Friday, October 07, 2011

4: Body

Eleven: A male schoolmate zips past the badminton court where we're having rhythmic gymnastics practice after school. "Hey you, I never noticed before that you have FAT LEGS!" For the rest of primary school -- a year and a bit -- this is what he calls me whenever he sees me. Up close, from a distance, anytime, loudly if nobody else is around to hear it, hissed under his breath when he doesn't want nearby classmates and teachers to detect his one-person verbal assault. FAT LEGS. Always I see it in block caps, stout and round as I must surely be, to have so caught the attention of a peer.

Fourteen: My aunt, sitting at the dining table with me and her daughter, demands of her, "Why is Sharon's face so nice and long? Yours is so round. Sharon, you don't eat a lot, do you? She [elbows my cousin] should learn from you."

Twenty-five: Walking to the basement car park after church, I rise on tiptoe to squeeze through the narrow gap between two bollards. Boyfriend-at-the-time drops his jaw in mock amazement, exclaiming altogether too loudly for an echo-filled basement, "Wow, you made it through! Guess you're not built like a house after all."

Six: Friends of my father who meet his family for the first time comment on his hefty son and slight daughter. "Of course, that's the way it should be. Girls shouldn't be too big. I wouldn't worry about her not eating much, that's how they stay thin."

Seven: "Is this your daughter? The one I met last year? She's bigger now, so cute! What happened, does she eat a lot now?"

Sixteen: "You've lost so much weight since I last saw you! Must be the stress from your dad's heart attack and all that. ['All that' = his nearly dying from the heart attack; a two-month recuperation before a quintuple bypass before a long recovery; helping my mum to deal with the strain of a husband and father who would not take responsibility for his health and never seemed to realise he was capering about on death's door.] But it looks good on you. Better than being on a diet!" Again I hear this at 18, 19, while being run off my feet with the combination of tertiary study in KL and accompanying a terminally ill mother to treatment in Singapore. Stress keeps you from eating. Stress makes you thin. Thin looks good. Stress makes you look good.

Twenty-three: My first ballet class since I was 11. Leotards and tights, hair in buns, the whole form-fitting outfit again to make it easier to note alignment and form. But I no longer have the uniformly pudgy, curve-less body of a child. I am almost at my thinnest ever, but I cannot bear to look directly at my reflection. My rented room in Sydney is a compact, tidy space of which one wall comprises floor-to-ceiling mirrored wardrobe doors. I am constantly in my own view, even when I don't want to be. That would be always.

Twenty-eight: I can look at myself now. I haven't made a hobby of it, but I don't cringe at the sight of myself or wonder if I'm taking up more of the mirror's width than I used to. I started eating at least three solid, nutritious meals a day only a year or two ago. I exercise regularly; because I want to stay flexible and healthy, not to keep myself from growing fat. I don't own a car anymore, so I'm forced to get up and walk to public transport if I want to get anywhere. People tell me I look good. I meet a good friend from KL when his ship sails into Botany. "Boy, you've gained weight!" are the first words I hear from him, yes, even before "Good to see you and thanks for travelling an hour and a half to meet me." They will continue to prick at me for a couple of years, the freely given comments on increase and decrease alike. But there comes a day, sometime in my 31st year, when they cease to bother me.

Nearly 31: Weight is only a number. Health can't be quantified, however much we try to take safety in "good" lipid counts and blood glucose. Food is no longer synonymous with control, nor size with power. As a child I never knew what it felt like to be enough, exactly as I was, to not be made much of just because I was thin and delicate or chubby and cute. As an adult I struggled to erase the memories of male taunts while trying to squeeze into a size and shape that would protect me from further attack. No more. I eat well now, with less concern for how much than how good it is for me. I move as much as I can. And I delight in every inch of the way I look, because I know that it's all a good idea to the one who made me this way. Nobody else's opinion matters.

Writing this post brought to mind this forgotten one from March 2006. Hope it also gives you something to chew on.

No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails