it popped up in some recent conversations with one of my cousins and my best friend, and since I seem to get riled up whenever I recount this, I might as well share it here. I was trying to describe how young my current classmates are—which is not exactly the easiest thing to articulate, because in reality they’re really just a few years younger than I am; that’s the default answer of my friends when I tell them about it: “Surely they’re not that young?”—so I relayed this example because I think it kind of shows what I mean. Perhaps young isn’t the right word but immature, although I don’t really like to use the latter because it’s a little too derogatory, when my current classmates are mostly fine, even witty, and kind to me. Like, they don’t really deserve me being all high and mighty in calling them immature. But, you know. I often feel like there’s really a gulf between us that I do make an effort to bridge (sometimes, haha), but they don’t get me, either. I sound like a … lecturer to them, sometimes, I think. (Unintentionally fitting the senpai moniker. Huh.) Which is not what I want to be. Besides, it’s not like they pay heed to me much. Like, I take the side of our professor/s sometimes, when my classmates complain about the inconvenience of studying and the difficulty of lessons, boo-hoo. They would then look at me like I sprouted mushrooms on my brain. How could I even suggest it’s their fault? Where is my sense of solidarity as a student? So I’d be like, fine, okay, whatever, I shouldn’t even have bothered.
They make me feel old and jaded and exasperated more often that I’d like, is what I’m trying to say. Maybe I’m not hanging out with the right bunch of people? Debatable.
But anyway. On to the story. This happened on a random afternoon and I was with the usual people I hang out with in school (on the rare occasions that I do hang out with people as opposed to reading in the university library) (ha). I guess it should be noted that they were boys and I was the only female there (females being vastly outnumbered in our cluster, and in the tech industry in general, actually). I don’t really remember the flow of our entire conversation but I know it just took a twist in the end, suddenly focusing on me. Now, I’m usually quiet at school and when I do talk, I rarely indulge in talking about myself, so I was all dismissive and like, “Uh let’s move on to the next topic thank you very much.” I think they started teasing me, meaning to flatter me, which I know does not make sense, but I’m allergic to compliments, so that’s sort of how it always goes down. (Teasing me, that is.)
But ANYWAY. As we were waiting by the elevators one of the boys quipped, “You know, Nen, kung mas mataba ka lang nang konte, maraming magka-crush sa’yo ba.”
He was fortunate I was in a fairly good mood then, because I actively chose not to put my feminist cap on, and instead just shrugged. “Well, save for my baby fat days, this is the fattest I’ve ever been, so. I don’t feel bad about that one bit. The elevator’s here. Let’s go.”
It was not until I got home that it dawned on me that there was a lot to unpack from his statement, and even more I could have said. I did tweet about it, but that was just one facet of everything I want to say. I’m feeling very ranty right now so let’s go with a Letter To You, Dudebro. Feminist cap on.
Dude. First of all, I was totally tempted to codename you Fuckboi, but I know you hate it when I maybe-not-so-jokingly call you that.
Second of all, I was quite frankly shocked that your statement was actually directed at me. Me. When, honest to God, have I ever indicated that I was a person who gave a damn about having admirers? Like?!? I had to rewind in my head back to a time when I seriously even bothered to spend brain cells on the thought of people crushing on me—existence or lack of—and I cannot even remember. High school, probably? That’s a near-decade ago. I have had countless conversations ranging from inane drivel to what-is-the-meaning-of-life-what-are-we-even-doing-here heart-to-hearts with all of my friends for the past ten (give or take) years, and I have written to myself daily on a journal for a lot of those years, and I do not for the life of me recall ever expending energy to discuss my having (or not having) admirers. Oh, I love to go on about my own crushes, certainly. Fictional, celebrity, real-life crushes, you name it. But those crushing on me? Pffft. Insert the shrug emoji, in bold. I do not care, and those who know me best know I do not care. The fact that you seem to think I do, well, completely boggles my mind. I honestly thought one could smell my not caring right off my skin. I thought I was successful in giving off that kind of vibe. It’s disappointing to find out otherwise, tbh.
