A word: a seemingly insignificant pairing of letters…a singular term among 171,476 others in the English dictionary.
The word “skinny:” s-k-i-n-n-y… a seemingly insignificant pairing of letters that comprise a singular term among 171,476 that we as a society have transformed into a dominant concept with potent superpowers. These superpowers consist of the ability to manipulate minds, define beauty, alter moods, and determine success.
“Skinny” is not an ordinary word nor an ordinary adjective.
Skinny, rather, is an invincible force that society has tied in an interwoven knot with achievement, happiness, and beauty.
Yes… one word, one singular shape that may have once assumed only the esteem of the word “triangle,” or “tall” or “circular,” maintains the power to control the way we perceive ourselves and others.
Allow me to provide you with a scenario. My family of six traveled to my cousin’s home this Thanksgiving. My cousin is a seventeen-year-old student at the top of his class at a prosperous private school…who was recently invited to participate in a debate in India…who recently won a crew regatta…who recently asked out his first girlfriend… who lost a significant amount of weight since the last time we saw him. Subsequent to a quick “hello” followed by a hug or a handshake, the proceeding remark made by each and every one of my immediate and extended family members was something along the lines of “Wow… you look fantastic… you look so… skinny!”
Positive reinforcement was not only present but also very prominent the entire holiday. Numerous dialogues revolved around his weight loss. He was showered with abundant compliments. He was regarded as a “new and improved” kid, quite distinct from who he was just two months prior when he had been characterized by his buxom physique.
An adolescent, living a life robust with activity, achievements, and adventures, spoke primarily “skinny” talk this Thanksgiving holiday. “Skinny” talk seemed to be the most important to him and the people around him. These people around him, all loving friends and relatives, clearly focused on the "skinny kid", rather than the kid with limitless triumphs and attributes.
This is an allusion to our society as a whole.
We exist in a society teeming with political disbelief, technological advances, an ever-changing opportunity structure, fascinating research about outer space, unique intersections and diversity. Now more than ever is the time to speak about each and every scope of life. Meaningful discussions are opportunities to acquire new knowledge and thereafter, create positive changes. Yet, the societal fairy god-mother has granted the letters s-k-i-n-n-y with the power of a tyrant.
We speak highly of the letters. We prioritize the letters. We converse about the letters. In fact, that six letter dictatorship has the authority to make us happy or sad, to warp us into success stories or failures. In a world where one individual can have so many attributes and perform so many significant roles, we actively allow for the tyranny of s-k-i-n-n-y to prevail.
You, your friend, me, my cousin…
We are all far more than those six letters.
While it is simple and subconscious to allow the dictator to dictate, I invite you to remind yourself and your friends that our world is far too complex to allow for a number on a scale or a six-letter word govern how we feel.
Engage in a more meaningful conversation than that. Compliment one’s character. De-emphasize that word and all of the social constructs that arise with it. Because a word is just a word unless you give it those mighty superpowers that it does not deserve.