Friday 12 May 2017

Kindness is Beautiful

Now that I am starting to get a little older (or just old as a colleague at work likes to tease me), I am starting to see the first signs of ageing. I look younger at the start of the day than at the end, the extra weight is a little harder to shift that it once was and there are so many things that I was once passionate about that I have found a middle ground on.

But I can still remember when I would stay skinny regardless of what I ate, had a sharp tongue and felt the strong call to defend my opinions. I was confident and opinionated, but there was one thing I never allowed myself to be: cruel. I always thought it was a basic and commonly held assumption that an ordinary decent person would not comment on another person’s weakness: be it their weight, problems with their skin, teeth, hair or any other part of their appearance. Sometimes it is some other sore spot: childlessness, not being married by a certain age, money problems, not being able to complete their education.

Whatever it is, it is usually apparent. The person knows about it and you have some awareness of it. I have always avoided mentioning this type of thing for two reasons. One I like to avoid conflict, I am not a blunt person. Secondly, I would never want to hurt the other person. I always assume the other person is not stupid and can see that they are overweight, or have lost their hair or have had a breakout of spots. If they want to discuss it, it is their call.

It seems so basic when I put it like that. I wonder why then, there are some people who always have to make a point of mentioning what is obvious:

“Wow, you’ve really gained weight!”

“Are you pregnant again?”

“Your skin used to be much nicer”

“So how come you don’t have children then?”

“Don’t you want to get married then?”

“So how much do you earn?”

Do they not think about the effect of their words on the other person before uttering them?
Or are they just child-like with the habit of saying what they see?
Or do they not care about the feelings of others? 

Perhaps they set out to hurt others...

Islam tells us to give each other the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps curiosity got the better of them and the comment is made before thought is given.

But that is not an excuse to callously stick your fingers into the sore points of other people's sensitive matters.

A while back someone made a comment about my weight gain. This weekend two people asked me if I was pregnant, actually one announced “Looks like you are pregnant!”. Of course I replied “No I’m just fat!” Both of them are known for asking questions about sensitive things in not very sensitive ways. One of them has made comments about my skin and teeth before – I didn’t even think anything was wrong with my teeth or skin, but it bothered me for ages after they mentioned it.

I always wonder how people can ask personal questions so easily. My mum-in-law is an expert, within minutes of meeting you she will know you marital status, number of children and probably your income too. She gets away with it because of her age and perhaps her motherliness.

The point is even when I was slim, I would not have dared mentioned someone’s being overweight. Why do people think it is okay to poke their noses into people’s personal life? If someone does not have children, perhaps it is something that is painful and emotionally complicated for them – why would you resort to that conversation on first meeting them? A colleague who I got on well with once told me that I was the first person she had got to know who had not asked her about her marriage plans, she liked that.

Perhaps it’s an English thing to not pry openly into people’s private lives. Perhaps it’s a South Asian thing to start asking about the important thing’s as soon as you meet someone. Regardless, I think it’s basic common sense and manners not to ask questions or comment on something that might be a sensitive matter for the other person. So if you get the urge to ask someone about their weight gain or randomly feel the need to ask if they are pregnant or why they haven’t had children, you might want to remember that most of us will talk about such things if we feel the need. Also we will most likely have seen our reflection at some point recently so don’t need negative comments whether na├»ve and unintended or with some kind of passive aggressive meanness behind them.


  1. Asalam alaikum dear sister,

    I think most of us can relate to getting these unwanted questions. What I try to do, is come up with a response before the question might be posed, so I can have a polite yet decisive answer and then change the subject in a civil manner. Most of the times, I know which person can ask such questions and can predict pretty accurately what I will be asked. So it helps to be prepared.

    What bothers me the most is when people won't ask me directly but for instance my mother. My family is very good at doing this and this makes her really upset. It upsets me because they are hurting her and it's something that should be addressed to me, not her. Usually it's about Islam or being a stay-at-home mother at this season in my life. I do try to help her in talking it over with her and coming up with responses, which alhamdulilah works most of the time.

  2. Anonymous15 May, 2017

    Ah, I totally get you! I do feel that British people are a little too polite. Sometimes asking the more personal questions earlier allows you to have a better understanding of people's lives earlier in the conversation. But of course saying that someone is too fat, or their skin/hair is bad, is just unkind. Aasking what you do/if you're married/have kids is ok though I think!