And really—who has the time to worry about that? Woe is me—I don’t have admirers! Waa, waa. Um. See why I keep coming back to the word immature, even though I prefer not to? Because we’re what—two, three years apart, just, and there you still are with this high school crap. Hear that deep, impatient sighing? That’s coming from me.
And don’t even get me started on that tone of yours. I heard the magnanimity in it, as if you were giving me this most precious gift by telling me that. Listen, Nenen. You’re not totally unattractive, you know? You just need a little improvement in appearance and you’re all set. Coming from a guy, this is huge, I know. You are most welcome.
Because it’s totally super nice for someone to point out I’m not exactly crushworthy the way I look now. As if I even asked. Uh, yeah, no.
I mean, I get that your intentions were not at all bad. It was a side comment, nothing important, something to forget. Obviously that’s why I didn’t say anything much at the time. And I know you definitely meant it as some form of flattery, in the context of our conversation then. It was constructive criticism at worst. Nothing to be making a big deal out of, right?
Sure. But I do regret not speaking up more, not in defense of myself (there’s no need, duh), but because what you said was unhealthy, and, well, wrong.
Let’s start with unhealthy. I’m fortunate you said it to me, now, being the I-couldn’t-care-less-what-you-think 24-year-old lola that I am, but I can’t help but imagine—what if I was told that statement years ago, as a teenager? Back when I was still plenty insecure about my skinny-ness? Because here’s one way to interpret what you said: Nobody can dare to like you enough that way because you’re too thin. You’re not attractive enough the way you are. The only way you can get admirers is if you were more curvy. Well, hearing that would have done wonders to my self-esteem, yeah? EYEROLL. That’s bodyshaming, Dudebro. And you can’t say that it’s easy to brush off, because um, hi, teenage (and no-longer-teenage) girls can overanalyze and make a big deal out of anything. Trust me. Now, I’m thinking, what if you said that to your young female peers? What if they were feeling completely fine with the way they look now, and then hearing you say that, this idea gets planted in their head that they’re somehow not and less? When it’s not true at all? I feel guilty that I could have said something to at least make you think twice before making a comment like that again, but I didn’t.
Now let’s go to wrong. My best friend’s first reply to me after I relayed this story was a variant of “He’s not wrong.” She reminded me that physical appearance is for sure the major attribute that attracts admirers, which I am not refuting. What I am iffy about is your reasoning: Hey, girl, you should improve your appearance so people would be crushing on you!
How about recomposing that statement? I have suggestions.
Number one: Hey, girl, you look fine the way you are. (Underline that. Twice.) But if you ever decide to improve your appearance, feel free, but do it for yourself. Okay? Tie your sense of self-worth to yourself, not to anyone else. (Especially not to horny members of the male population.) Your actions are allowed to be influenced by what you’d like to see in the mirror, but do it for you, to make yourself feel better, or feel more beautiful, but again—it’s all for Y-O-U. And you alone. Period. That way, no matter what anyone says, your self-worth is yours, and they can’t touch it.
So fyi, Dudebro, if I ever plan on gaining more weight, I’m doing it for myself, thank you very much. Screw admirers.
Number two: Hey, girl, the only admirers worth bothering about are the ones who like you for you. Who like the way you look now. Or who may not be so keen on your appearance, but are willing to overlook that because they like your mind, and your personality, and your heart—who, in short, like you, the person, not just you, the body. And um, hello, sila ang dapat mag-aadjust, hindi ikaw. Diba? Because if these people are already put off by appearance alone, then their admiration is obviously conditional (and shallow!) (which says everything about them, not anything about you) and again, who the heck has the time to worry about that shit? Nope.
So, hey, Dudebro, I care not for admirers in general, but I especially care zilch about admirers who cannot appreciate me right now, the way I am, when I’m feeling absolutely happy about myself, and would only start crushing on me if my clavicles were less protruding. No thank you.
And really. For the third time. Who the freaking heck has the time to worry about people having a crush on them?!? LIKE?
Tl;dr: I’m really way too tired to be hearing these kinds of comments. From a fully-functioning adult. In 2017. Stop. You should know better.
— To my classmate Dudebro, August 2017