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Sarah Jessica Parker doesn’t like being thin – here’s why it’s so tough to hear that

You’re looking really trim – have you lost weight?”

I overheard a woman saying this to her friend this week as they greeted one another at a cafe. It’s a comment I’ve heard women make hundreds, if not thousands, of times; a comment I myself have made and received hundreds, if not thousands, of times. For as long as I can remember, it’s been the unspoken benchmark when it comes to compliments. Want a woman to feel really good about herself? Forget telling her that her new haircut is sensational, or that you love her shoes, or even that she’s beautiful. Instead, tell her that she looks that most coveted of prizes: thin.

People rarely use the word itself – a thinly veiled insult that likely suggests someone looks ill, the same way that saying someone looks “tired” means they resemble human garbage – trading it instead for its more socially acceptable siblings. Trim, slim, slender, lean, svelte, willowy: we all know what they really mean underneath.

I’ve heard this form of praise so frequently, in fact, that I would normally scarcely notice it being uttered by strangers in a public setting. But it’s not always the flattering trophy of womanhood we think it is, as Sarah Jessica Parker’s recent comments on her body have proven. “A lot of people have… their cross to bear,” Parker told beauty expert Caroline Hirons on her podcast, Glad We Had This Chat. “I don’t like being thin. And if you met my siblings, it’s the same genetic make-up, and I don’t particularly think or celebrate being thin. I would prefer to have weight but that’s just the way my body works.”

She went on to say that it was “honestly hard to keep weight on” while playing opposite her husband, Matthew Broderick, in the two-man show, Plaza Suite. The production, which ran in London’s West End from January to April this year, was “so physical”, according to Parker, it was nigh-on impossible to hang onto the pounds.

After hearing Parker’s unexpectedly countercultural revelations, I couldn’t help but wonder: why is it that, in the year 2024, we are still framing taking up less physical space as one of life’s greatest accomplishments? And why is it so challenging to hear a woman say she honestly has no desire to be thin?

The Sex and the City actor has always been known for her petite size and stature. Even before she rose to global fame via her portrayal of Carrie in the HBO show, she’d already had parts in a number of major Hollywood movies. The one in which I first encountered her was the brilliant The First Wives Club, a 1996 cult classic starring Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn and Diane Keaton. The whole thing is riotously good fun – the trio form a club to get back at their no-good ex-husbands who’ve left them for younger models, with an objectively gorgeous SJP playing one of the sexy side pieces. I still remember her waves of blonde hair atop an enviably tiny frame wrapped in skintight dresses – and I still remember how her diminutive size was used as a recurring punchline throughout the film.

“Shelly – look at you. My, my, the bulimia certainly has paid off,” Midler’s character, Brenda, says to her when they run into one another at a department store.

“Where’s Shell?” she later asks her ex-husband.

“She’s in the car.”

“Glove compartment?”

It never occurred to me that Parker might feel sensitive about such comments; it never occurred to me that her size 6 body, a body I knew I’d never, ever be in possession of, could be seen as anything other than perfection. This assumption continued through six seasons of SatC, during which she wore all manner of figure-hugging designer frocks, crop tops, hotpants and, notably, a bejewelled knickers and heels combo during a fashion show. Her latest comments have shown how fickle that assumption was.

She’s not the only celebrity to reveal that being thin might not necessarily be the dream it’s purported to be. In 2013, Kendall Jenner told Harper’s Bazaar Arabia: “I’m trying to gain weight but my body won’t let it happen. What people don’t understand is that calling someone too skinny is the same as calling someone too fat. It’s not a nice feeling.”

I was genuinely shocked to read those words; my first thought was that she must be lying. “Yeah, yeah,” I said to myself. As if anyone could want to put weight on! It is perhaps indicative of growing up submerged in a culture that, until very recently, celebrated thinness as the only real form of beauty to the detriment of all other body types. And, while progress has been made in some quarters, nearly all the major 2024 fashion weeks had far fewer plus-size models walking the runway than the previous two years; the Ozempic craze has seen “skinny” garner a renewed popularity surge; and Kim Kardashian’s recent Met Gala corset, which synched her waist into an impossibly narrow hourglass (and turned breathing “into an artform”), was still held up as aspirational rather than alarming. The body positivity movement may have helped shift the conversation on and raise awareness of fatphobia, but shrinking down continues to be held up as the ideal goal for women.

Men aren’t, of course, immune to the pressure to transform into some kind of Love Island adonis either, all oiled-up muscles and fat-free, washboard abs – but I have yet to hear two guys greet each other with the words, “Hey man, you’re looking really trim – have you lost weight?”

It got me thinking that women need to make a proper effort if we’re to finally stop engaging in this nonsense – and to refrain from commenting on each other’s weight, full stop, in fact. Such remarks merely serve to perpetuate the myth that weight loss is always something to be celebrated. And in some cases, such as SJP’s, our well-meaning words could inadvertently insult, rather than raise up, the person in question.

Go forth and compliment, by all means. But how about we try praising someone’s sunny demeanour or their sense of style; their positive energy or their effortlessly cool aura – and leave the thin-shaming to Bette Midler characters from the Nineties.

For anyone struggling with the issues raised in this article, eating disorder charity Beat’s helpline is available 365 days a year on 0808 801 0677. NCFED offers information, resources and counselling for those suffering from eating disorders, as well as their support networks. Visit eating-disorders.org.uk or call 0845 838 2040

Xural.com

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