I gave blood at the campus blood drive this morning. Whenever I give blood, I revel in the fact that not only am I about to give up a pint of blood (which equals a full pound on the scale—especially appreciated since my weight went up on the scale today, a normal fluctuation I know but no fun either), but also that I am advised to eat and rest after I donate. As it says on the Red Cross website, the number one reason to donate is because you "get free juice and cookies." Free juice and cookies?! Yeah!!! And then there's the fact that I'm doing something to help people. I get to eat, rest, feel good about myself, and drop a pound without even trying?! Could anything in life be better???? It also doesn't hurt that giving blood is good for me because it forces my body to rejuvenate new plasma and blood cells, which function even more effectively than the old stuff.
Still, giving blood can be a hassle, and anyone who has done it at one of these big blood drives knows that it requires a LOT of waiting—waiting to sign in, waiting to have your vitals checked, and then waiting to actually have your blood drawn. It was while I was waiting to have my vitals checked that something noteworthy happened.
I was sitting quietly, trying to grade one last essay for my afternoon classes while the students on both sides of me gabbed on their cell phones and watched The Dark Knight on the flat screen television put on display to pass the time more quickly (shouldn't they be using that time to study?) when a Red Cross employee came to the waiting area and asked if anyone would be willing to make a more significant donation. She explained that this would take a bit longer but would also count as a double donation. Since the blood drive is a part of Greek Week—when the Greek fraternities and sororities compete at different activities, including seeing who can give the most blood—everyone perked up when she mentioned this. But then she added that men had to weigh 150 pounds to do this and women had to be 175 pounds. 175 pounds! On a college campus, admitting that you weigh 175 pounds is like admitting you have leprosy. It just isn't done unless you want to commit social suicide. Almost right away, three young men stepped up to the Red Cross employee and volunteered, but not one of the dozen or so young women who were waiting volunteered. I glanced around the space and noticed that two or three of them might have been around 175 pounds. None of these women looked overweight to me (and all of them were smaller than me), but they definitely fit my definition of curvy. Even though the Red Cross employee repeated that she needed more volunteers several times, none of the young women who were waiting stepped up or even glanced in her direction. It was as if they didn't even hear her. And again I was reminded how much we are told that these numbers—the numbers on the scale, the numbers on the BMI chart, the numbers on our clothing—control us, how much they affect our self-worth. I wanted to stand up and tell these young women not to be ashamed of their weight or their bodies. I wanted to tell them that they were young and beautiful and that the only way they would ever be truly happy is if they could be proud of the way they looked rather than ashamed. But I didn't do any of that. Not because I felt uncomfortable doing so but because I knew that drawing attention to their bodies would only embarrass them further. Instead I went back to my grading and despaired yet again over the fact that we live in a society that teaches our young women to be so ashamed of who they are.
To find out more about giving blood or schedule an appointment, visit https://www.givelife.org.
*In no way am I saying that people should give blood in order to lose weight; I was simply trying to come up with a catchy title for this blog entry.