Perhaps I should explain.
Years ago, a dear friend's dad passed away. Deaths in one's family are never easy, but it was especially hard on my friend, who, after ten months, still seemed to be in a trance like state. (I would cajole him to get out more, and he would be in the counter of a restaurant staring blankly while the server was waiting for him to say his order, for what seemed to be an eternity, and with a line of irate customers behind him, which he couldn't care less for.)
On one such occasion, as we were having our lattes, a mutual acquaintance chanced upon us. This person was from the "I have a fabulous body and I'm showing it off" school of imperiousness, and even joined fitness contests one after another - he was good enough to join but not to win a single event. Ever.
He uttered a barely audible greeting in my direction because he was too busy acting horrified upon seeing my friend. The Proudly Insensitive Guy (or P.I.G.) did a double take, and exclaimed loudly for everyone in the cafe to hear.
(Courtesy of en.wikipedia.org)
"OHMYGAAAAAD!!! What the hell happened to you?!?"
My friend, who really wasn't in the mood for further "socialization" took a short pause, then said, "What do you mean?"
P.I.G. then gestured with both hands towards my friend's body, emphasizing the girth he was witnessing. "You're HUGE! As in, really, really huge!!! Did you gain like, what, between 50 to a hundred pounds?!? I mean, you're humongous!"
My friend and I exchanged furtive glances, and he turned to the P.I.G. and said (calmly), "yes, I did...And?"
P.I.G. then forehead-palmed himself and blurted, "What the hell happened? You were one of those success stories from the gym, you lost a lot of pounds...why are you now as big as a refrigerator???"
At this point, P.I.G. grabbed a chair to join us - even though no one invited him, and with what he just said, no one was rushing to do it - and looked at my friend from head to foot, then sizing him up like a salesperson estimating waist size. I turned away, wishing that the floor beneath me would just swallow me whole, because I could see the car crash happening but I was powerless to stop it.
My friend maintained his demeanor, and replied, "Look, my dad just died. I haven't been to the gym, I've been arranging his affairs, the taxes we've had to pay, and we haven't even settled his medical bills fully..."
The P.I.G. couldn't wait to preach his brand of body-conscious logic: "But that's not an excuse! Are you saying that you can't make time for yourself? I mean...come on...you just let yourself go...all the way to the buffet table!"
I sensed an imperceptible shift in my friend's face - imperceptible except to those who knew him well - that signaled he has had enough of the buffoon he was faced with. "My dad died. I'm still grieving. I'm sorry I don't look my best. I have nothing else to say."
Maybe the P.I.G. thought he saved his best argument for last, because he beamed with pride when he retorted, "Excuse me, my dad also died! But you don't see me letting myself and my body go, do you?" At this point, the P.I.G. actually stood up from his seat and did a full turn, the way he would at those fitness competitions that he never won in, trying to showcase his body to the entire cafe. (He was wearing a fitted tee.)
My friend gave him a slight wave, and made a gesture as if he was shooing a fly away. It was as if the P.I.G. suddenly regained his social cue thermometer and sensed that he was unwanted by everyone at that table. He proceeded to leave in a huff, walking away as if cameras were on him.
Fast forward to this morning: the P.I.G. announced something that made it seem like I swallowed a Cheshire cat. I will attempt to paraphrase what he announced publicly.
"I don't want to be hearing any comments about how fat I've gotten. I'm fat, I know I'm fat, and I don't need to field any questions about how fat I've gotten. I'm also older. But guess what? Everyone's going to get fat and old. Get over yourselves! And don't bother coming near me if you're going to mention anything about my weight or age. Merry Christmas!"
Surely you can forgive me for feeling this much glee, so much schadenfreude?
The P.I.G. is now on the other side of the fence.
And while he may never admit it, I think he has learned a lesson in empathy. And to never judge a person just because they seemed to have "let themselves go." And how words can be hurtful, even when they are couched as expressions of concern. Or that one's "body beautiful" will not last forever, and that instead of rubbing it in other people's faces, to just be happy that you are considered "attractive" for this particular time and space.
We are in the middle of the holiday festivities, and while meeting relatives or having reunions with high school/college classmates, you are bound to hear questions or expressions surrounding our looks or weight: "ang taba-taba mo na" (you've gotten so fat) will undoubtedly be a "standard" greeting. I'm willing to bet the P.I.G. won't be one of them, though, knowing firsthand how things can quickly turn.
At least I hope those are the lessons he has learned, falling from the tree of bodily perfection. But in case he hasn't, his story still serves as an instructive tale for those who bank solely on their looks or body to get by in life, which can be a handicap: some of them never develop their social skills nor the art of conversation simply because of the advantages that beauty is afforded these days: movie and recording deals even when the (beautiful) person can't act/sing, everyone's instant admiration even if she is a neophyte in a company and hasn't shown any skill/achievement worthy of awe, or - horror of horrors - a legislative seat because "ang ganda niya kasi." (She's just so beautiful.)
We've all been told never to judge a book by its cover. Looking at today's advertisements of underwear models, proliferation of beauty clinics and barrage of whitening soaps, it may be difficult to remember that. We're now bombarded with messages that tell us that what's outside is what's paramount, what's important, what matters.
I know of at least one P.I.G. who begs to disagree.