Thursday, July 5, 2007

on thinness, or what somebody else wants me to be

biTCH no. 8961

There’s 黑哇 standing by his van. I wave out cheerily as I pass by. I just finished my last day of class, and I’m on my way home.

he shouts out. 哦,小真。你长胖了!

I reply, genuinely surprised. I look down and pat my stomach. I’ve been running recently, though it’s true, not nearly as much as I had been last summer. But I didn’t think I was becoming noticeably fatter.


I scoff. The truth is, it’s been years since I’ve eaten KFC or McDonald’s (well, other than a handful of times I ate McDonald’s ice cream).

But I laugh it off and carry on my way, commending myself for my assimilation. It was only just over two years ago, after I’d been here a year, when one of my male acquaintances had said to me (in awkward English over MSN), “Every time I see you, you are getting fatter and fatter,” and I had gone into a rage.

He was preparing to go to the UK to study within a few months, and I told him he’d better read up on the culture of English-speaking people before he went so he wouldn’t make any such social faux pas while he was there.

“But I consider you as my friend,” he said. “That’s why I thought I could say that.”

Not really. I can’t think of any friend I’d want to hear that from, unless—and this is a big unless—I had specifically asked them. I can’t imagine any of my friends in the States offering up that commentary, unsolicited.

I could, however, imagine my mom saying that. Because she has. More than once. (And, in fact, the only time she told me I was “nice and thin” was after I’d been snorting cocaine on a daily basis for a couple of months and eating once every three days.)

Today, the more I thought about how I’ve changed, and how describing people here as “fat” seems more like how I would perceive somebody saying they’re tall or short than it is like saying they’re unhealthy and/or unattractive, the more I became annoyed. Until hadn’t just shrugged it off, and it became a big part of my day.

The difference this time was rather than being angry and annoyed with the weight-evaluator, I was angry and annoyed at myself. For not having gone running as much as I “should” have been. For eating a lot when I’m not even hungry sometimes. For always wanting to eat dessert. And then for being annoyed that I care. And then for having dated those guys—there was more than one! In fact, every one except one or two—who at some point or another expressed their desire, some more directly than others, for me to lose weight. It doesn’t help that I have a penchant for dating skinny skinny boys. Hyrum: “You have a big ass,” he’d said after we’d been together almost a year. Nghi, squeezing my back: “You know, Jen, you’d be really hot if you lost this.” Cui Zhong Ku: “You’re very strong.” Mike: “You should lose weight.” Xiao Fei: “You should play some sports.”

Fuck that! And fuck that feeling that I now have to carry around with me all day. And even when I try to go run, I’m just going to think about it and get pissed off. Because, like, that’s not even the reason I started running, really! The only thing that truly motivates me to run is the thought of my parents in their 50s with already rapidly declining health, and the fear that I’ll become that if I don’t start establishing exercise habits now, in my mid-20s, for the first time in my life.

I have body issues. I have body issues. I have body issues. I am the average American woman. This shit is deep. And lame. And I guess I haven’t progressed in my assimilation, in fact, ‘cause I’m still getting worked up over being called “.

Some larger women are viewed as sexy. They’re called “curvy” or “voluptuous,” and in order to qualify for that category of sexy/desirable, they have massive breasts. I, apparently, have a robust midsection, but no breasts. Such an utter lack of breasts that Chloe likes to grope my chest in admiration and wonder, and asked me if it’s OK if she refers men who complain about her small breasts to me.

“Sure, no problem. I’ll kick ‘em in the nuts,” I say.

I didn’t get a petite “Asian” body. I just got little “Asian” boobs.

My pants just keep getting tighter, and I haven’t been on a date in over a year.

And most of all, it’s fucked up that I have to get so worked up over this that I have to write about it and be tempted to call up my friends to bitch about it, but no, I’m going to hash this out on my own ‘cause what’s anybody gonna say that could make me feel better now anyway? “You’re not fat!” Well that’ll just seem like a big fat, try-to-appease white lie now. “Why does it matter, anyway?” Yeah, I’m glad you with your set of cock’n’balls can so easily be so consciously developed as to think that, but for the rest of us, thanks for the complete absence of any practical help whatsoever.

And what's perhaps most fucked up is that all of this body-image and weight and desirability gets equated with self-worth. That, for me, is the underlying issue here.

On Racialicious there is a posting of this two-part documentary, produced by Asian American students at Columbia University on body image in the Asian American community. Some of the comments are interesting, but, in a word, depressing. All of it.

I am not conforming to any of these standards, and for some reason that's bothering me. Something about being here and not seeing myself as a completely Caucasian person (like there's some sort of exemption made because everyone knows white people are bigger), but being too big to not be.

Time for ice cream! Jesus.

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