Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Fat Voice, Thin Skin, I'm A Jumble of Contradictions

Sometimes been a professional, while being different, can be a difficult thing. I know that I have to maintain a professional bearing but I also know that I have to stand up for myself whenever I can when facing ignorance or prejudice. Let me give you an example:

Last week I was on the phone with someone, a business call, discussing things of some importance. A joke was made, something simple, and we both laughed. Then the caller said, "You know the weird thing, you really don't have a fat voice."

I'm going to pause here, in a way that I couldn't on the phone and say: WHAT? What the hell is a fat voice? For that matter, what is a skinny voice? Do these things exist? Is there a measure I don't know about. Can my voice be weighed? All this to say, WHAT?

But what I said, without pause, was, wait for this witty rejoinder, "Pardon?" The surprise in my voice was no deterrent to my caller, "Yeah, you really don't have a fat voice. If I didn't know you were really fat, I'd never know by talking to you." Now there was a pause. "Oh, I hope you don't mind me mentioning your weight, I've heard you lecture and joke about it so I thought it wouldn't be an issue for you."

I'm going to pause again, like I couldn't on the phone, and say that while its true that I do make jokes about weight in my lectures, my jokes aren't typically about 'my weight' they are typically about people's reaction to my weight. Even so, yes, I am comfortable with my weight, but I'm not really good about my body being discussed casually on a call. I don't imagine that anyone, even skinny people, or muscular people, or any people of any type would feel comfortable with having their body become part of a work discussion. Anyways ...

After the briefest of moments I asked, "What does a fat voice sound like anyways? I've never even thought about voices as being fat or not." The caller said, "Well, you know kind of slow and maybe a little dumb." Now, work or not, I have to speak up. "OK, I'd like to get back to the subject at hand. This conversation has made me very uncomfortable, and for the record, I think that prejudice sounds dumb, not voices."

We had a brittle few minutes on the phone and finished up, the caller ended by saying, "I think I offended you but from your lectures I felt like I knew you a bit and that you wouldn't be so thin skinned." We signed off.

Now the caller knows about the texture and thickness of my skin ... wonder if they got that from my voice too.


Unknown said...

I'd like to give him the benefit of the doubt that he would have recognized from your non verbal language that he was out of bounds, if it had been a face to face interaction.
Presuming that someone you work with is a 'friend' where it is permissible to make jokes that could be offensive..shows that this person is actually someone who is somewhat tone deaf to the issues of respect, acceptance of others, boundaries, etc.
I imagine this is also a person who asks one too many personal questions or makes comments that are hurtful while sounding innocent enough in face to face interactions.

'Thin - skinned' was my father's usual response when I exhibited any kind of emotional reaction to his blustering and bullying. He was a master of the sarcastic comment that was supposedly neutralized by a claim that he was speaking in jest...or that he was merely speaking the truth.

And yes, I grew up believing I was fat..that was my mother's gift. I wasn't fat...until I survived the first 10 years of incest recovery with generous portions of Ben and Jerry's ice cream as a self soothing strategy. It wasn't booze or benzos, so that made it a safer choice.
Words hurt!!

Ron Arnold said...

"Slow and a little dumb . . . " What a knucklehead! Callous and inappropriate remark - period.

That being said . . . somebody actually studied this in women:


I learn off-the-beaten-path things every once in a while I guess . . . .

Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt said...

Your jokes about your weight are, wait for it, YOURS!

He is presuming knowledge from mere acquaintance.

He is WAY over the boundaries of a polite conversation - and clueless, to boot.

You are not sensitive - he's an insensitive clod.

He then proceeded to dig himself in deeper and deeper, thus passing the point (at the very beginning) when he could have apologized for something slipping out.

The art of NOT saying the first thing that comes to your mind is called 'civilization.' He should try some. And then he should work on the automatic thoughts he's obviously having trouble with. It will take quite a bit of time to master those, and he'd better get started.

For heaven's sake!

Jeffi Farquharson said...

I agree with the above comments! I am also alarmed because of the nature of the work you do. Does this individual also work with men and women with intellectual disabilities? And he used the words "slow and dumb" in the way that he did?

Digging himself deeper, for sure.

I am too often most shocked and offended by the attitudes, words and actions of people who are paid to support people with disabilities. How can you be a support to people you mock and insult?