My feelings are hurt, but I feel like the jerk in this situation
February 26, 2012 4:06 PM Subscribe
What are my sisters looking for when they want to compare physical attributes and how should I respond?
posted by abirdinthehand to Human Relations (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
First for a little background: My sisters, in the last several years, were making little snipes about my physical appearance- that I am too skinny- ridiculousness to the point where one of them gave me a shirt that was literally so small it would fit a one year old child. I am slim, but not petite- so it's not like I'm anywhere near child sized. My other sister started implying i had an eating disorder, I confronted her about it and she denied that she believed that, but continued with the behavior. And let me just say that I'm a healthy weight. I'm just active, quite tall and have the benefit of a relatively high metabolism. Also, let me say straight off that they are both attractive and slim women in their own right.
At first this all really got under my skin and I reacted badly. However, in the past year, I have been able to take a step back and can now just take their comments at face value. This ends up in me basically just not engaging and consequently the comments have diminished.
Then, this past holiday, although the skinny thing didn't come up, my sisters were continually comparing our bodies. It was usually self-deprecating, complaining about a particular body part, then pointing to the other person's as being 'better.' One sister apparently has better hair than the other. I'm tall, so that's better than being short, etc. I am totally mystified by this. I have no impulse to compare our bodies. I'm generally comfortable with my body. The idea of complaining about my cup size and envying my sisters DD's is just- well, it's not how I feel and it is not what I want to have a conversation about.
Because of their behavior in the past, I responded neutrally as I had trained myself to do for the other comments, but that wasn't received well. . .I can't really put my finger on it. I felt as though they were trying to engage me in some sort of ritual and I didn't know what the appropriate response was supposed to be.
Are they doing this as a 'fishing for compliments' thing? Are we supposed to be bonding over shared insecurities?
I want to connect with them, but I don't want to take part in some kind of 'I hate my body' fest. Also, it's hurtful to me to feel excluded because of things that I cannot change about myself particularly because they are my sisters. This is saddening, although I understand that these dynamics have emerged, not coincidentally, as they are both nearing forty and I am the youngest trailing behind.
What is the subtext here? Am I causing them to feel insecure? Please help me understand this behavior and figure out how to respond.