The Weight of Descriptions

Close your eyes for a second and picture the person I'm going to describe. Ready?

Picture a woman. This woman has a good job that she likes. She has pretty eyes - people tell her so all the time. She's smiling, picture her smiling. She's happy with her life - and her weight - despite being over what she wrote down on her driver's license. She weighs 154 pounds. To "get to" that weight she sets down her purse and kicks off her shoes before she steps on the scale at the doctor's office.

Do you have an image in your mind?

Now look below. Which of these six women most closely resembles the woman you saw in your mind? These women are all smiling. They all look happy. And they all weigh 154 pounds.

Now here's the better question - why would we at all talk about this woman's body weight? Why when I was describing this woman to you and I got to the part where I told you her weight, why did you not open your eyes and say, "What the hell, Jess? What does that have to do with anything?!?!"

For the record this woman's name is Cassie and she has visited 196 countries. Now isn't THAT a fascinating piece of information??

I told you she has pretty eyes and she's happy and smiling. Considering I didn't tell you anything about her height/age/physical capabilities - that weight is a completely irrelevant number.

Totally useless.

I would have been better off to tell you how many stamps she has in her Passport so maybe you would have pictured her as a world traveler or a homebody.

And yet we, as a society, looooooove to place weight (sorry, I can't help myself sometimes) on this insignificant scale reading.

Why? Why do we care?

If you don't think this happens, try this: the next time you're talking to a girlfriend, ask her to describe her first college roommate. Or her husband's ex-wife. Or her sister-in-law.

Tell me the description doesn't go something like this, "Oh she's maybe a little taller than me but weighs probably 60 more pounds than I do."

(Well considering I don't know nor care what you weigh, that description is bogus. You could have described a baby giraffe for all the help that was.)

Or you may get something more like this, "Oh she's a teensy little thing. Probably wears like a size 2 even though she's in her 30's with three kids. Just ridiculous how little she is..."

Riiiiiiight. Very helpful. That narrows it down for me. I'm CERTAIN I could pick this person out of a room right now if you asked me!

Listen, Dear Reader, if you have EVER given a description of someone and started with their size - let's just agree to chalk that up to an oopsie and move forward. Let's start anew and use better descriptive words like, "she's got the most gorgeous red hair," or "this girl has THE BEST laugh. You can't help but laugh with her when you hear her laugh." How about, "my friend - she's a powerhouse. She could probably out-sprint a high school kid even though she's in her 40's." Here's a good one, "my old roommate Bethany is a world traveler. She's probably been to 40 different countries."

And wella-presto, suddenly these are very intriguing people. These people are people I want to meet. I've got to see this girl with the gorgeous red hair. I want to see this powerhouse friend of yours, I want to ask her questions and covet her quads. And I want to pick old-roommate Bethany's brain on travel tips and the best sights she's seen.

Wouldn't descriptions such as these make a better picture of someone you've never met?

So we are in agreement then? Height and weight stats can be used to describe football players, UFC fighters and professional athletes whose size may dictate how well they pair up against someone else in the game/meet or match.

But unless old-roommate Bethany is heading into the Octagon, I don't give two tiger toes about how tall she is or what she possibly weighs now "after popping out five kids."

Don't care.

If Bethany is a witch with a capital B - tell me that so I can avoid her. If Bethany owns a liquor store - tell me that so I can patronize that place when I'm nearby.

Tell me something relevant.

Which is, if you think about it, anything OTHER than her size.