Girl, you know you very fat ah; why you don’t diet?The Lady in McDonald’s, Jan 2019
It’s not the first time, and I’m sure it won’t be the last that I hear some mangled version of this line. I don’t know when these comments began or how long I’ve been putting up with them that I barely react in public anymore (it’s a whole other story in private of course). A snide comeback waits ready to be fired from years of practice. How many years? I couldn’t tell you. Frankly, I don’t even want to think about it.
Back to the quote at the start of this post. There are so many things wrong with that line that I don’t even know where to begin. First of all, the last time this person saw me was years ago, and we don’t even have any proper relationship to speak of, so why is she talking to me about my body? She has no idea about what’s going on in my life, no idea what I’m doing, who I am as a person, what I love or hate. She literally doesn’t know me except as the girl who is part of that Indian family that’s always in McDonald’s – where she works.
So, here I am, surrounded by my entire family – who are all wonderful and what some would call “socially acceptable” size-wise (although no one knows the insecurities that each of these individuals have about their owns bodies). And with a smile she decides to greet me with this beautiful opener just as I am about to dig into my Filet-o-Fish (and Iced latte with no syrup – cos too much of that sugar will do you diiiiirty, girl). Complete with her arms spread out in a mocking pantomime of how big I am. Really?
Honestly – I’m hungry, so my reaction is just a dismissive – “Yah”, as I continue to bite into my burger with a little less enthusiasm then when I first opened the box. Then out of the blue, I am struck sideways by a voice coming from my left side. My dear aunt, who loves me and wants nothing but the best for me, decides that she has to defend me in her own misguided, sweet and caring way.
“Yah la, she got diet la. But still like that”.
With a simple shrug and a wave of her hands as if to say “what to do?”. As if, this is necessary information. As if I need to be defended. As if my very existence itself is a giant question mark.
I’m struck dumb. A rare occurrence, if I say so myself. Where did this come from? Why would you do that?? I want to turn to my aunt and yell at her for her nonchalant answer. I want to get up and leave. I want to melt into the floor and become one with the ugly grey tiles, or teleport away from this embarrassment of a conversation. Instead I remember that it’s 2019, and get annoyed that I still can’t teleport. And I – I keep quiet.
Do not confuse my quiet with resignation though. This is a different type of quiet. This is the type of contemplative quiet that comes once in a blue moon for me – someone who often lashes out before she thinks. This is the type of quiet that is often followed by determination and a call to action.
This is a long-drawn, victorious quiet for I decide then and there – I’m done. I’m done having to be the only one having my food choices questioned while everyone else around me is eating equally as unhealthily.
I’m done having to defend myself and my body. I’m done having others feel the need to defend my body. No more.
And I’m ready.
I’m ready to love myself, and I’m ready to love my body.
My body – you hold all of me that’s both beautiful and unsightly. You hide the shy child that’s inside me that few get to see. You are hardened from multiple battles – surgeries, self-harm, slips and falls, snide remarks and hate – so much hate. A short lifetime spent building walls – a jovial and outgoing exterior cemented with all the hate, to distract them from the constant and on-going chaos inside.
Today I choose to tell my body this: You did well.
You are amazing and I thank you for staying strong despite everything I put you through. I thank you for continuing to love me when all I showed you was hate.
Thank you. And I’m here for you now. I love you and I will love myself – even if no one else understands. Even when the whole world is confused with the idea of me daring to love this fat, imperfect body. No one else will have that power over my body again because I choose me and –
I love you, Renuka.
Image: Daan Stevens on Unsplash