By Sumangla Sharma
“Hello, I am Ross’s little sister,” a very excited Monica reaches out to Chandler when introduced to him for the first time in the cult sitcom F.R.I.E.N.D.S. He looks at her and responds with a sarcastic smirk and a mocking gesture: “Yeah, right!” Not sure how to react, Monica brushes off his response and tries other ways to impress her brother’s best friend.
Yet, deep down she knew what had happened.
Cut to the next year, Chandler visits Ross’s house again and when Monica appears with all her extra kilos shed and looking her best in a beautiful maroon dress, Chandler is blown away. The wooing now happens the other way round.
What Monica achieved is called the ‘revenge body’ in new-age terms. In most cases, this refers to a new slimmer look that a person acquires after a break-up to make their ex-partner jealous. It is a body type that induces (or is supposed to induce) regret in the other person for having broken up with you.
Body-positive activists around the globe have taken issue with the term for many reasons, and rightly so. It is not about transforming oneself and becoming a better version of yourself. There is instead an underlying pressure, anxiety and the need to prove yourself to someone else.
The entire concept that your body transformation or physical appearance can manipulate someone to want to be with you is flawed. To begin with, if you are changing your body for someone else, then even after breaking up you are still allowing that person to dictate your life and your body. They linger in your thoughts and remain the focus of your life.
You also send out a subtle message that the reason they should have stayed with you was solely dependent on your appearance. This can lead you to develop a toxic relationship with your body and to believe that your ‘revenge body’ is a sort of social currency.
Revenge is never healthy. Seeking revenge can never undo the problems that were there in a relationship irrespective of whether the other person wronged you in some way or the other. Further, taking revenge based solely on your physical appearance proves that you believe your shape and size were ‘wrong’ somehow. You are in a way giving a green signal to all the body-shamers out there.
The other problem with this concept is that that being overweight is associated with being lesser or flawed, and a slimmer body is considered superior. But are ‘looking a certain way’ and happiness directly proportional?
When was the last time you ran into a friend who has gained weight and told them that they look better now? Instead, we sympathise and say, “Don’t worry, you will go back to your original size”.
We never see a ‘fat’ picture in the ‘after’ column of before-after comparison. Fitting into a kind of body type is always flouted as a ticket to happiness.
I agree that physical transformation is tough and it is commendable to achieve a new body, but it shouldn’t be done in order to ‘prove’ something to someone. Also, it should not come with a subtle suggestion that the person looks immeasurably better now than they did before, or that only certain types of bodies are worthy of love.
As clichéd as it might sound, our body is the temple we live in. It is our home, our place of worship and it is extremely crucial that we all embrace it the way it is. Yes, physical fitness, health and overall wellbeing are undoubtedly very important. But we should strive to achieve it for ourselves and not as a mere revenge tool for others.
In another episode of F.R.I.E.N.D.S., an alternative timeline is presented to viewers in which Monica never loses weight and stays a virgin. If her revenge body wasn’t problematic enough, this ending is certainly a dystopian nightmare for regular women everywhere.
Sumangla Sharma is a Delhi-based marketing communications professional who loves yoga and is an ardent believer of the law of attraction and the infinite power of the universe.