Big girl, you are beautiful
published : 2 Sep 2014 at 06:00
newspaper section: Life
I am fat. I am overweight. I am big. I am obese. I am large. I am big-boned.
Whatever adjectives that encapsulate way above-average size, you can throw them my way, because I am all of that. There's no point denying it. I've always been bigger and taller than most, which is not really welcoming in the world of ideal beauty, especially in a beauty-obsessed country such as ours.
I grew up that way. I grew up being able to stand up for myself, thanks to my father's quiet nurturing nature. He was the one adult who never criticised my weight, and that allowed me to be strong enough to fight back against the physical jokes and insults fat kids had to endure. Being vocal, aggressive and good in school most certainly helped, especially in Thailand, where appearance jokes are often deemed normal.
I know that body shaming has been quite a big (no pun intended) global issue of late, and I'm rather happy to see women standing up for themselves, even though the same old prejudices still persist and the traditional idea of beauty still has not been altered. But at least people are more aware that larger folks are not always comedians and are not walking targets for people to throw teasing comments at.
About a month ago, there was an incident involving a girl who took a photo of two chubby friends riding an elevator side by side. She posted it on her public Facebook profile, with a caption that read something along the lines of "Why did they let themselves get so fat and ugly? Why don't the two of them join hands to lose weight and do something about their fat lives?"
Most of the public was outraged, and, of course, a witch-hunt ensued. The hapless girl later apologised, but I honestly don't think she will change her lifelong cultivated hatred of obesity.
The chubby girls in the photo were smaller than myself, but even if they had been bigger, they still didn't deserve such public shaming from a stranger. As a fat person, I can attest that we all wish to be "normal" size, but losing weight is not something that happens easily. People are built differently physically and even mentally. Metabolisms differ from one person to the next. Surely, there are many health-related complications resulting from being overweight. We know we're prone to die younger. Don't you think we know that?
Other than health reasons, we, on many different levels, want to fit in the same size four moulds, but we can't. I've struggled with my weight and health, and, yes, I try to do something about it, because I know somewhere along the line it can affect my well-being in one way or another. Our "fat lives" are hard enough from personal, social and romantic points of view — no matter from what angle you're looking from — so we would appreciate a little kindness from those around us.
Do you think it's fun to know we might stay single for the rest of our lives because fat equates ugly, that we can't find clothes that fit, that we need to be careful when sitting on a cheap plastic chair or when
a passenger on a plane gives you a dirty look as soon as they see you? Do you really think it's really fun?
There's an argument hidden somewhere about us not trying hard enough to lose weight, to be healthy, to be "pretty" according to the socially constructed beauty standards imposed on all of us.
I don't know much about others, but I can very well defend myself.
In Thailand, where people think it's all right to substitute "hello" with "OMG, you've gotten even fatter", you need to be able to do so. It, however, perplexes me as to why anyone with a bit of a brain would do so. Normally, if I don't walk away, I'll retort back with something mean, suggesting that they seem to me dumber and should read a few books. OMG, do you even know how to spell "obesity" before attempting to put me down? Why would my weight be a bother to society when stupidity and ignorance are much more harmful? Why do you think it's OK to make casual comments about people's appearances when they would never ask you to do so?
And to my fellow fatties out there, it's a cliche, I know, but you must learn to love yourselves and not let others walk all over your soft bellies.
If all else fails, remember your parents, siblings, family members and friends who will always love you, whether you gain or lose 100kg.
Underneath all the fat, there's a real person with feelings and emotions, just like you.
So the next time you see someone like me, be kind and eat some cake. Or read a few books. It might make us all feel better.
Onsiri Pravattiyagul writes about music and contemporary culture for Life.