Friday, July 24, 2009

Riots, not diets

Earlier today I was lacing up my new running shoes to go for a jog around the lake. The cleaning lady comes on Saturday, and my roommates were out. I asked her to tell them where I was if they asked.

"Good," she said. "You are getting fat since you came here."

This is probably more shocking to you than it was to me. In Southeast Asia (maybe all of Asia, I don't really know), people say things like this. They're not insults, they're observations. The sky is blue. The earth is round. I am getting fat since I came here.

I laughed and said I know. Malaysian food comes in two categories: carbs fried in fat and fat fried in carbs. The only way to avoid weight gain is to have the will of Hercules and cut portion sizes.

But she didn't stop there. "Yes, face, fat. Back, fat. Exercise good. But you need to eat less too."

OK, this was crossing the line. I still tried to laugh it off.

"When you come back, you eat. Jogging will do nothing if you eat."

I jogged away, trying to suppress my rage and keep myself from thinking about how I apparently looked to everyone else: A fat, sweaty white girl trying to choke back tears as she ran.

Now, here's a confession: I am fairly obsessive about my weight. I just don't talk about it. Ever.

I don't talk about it because my fat-phobia comes with a generous side helping of feminist guilt. I know that even at the heaviest end of my weight range, I'm still squarely within the healthy body mass index for my height. Therefore, the only reason for me to care when I gain weight is because of an unrealistic body image created by the patriarchal corporate mass media etc. etc.

In other words, every time I eat an apple instead of a candy bar or expend brain power counting the calories in my lunch instead of reading a book, the patriarchy wins, a little. This sucks. I hate it. But the way I feel about myself when I let things slide and gain weight sucks more. So I keep doing it.

Lose lose situation.

I blame this largely on the fact I was a fat child. When I saw "Little Miss Sunshine," I immediately thought: Dear God, they invented a time machine, plucked me out of my desk in the fourth grade, and cast me as Olive in this movie. Ask Sonya. She's seen pictures.

I came back 45 minutes later. My roommates had brought me lunch. I gave the cleaning lady a dirty and triumphant look as I threw away most of my rice.

I could practically hear The Patriarchy laughing.

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