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You, not management, need to learn how to deal with a stranger's offhand comments.

Dear Prudence,

I was with my two kids at the gym (it’s kid-friendly) a couple of weeks ago when my 10-year-old son wasn’t looking where he was going and nearly bumped into this man as he was getting off a cardio machine. I apologized and the man was gracious about it. Except he said to me, “It’s good we get our kids into exercise now so they don’t end up like this when they’re adults.” He patted his belly as he said that. This man was bigger, but he was clearly active and in good enough health to undergo a rigorous workout. There was nothing noticeably wrong with his body or his stomach. He was just bigger.

As a woman who has experienced body issues, I was upset thinking about this incident for the rest of the day. After a while, I was less sad and more angry that he would talk like that, fat-shaming essentially, in front of children. I’ve seen this man a couple more times in the gym since then. My anger returns every time. I know what he said isn’t hate speech, but it feels like something adjacent to that. I’m less comfortable going to that particular gym location now and don’t feel safe bringing my kids there anymore. I could go to another of the gym’s locations, but it’s further from my house and that’s inconvenient. Is this an appropriate situation to complain about to the gym management?

—Workout Woes

Re: You, not management, need to learn how to deal with a stranger's offhand comments.

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    banana468banana468 member
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    VarunaTT said:
    Of all the hills to die on?  I try not to yuck anyone's yum, but this OP is being unrealistic.  She could've had a great conversation with her kids about body-shaming and inner shame, but she didn't.  Instead she's mad at the person who body-shamed themselves?  And is so uncomfortable she can't go back?  I try hard to listen to people where they are and if a client came to me with this, I'd listen, but I wouldn't do anything.  She wasn't body-shamed.
    All of this.  I think the LW has a LOT that is internalized.   We become our own worst critics and the person who patted his own stomach is likely thinking that there's room for improvement.    I'm all for body positivity but I feel like this one is just too much. 
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    Holy overreaction batman. 

    This is a great place to have a teaching opportunity with your kid. If this is the worst thing your kid has been exposed to, he's going to be very sheltered indeed. 
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    banana468banana468 member
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    Holy overreaction batman. 

    This is a great place to have a teaching opportunity with your kid. If this is the worst thing your kid has been exposed to, he's going to be very sheltered indeed. 
    A friend of mine has a mom who pulls no punches.  He's definitely abrupt and years ago in HS dealt with a teacher who said that he was the rudest student she ever encountered.  His mom's response, "You've had a really good life." 
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    mrsconn23mrsconn23 member
    First Anniversary First Answer 5 Love Its First Comment
    This LW shouldn't ever go out in public if she needs 'management' as a shield against what most people would consider an innocuous comment.   

    What if he'd made a comment about the gym being overrun by kids? LW would have needed a fainting couch. 
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    "adjacent to hate speech", "no longer feels safe bringing her kids there".  Because a guy made a disparaging comment about how he looks.

    You'll hear worse than that on tv shows.  I guarantee her kids hear really toxic stuff about people's bodies, at their school and on playgrounds.

    She is angry and upset over nothing.  Of course she shouldn't speak to gym management.  I don't even know what she would want them to do.  A better response would have been to speak to her children later that day about body positivity.
    Wedding Countdown Ticker
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    This isn’t hate speech, or anything close to adjacent. He was make a self-deprecating comment and laughing off your kid bumping into him. That’s it. 

    Yes it’s body shaming. About his own body. There are a million things you could have said (like “we hope he develops a life long love of movement”, “we all need to burn off energy”, “I think you look great”) none of which require management’s involvement. 
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    downtondivadowntondiva member
    First Anniversary First Comment 5 Love Its Name Dropper
    edited July 4
    While it doesn't show the healthiest attitude, he made the remark about himself, not you or either of your kids. I get why it would make you a bit uncomfortable, but saying it's "adjacent to hate speech" and that you don't feel safe there is a massive overreaction. He did not comment on your body or call your children fat, nor did he flip out when your child bumped into him, as some people would have. Do not get gym management involved; it's not their job to manage your feelings. 

    Instead of stewing over the comment (which your kids may not remember or even have noticed at the time, by the way), teach your kids about body image and having healthy views on diet and exercise. That'll do a lot more good than staying mad at a stranger who ultimately didn't do anything to you.
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