Temptation Wears a Red Dress Pin
Our restaurant isn't exactly a health venue. It's a local fast food type joint, which has at least, some merits: it's privately owned, it makes all of it's food fresh-from-scratch, and since it's family owned, the people are wonderful to work with. For the most part. Every job has it's ups and downs.
I admit I've never been what you would call -- a people person. But I can be a congenial person, and I do love watching people; studying them in their environments, when they think I'm not watching them. Especially as a cashier. Cashiers are like wallpaper to a customer.
One thing which has come as a sort of surprise to me is that most of the people who eat at our restaurant are pretty thin. They'll order the largest thing in the whole joint, deep fat fried, and a trash-can sized cup of soda. Some come and eat this EVERY DAY. Always looking the same weight. Lucky bastards. Then there's the heavy women. They're always ordering salads. A salad, and a cup for water... or a salad, and a diet Coke. And they always look heavy. They never seem to lose weight.
Of course, I don't live with these people -- I don't know what they do or eat when they're not at our restaurant. Who knows if the thin people go running every day, or if the heavier people go eat their entire refrigerators, later. I don't know. But it's a very interesting thing to watch. It makes me feel curious about all the accusations people always have for the obese, like they live, and breathe, fast food... and the level of self awareness some of them must have when they dine out.
And speaking of self awareness... a very curious thing happened to me last Monday. This slender, tall, vivacious looking woman approaches the register, and I happily greet her. She makes eye contact with me, and suddenly, starts freaking out: "Please don't judge me for what I'm about to order because I'm wearing a red dress pin, and I'm about to order really unhealthy food." Quite frankly, I hadn't even noticed the red pin. I was simply more intent on getting her order, and getting it right. I tried to reassure her "Oh, don't worry, it's okay." She looks at me, half smiles, and places her order: two fried items, with a side of fried tater tots, and soda. Then she says "You know, we're allowed to have a treat once in a while." Again, I offer the supportive reply, "Of course. I completely understand." Then she looks flustered, and says "You know what, I'm just going to take it off," as if it were an electronic ankle bracelet, from her local parole officer.
So many responses ran through my mind... like "Lady, I don't give two shits about your damn red dress pin." Obviously, I couldn't have used that one. I smiled warmly, and just offered a light-hearted "Oh, don't you worry yourself about it!," and with a side wink, an "I won't tell."
I also thought... Should I have told her "Hey, I have diabetes. I understand?" I didn't do so... I try not to tell people too much about my private life -- mostly, because I can tell people like that wallpaper feeling when they get their food. (I admit, I don't care too much for knowing people's personal stories when they're just selling me something.) I also thought to myself, "What if she judges me the way she thought I was judging her?" She might think to herself "Of course she has diabetes... look at where she works!" or "look at how heavy she is!" or some other lame conclusion -- as people often love to believe about us people with type 2 diabetes.
But I have to admit, I was quite surprised at her. She felt guilty, from the pin, and it made her aware of her behavior. It was giving her an accountability -- which was only in her mind, really -- but which was a reminder to herself of how she wasn't taking care of herself.
That this woman was embarrassed because of a disease she didn't even have, and of choices she knew were poor, was quite the irony... She may have the option of removing her red dress pin, and ending the stigma, but people who are obese can't easily remove their weight, and put it away, like some sort of suit, and weird fashion statement. We can't easily shut down the stigma, and judgment, others might give us for our condition -- nor can we cure our diabetes with a green salad and a diet Coke. And I sure as heck wish I could 'put my diabetes away,' like some kind of pin, for when I wanted to eat junk... as I'm sure many women with heart disease might wish they could do the same.
And I thought... well, maybe I ought to get a diabetes pin. A pin which always reminds me that I must care for myself. That my health is important... a pin which might make people ask me what it is, perhaps. Blue Fridays is just something meaningless at my workplace, because all my shirts are blue. :-) No one would think to ask, nor could I claim it was 'my choice.' But a blue circle pin, on the other hand... that's a different thing.
A blue circle pin can be awareness, accountability, responsibility, and advocacy. A way to not only remind ourselves of how we matter -- to care for our own bodies -- but to also show others we can do this, and we're not afraid to show it. If I feel bad, on a certain day, I can always take it off.
It's an idea, anyway... Do you feel self conscious in front of strangers when you order junk? Pin, or no pin? Some people always seem to emphasize the diet drink, especially. That's a DIET drink, with the side of fried food. heh We're silly humans, after all.
We're all just so easily embarrassed, I guess.
But perhaps it ought to be a BIG reminder that if we can't handle the imagined stigma of any one disease, even for ONE moment, perhaps we ought to be kind to those who CAN'T easily remove any of their health challenges, like a pin. We need to give others some empathy, some respect, and some space... Especially, when it comes to occasionally letting their hair down, and tasting life.