Thursday, January 1, 2009

Honk if you can relate

I have a friend. We go way back, like to a time when we used to beat the pulp out of beds by using them as trampolines. Now we're grown up young ladies. My friend always had a heavy body, but big deal. Over the past couple of years since she finished her undergrad in India, she's returned to her family in Oman where she fills in for her mom who has been sick with diabetes and such. My friend has been cooking and cleaning for her family, taking care of her father and teenage brother, and also taking care of her mother's health and becoming a master at giving her her insulin shots. Now she has started working towards her MBA and recently got engaged. My friend is a very polite and hospitable girl compared to yours truly who is tempestuous and can be amazingly bitchy if the weather is just right.

My friend and I were at a family friend's for dinner a few days ago. On her way out after about 3 hours of making respectful conversation with the host and the guests, my friend is tapped on the shoulder by one of the guests. This mother of 4 rambunctious children drops a disclaimer to my friend by asking her not to feel bad before she says something to her. My friend goes, "of course not, aunty, please go ahead". The guest then, within full earshot of the rest of the crowd, asks my friend to lose weight. My friend just stood there, pretty much humiliated, embarassed, and speechless.

My mother had actually seen this happen, and I raged about the event for days after. Less than a week later I stood by my elder brother's bed in the plastic/neurology ward he has been in for a month for complications arising due to his paraplegia. My brother lay in his bed disheveled with me on one side and an old friend of my dad's on the other. While trying to raise my brother's spirits as we do everyday when we visit, my dad's friend suddenly tells me that in his opinion, I need to reduce my weight. As I stood there blinking at him, he further informs me that I seem to be developing a double chin and that I weighed less the last time I was in town. He suggested I develop a walking regimen. I looked at him, I looked down at my brother who looked back at me, and then I chuckled, saying that the last time I was in town I had other problems (read: an ugly nervous breakdown that marked the beginning of the end of my adventures in lonely foreign lands). My dad's friend then stood there suddenly uncomfortable and feeling awkward at the silence and the end-of-discussion smirk on my face. "You aren't feeling bad, are you?" he managed to say. I bit my tongue because I didn't want to suddenly retort by making a snarky remark about my dad's friends daughters in return. Not worth the energy expenditure.

I want to know why people feel free to express their opinions of another person's body, clearly presenting what they think is wrong with it and telling them how to fix it when they honestly don't know sh**. In my own experience, as a female especially, my appearance is frequently a walking advertisment of the various issues going on in my life at that time. Emotional angst, depression, loneliness, insomnia, and a host of other filthy problems manifest themselves in a person's appearance. Especially in women whose complicated physiology immediately translates any form of stress into hormonal imbalances which can immediately result in physical symptoms like hair loss, yo-yo weight loss and gain, bloating, missed periods, hot/cold flashes, and a plethora of problems that exercise or criticise cannot fix. I once had an awesome funky cool teacher in primary school who suddenly balloned in a year. She had a thyroid problem. But that didn't stop everyone from tearing her down, like OMG, she's so fat. I want to know why, instead of appreciating that a girl is healthy and happy and good and has all body parts in working order, people insist on stopping short of taking a marker and dilineating spots on her body that are not what they like. I mean, why not? That's what it felt like anyway each time someone told me one of the following lines when I gained weight after high school for reasons varying from normal growth to depression:

1. Wow, look at your cheeks, they are so full, are you prospering?
2. You're so fat, it's disgusting.
3. Don't you work out at all?
4. Why can't you look like [insert random model on TV here]?
5. You are unpresentable.
6. Do you eat a lot?
7. I can't recognise you, you have become so fat.
8. You're the last person to be eating ice-cream.
9. You're a slob.
10. I heard [insert random person] saying that you look pregnant and that your face is weird.

F*** that.


Adria said...

I love you for saying this! And believe me, I mucho feel your pain. Hang in there, and don't stop being who you are for ANYBODY!

Graduate Student said...

Honk honk! :) And the fun part is such things are never said to men with potbellies and B.O.

Khadija Ejaz said...

I knowwww right??