Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Software of the Mind - Part 5: Ideals of Beauty & Being Called FAT

I was recently out of town for work and sharing a room with a colleague. In addition to being a lovely woman, she is also a beautiful ‘big Malawian Mama’ (very round in stature).

Every evening when I put on my pajamas (a fitted t-shirt and yoga pants), she would tell me that I was getting fatter in Malawi. She would say something like ‘Malawi is making you soooooo FAT’ or ‘Every day you are looking FATTER and FATTTERR’….

So what does a 26 year old, weight sensitive, Canadian woman do when she is repeatedly called fat in Malawi?

Well, she does what many of my demographic do best - act passive aggressive. I would try to laugh it off and ask her ‘do you really think so?’ to confirm that she meant it. 

After confirmation I would then crawl into bed, choking back tears and feeling wounded. I would silently vow that tomorrow, I would eat less nsima, find time to do some exercise, stop myself from morphing further into the hideous, fat beast of a woman that I had become (sarcasm).

After the 3rd day of hearing about my apparently exponential expansion, I couldn’t take it anymore.

I told her, in as much gentleness and restraint as I could muster, that in my culture, telling someone how fat they are is done to tell them they have a problem or in order to hurt their feelings.

She looked stunned and worried before explaining to me that she was paying me a compliment based on African ideals of beauty. 

I breathed deeply, let go of my stupid western fat-phobic conditioning, and thanked her for calling me fat.

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