Sometimes you hear something come out of someone’s mouth, and you realize they probably didn’t mean to be insulting.
But it doesn’t change the fact that the words hurt.
In this case, the words didn’t hurt so much as make me want to do a double-take — make me want to say, “Hey, lady, I am normal.”
I was in the Ralph Lauren store for big and talls in Charleston, South Carolina. And I actually didn’t even hear the woman say it — my husband did. “Did you hear what she said?” he asked. “No, what?” I responded. “She said ‘Can you tell me where the normal store is?'”
That’s right. The normal store. Apparently big and talls aren’t normal.
Apparently plus-size people are abnormal.
Now look, I get it. I get that some people are tired of “political correctness” — that they’re not sure what to say or what not to say for fear of insulting someone.
But sometimes I have to call bullshit. You know when something isn’t going to come across so well — it’s when people start sentences by saying “No offense, but…”
Because you know what you’re going to say may be offensive to someone.
I realize that she may really have just wanted to find the straight-size Ralph Lauren store, and this is what came out of her mouth. I’ve said “where is the regular-size department?” when walking around a department store. And I in no way meant to imply that plus-size or petite or big and tall departments are irregular.
But the word normal feels … icky. Labeling someone as normal or not normal feels judgmental. It’s like saying because you’re not of a certain size, you’re an outlier. You’re an outcast. You’re different.
What’s so wrong with being different? Or, really, since the average size in the U.S. for women is a 14, and 14 usually kicks off the plus-size sizes … maybe I am closer to the average size … the normal size.
Like it or not, our words have an impact. I know sometimes things are said with no malice intended. I know we don’t always examine how each of our words will affect all the people around us.
But maybe we should do as our mothers taught us — think before we speak. Maybe we should do away with that other old-school cliche — because while sticks and stones may break our bones, words do hurt us. It’s why we try to teach kids that they won’t — so they will build a backbone and stay strong no matter what others say.
I try not to be too sensitive about these things — except when a jerk calls me fatass in the Target parking lot — but sometimes we need to choose words that are inclusive, instead of exclusive.
Sometimes we need to simply choose better words.