The role(s) of appearance

I’d love to get reactions to this two part vignette.  For example, how would you have reacted?  Am I being paranoid?  Etc.

I was recently talking about something with a white, male friend.  He interrupted to say, “before I forget, let me say how great you are looking.  Have you lost weight or something?”

Part One:  it took a while, but I realized after 5 or 10 minutes that in fact I experienced his remark in a way that made it unpleasant, in addition to its linkage with weight.  That is, physical appearance is for me connected to being an acceptable person.  So his remark came over as close to “Let me say you are really looking like an acceptable person.”. With an implication that before i didn’t or I fell below the level one notices.

Part Two:  I explained that I was certainly not alone among women in the US in linking appearance and perceive worth.  I mentioned a recent conversation I’d had with friends who said that they thought one would get better medical care if one turned up to an appointment looking well put together.He then remarked that it seemed we were prepared to dress up in order to get superior service.  I found that pretty irritating.

It may swift and harsh to say that I think he was behaving like a very privileged person who has no idea of the extent to which others’ actions may be shaped by a lack of that privilege, by their imposition of their values, etc.


Do know that though I am reporting how I reacted, these aren’t considered reactions that end with firm beliefs.  Except maybe the stuff about privilege.