Sunday, November 30, 2008

Wanted: Snappy comebacks

It's inevitable: Whenever I see people I haven't seen for a while, one or two of them are sure to say something like "You've lost weight! You look so good!" Not because I've lost tons of weight. Maybe I've lost 5 pounds, but I really don't know (and don't care) and haven't weighed myself in months. I think it's because I'm happy. Oh, and my hair is longer.

The point is, I wish I had something to say in this situation. Yesterday an acquaintance gushed on and on about my putative weight loss, and I said, "No, I really don't think I've lost a lot of weight." Her response: "I beg to differ!"

Excuse me? You're telling me about my body? I know she meant well, but it was tres frustrating. I wish I had some snappy (but not snarky) comeback to offer in this situation.

Any suggestions?


Joe Bloggs said...

I've been known to say 'Why do I have to lose weight to look good?" if I'm feeling a bit snarky....

Emi at Project Swatch said...

How about this:

Fried: You've lost weight! You look so good!

You: Thank you. I actually haven't lost ANY weight at all, but I'm doing really well/ really happy these days, I'm sure you can see that on my face.

(it's kind of lying about the 5 pounds, but I think the message that looking good does not equal weight loss is more important than being 100% honest)

mbahawk said...

I would just say something like, "No, actually, it's the hair. I've changed my hair. Have you tried the bean dip?" Gets them focusing on something else.

Anonymous said...

"I should be sure to eat more, then! Gotta watch my figure!"

...Or something. It's still fairly neutral, often is the total opposite of what they expect(they expect that it's praise and believe that the "oh no, I haven't lost weight" to be a form of modesty), but isn't snarky or mean-spirited.
^^; I admit, though, I have trouble with snappy comebacks. I had a friend who used to do that to me all the time, "You lost weight! you look so good!" until I told him, "Please don't do that. I don't correlate weight-loss with something positive." Not very snappy, but it did work.

Arka said...

I think the best response is the blank stare, followed by "OK. Whatever."

Let's face it, there are some people who will never be convinced when you try to tell them they're wrong about this topic. And frankly, since the socially acceptable response is something along the lines of "Oh, no, my body is disgusting!", anything you say in the vein of "Nope, don't think so" will be interpreted along those lines.

But you can shut the conversation down by making it seem that you're thinking, "Why... is she talking about this?" (Downside: it'll often be perceived as rude. May not want to try this on family members or other people that you'll be stuck with for the rest of your life.)

Anonymous said...

I think people assume, because I'm a "rad fatty" (quoting Marilyn Wann), that telling me I've lost weight must be a HUGE compliment. I've found the easiest way to deflect things when someone says, "ooooh, you've lost weight!" is just to respond with, "I haven't lost any weight, but I do feel great, and I'm really happy about how things are going at work--I must just have a glow about me! So, what's new with you?" etc. I don't have any desire to encourage the conversation about my weight (regardless of whether I've lost any), so I try to just bring it back to (a) I feel good / strong / healthy for [fill in other reason here], and (b) ask that person about what's going on with something in their life to bring the conversation back to a more appropriate track.

I realize this isn't really a "witty comeback," but it usually works. :)

Anonymous said...

How about "Darn, and I've been trying so hard to gain some..." ;-)) It sure shuts people up :)

Courage said...

"No, really, I appreciate the compliment but I prefer not to focus on my weight."

I don't know if that would work but it seems polite yet firm.

Anonymous said...

How about "The number on the scale isn't at all important to me but I am happy these days! Thanks for noticing my glow" or something to that effect. This acknowledges the "compliment" while letting the giver know that you don't consider weight to be a topic to discuss, plus it opens up a change in the direction of the conversation to find out why you're happy :)

Anonymous said...

It really depends if it's someone I like and would theoretically bear to get into a discussion with. I do it like Lindsay B. and say "oh no, pass the mayonnaise, quick!" or "no, I'm just hungover" with a big smile, to signify that I don't see having lost weight as something positive about my appearance.

But if it's just a coworker or someone else I don't care much about, I'd never say anything controversial. I just mumble that I don't weigh myself or something.

Jamie said...

Not exactly the most size-positive comeback, but how about "maybe since you're put on some I look smaller in comparison."

Anonymous said...

How about "oh dear, do you think I might have cancer? I must book an appointment with the doctor as soon as possible."

Harriet said...

Thanks for all the good ideas!

The Knitting Lady said...

Keep it simple, happy and chipper:

"Nope, gained 5."

Anonymous said...

This is a hard situation in some ways.

Breaking it down:
"You look good." Nice to hear.
"Have you lost weight." Not up for discussion.

I don't know how to handle that, really, other than to say, that if I've lost weight it's a "side effect" rather than the result of setting a goal.

I guess it also depends on who is making the comment, and how you feel about the person -- how much about you do you want them to know? Depending on who it is who says such a thing, I might let on that losing weight isn't something I'm working on directly. When it's a good friend who says it, I might say, I've been exercising more lately, and that's what is making me appear different.

That's what I tend to (over)think about when someone says that to me.

purplegirl said...

