Monday, May 14, 2007

When Cultures Collide

Yesterday was Mother's Day, so I saw a lot of family. I was barraged by comments about my weight loss. My family, especially my grandpa, wanted me to do something about my obese sister Kiki. What they didn't know was that there really isn't anything I can do but be a role model and wait for her to come to me. They just don't understand all the psychological baggage that comes with being fat in this society. It must be different in the Philippines.

These were the other comments they have made...

The funniest comment was being called “sexy” by my dad and aunt. Then my dad proceeded to tell me to “teach your sister to be sexy too.” It seemed really inappropriate coming from my dad, considering that in the American culture “sexy” normally means wearing suggestive clothing and acting in a seductive way. But for my relatives “sexy” was another way of saying “skinny”. My sister Jen and I had a good laugh, since she has often been called “sexy”, despite her flat-chested, stick-like figure covered in conservative clothing.

The most unusual comment came from my grandmother who's struggling with the notion that being overweight was a bad thing. In her day back in the Philippines where poverty and starvation was part of the scenery, it was better to have more weight on you, but her beliefs are in conflict with her weight-related diseases she currently have. Yesterday, her eyes furrowed as she started to express her disapproval but stopped mid-sentence to say "It's okay, but don't lose anymore!" She was practically forcing the words out! Poor Grandma. She's stuck in the past.

The least welcomed comment came from my grandfather-in-law. Back when I was gaining the weight. Before I was ever pregnant. My grandfather-in-law had made fun of me. He would blow up his cheeks and chest and put out his arms to mimic my fatness. Even when I knew there were cultural differences, I was totally hurt. Well yesterday, he complimented me on my weight loss, saying that I had "persevered". Then much to my sister-in-laws' dismay, he talked about how once they were fat and had "persevered" (by the way, they were never "fat"). He blew up his cheeks and chest and put out his arms to make his point (since there was also a language barrier), and I couldn’t help remembering back then when he had made fun of me and my hurt feelings came flooding back, along with my dislike of him. Why can't I forgive him? He wasn't making fun of me. I know there's a cultural barrier. So why? It's so strange.


Unknown said...

Oh LilyT, I read this post with a great deal of sympathy; I get treated like this a lot in the Indian community (its very weird being told by Western communities that "you're not fat", and then having a completely different perspective pushed on you from the other side)

And I'm with you on the Not Being Able To Forgive thing. My grandfather treats me the same way, and I've given up on trying to forgive him. Perhaps not the right thing, but definitely easier.

Megan said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog!People can be so hurtful & insensitive about weight issues. I can't stand the people that make fun of fat people & act like it's a crime to be overweight!
Congrats on your weight loss so far! I will be cheering you on!

I fear no one’s opinion! I am knowledgeable, focused, and efficient. I make this priority and build from experience. I do this for my children and myself. Supported by love, I will persevere.