Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Question

The number we see when we step on the scale is a universal thing. Why is it such a verboten topic of conversation?

“How much do you weigh?”
A simple Google search of this phrase turns up a lot of what anyone would need to know about how our culture treats this question. The top search results include a handful of articles about how much you should weigh, as well as a handful of calculators to determine how much you would weigh on the moon. Or on Venus. If only we could escape gravity, apparently we would all be much much lighter, or comically heavy.

The real, straightforward answer to this question is so taboo that we are left to only guess at the weight of others, and by this hand, we are taught to be ashamed of our own. Even if we could work up the nerve to ask a fellow human this question, if we would dare let these words fall from our lips to the ears of another, the mere question is so abrasive that we really can’t expect a straightforward answer.

The objective reality is that your weight is just a number. You can influence that number, but to some extent, you cannot and perhaps should not have full control of it. And I wonder what would change if this taboo were lifted — how our thinking as a culture might change if someone’s weight were a comfortable topic, or at least an open secret. Would this involuntary reflex of shame be lifted? What do you think would happen? If you could find out the weight of others, would you want to know?


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