Depending on who it is, I either say "nope!" with a big smile on my face, or cheerfully say "Gained some actually" and go about my business.

Anonymous said...

"Let's talk about something else."

C said...

"Would you say that if I had gained a few pounds?"

(presumably the answer is going to be some kind of no or silence)

"Then please don't say that justbecause I lost weight. I don't think it's a good thing to associate particular body sizes with positive or negative comments."

If we just deflect attention from the issue to something else, we don't make our point. We're never going to get anywhere with changing people's minds off the weightloss mentality if we don't directly challenge their views. Gentle non-snarky challenges are fine, though!

Anonymous said...

Why play into the notion that weight (more or less or not) is a factor at all?

How about just treating it like a rhetorical question?

Them, trying to be nice: "You look GREAT! Have you lost weight?"

You: (big smile, maybe light social laugh, acting gracious) No, I am feeling terrific, though, thanks! How are you?/Good to see you!/Hey, I was thinking about you just the other day, and I wondered. . .", or whatever is appropriate.

It strikes me that if we want others to lay off the emphasis on weight, it's useful to just not play that game at all. Maybe the best example is just to gracefully not go there.

Be the change you want to see in the world? Remember that you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar? Maybe that stuff is cliche for a reason. :)

I don't mean to sound flippant, but I do think that the more emotional capital we throw at a thing, the more charged it seems to get.

Anonymous said...

Friend: I beg to differ.
Harriet: Well, keep begging.
But you might be too nice for that : )

Anonymous said...

My comeback du jour to that?

"Well, I'm ALWAYS gorgeous!"

I know it breaks all sorts of rules about actually having self-esteem, but I really don't care. It always effectively ends that hamster wheel of a conversation.

mary said...

I'm "not big" on snappy comebacks because I could easily get addicted to them as they are very easy to shoot out for those of us inclined to shoot back.(I went through a snappy comeback stage and couldn't stop myself...very addicting so I'm careful to stay on the wagon) I do like the last one from fat chic cause of course we are always gorgeous. Plus it's a great smile maker and positive. And I hate to admit it but I liked the one saying "darn, I've been trying to gain some weight" a phrase we could all stand to hear more often. The bitch that begged to differ wasn't worth the gas. She's flat out mean! Or stupid? Or deranged? Or jealous? Or a goof ball?
So Harriet, do be careful you don't stoop to the level of them that offends. Besides, you are bigger than that! Hah (couldn't may slap me or laugh with me) Please laugh with me.

Harriet said...

I'm laughing, Mary, I'm laughing. :-)

Fat Chic, love your line. I'm going to steal it.

Anon: I'm not that nice, actually. :-)

Unknown said...

I always just shrug, make a weird face and go "I don't know. Probably not. I don't really care." It's probably not very effective.

Anonymous said...

If someone asks me if I've lost weight, or suggests that I've lost weight, I laugh and say, "I HOPE NOT!"

That confuses them so much they shut up. But it's not snarky, it's just totally mind-blowing to most people.

Anonymous said...


"I honestly appreciate you were trying to compliment me, but I don't think it's appropriate to comment on other peoples' weights. Is that a new shirt? It looks great on you!"

This is a way to get your point across without having to deflect or back down. They have no right to hurt you, even if it's unintentional, and expect you not to correct it (which could hurt their feelings).

Anonymous said...

What I usually say when people ask me if I've lost weight (some oldies but goodies here):

"Not at all, I'm just getting hotter as I mature."

"Nup, that's just confidence and general fabulousness you're seeing there."

"S*** - not on purpose!!"

Or if I really have lost weight:

"Yes - I've finally stopped dieting. Phew!"

"Oh well, that's the price you pay for eating whatever you damn well like."

You can tell I've been in this situation a little too often ...

Anonymous said...

Hiya, Harriet:

Maybe you could offer them a piece of your tapeworm?

Great stuff.


Harriet said...

Mary! How are you! I'll have to remember the tapeworm comeback. It's a good one!

samsi77 said...

Harriet, Hello and sorry it has been so long since I have been in touch. I'm glad things seem to be well on your end, I missed you big time at NEDA this year and hope we can connect sometime soon! I love this post and it is so appropriately times as this time of year seems to bring about a plethora of unsolicited comments. I have found that any feedback tends to act as a conversation opener verse the desired conversation stopped and therefore tend to respond simply with "it is nice to see you as well!" Best wishes for a happy & healthy holiday season! Stephanie

familyfeedingdynamics said...

I get crazy when its about my daughter. I treated patients with eating disorders and I am hypersensitive with my above average size 3 year old. She's lost a little of the baby fat, and I don't care. She's healthy, growing normally, eats great and is active. I HATE when adults look at her and praise her, or me with her in earshot. "She's gotten so skinny! She looks great! Wow, she's really growing into her weight now!" I try to ignore it and change the subject rather than make a big deal in front of my daughter, but I still am unsure what to say. My family has all been forewarned that they will be excommunicated if they dare, but what about strangers, acquaintances?

Anonymous said...

How about "Oh thanks!" "How is your weight? How much do you weigh nowadays?"