I saw my fat roll today, it looked like this:
It was peaking out from under my hoodie.
I felt a liar caught red-handed when I looked in the elevator mirror. And before I knew it, I was my seventeen year old, skinny-obsessed self again.
I am not proud to admit this, but today and many days in my life, looking as beautiful and as skinny as I could possibly look is the most important thing to start off my day. It is the epitome of my perceived success, the Holy Grail of getting ready for the world, the NBA championship of my tiny self-worth.
I strategically chose a long hoodie, and a dress that is loose and flowy. “Perfect!” I thought. But I failed to notice the clingy soft fabric gliding ever so slightly over my fat roll. The shadows provided by my hoodie made it super visible. In fact, they enhanced it. My fat was bouncing like a pair of sexy breasts, except it was just one single boob, flattened, and placed at my stomach.
“My mom didn’t have that when she was my age. Why do I have one?”
My mind knows that is a utter none-sense. My mom grew up in 70s China when she was lucky enough to not be in a famine. I spent my teen years in 2000s, in Canada, the land of Tim Hortons donuts and “double doubles” and “triples triples”.* Things are different for my mom and I. But I can’t help but think that people still expect me to have a typical “Chinese” body like she did. After all, I still look Chinese. If a Chinese person who never left China is traditional egg noodles, then I am maple-syrup flavoured egg noodles. People can’t tell that an egg noodle could be maple-syrup flavoured because that is weird!
I’d like you to see a more wholistic picture for why I went down this fat-fearing, skinny-worshipping rabbit-hole. I’ll let Seventeen-Year-Old Moo speak for now. She can be offensive so be warned.
Girl. I’m seventeen and I still don’t have a boyfriend. And I am not popular. There is definitely something wrong with me. I’m too tall and I have a weird-shape body. If I grew up in China I’d probably be okay. Or if I came here after puberty, so that the fat cells never got the chance to grow. But no, I came to Canada at just the right time for them to mature. *sigh* Now I have to work hard to lose weight so I can be normal in China.
I don’t live in China, but it’s not like I’m pretty here in the west either. Here you gotta be short, tanned and look like Lucy Liu. I’m tall, my body is block shaped and I have a pale chubby face. Oh God, it’s like someone at the toy factory assembled a baby doll’s head onto a Transformer.
When I gained weight in puberty, my mom and dad said I was “zhuang” (the Chinese word for strong). They probably didn’t think it was a bad thing, because when they grew up with you know, famines. But most girls you see on the street in China are not zhuang. They’re either shorter than me or skinnier than me. I stood out like a Transformer in a sea of Barbies. When I visited China at 14, a bunch of people looked at me and said “zhuang” out loud and they didn’t even know me! In Canada, Strong means you were fit and strong like Charlize Theron. In China, it means you were Charlize Theron’s character from Monsters.
Okay, I just googled Monsters, she is a serial killer. They didn’t mean that! They just mean a girl is burly and manly and unfeminine. I can say that because when I lost weight and became underweight, not a single person called me ‘zhuang’ anymore. They said I was beautiful.
You can’t change your height but you can change your weight. The world is not kind to maple-syrup flavoured egg noodles so I just gotta do what I gotta do.
Oh boy, she is more nutso than I thought. But do you see the fear there? Underneath all that “logic”?
I do forgive her. I understand her. You see, when you don’t have a place to belong, you grab on to the only hope you have of ever fitting in, even if that is an unattainable image.
After years of struggling, one day something came over me and I realized I wanted my real body. Adult Moo finally stood up for herself. All the body-acceptance TED talks sunk in. And some of the health repercussions my body was having due to the under-eating were truly scaring me.
I am proud to say I’ve gained all my Transformer weight back. It was an incredibly difficult thing to do, but that is a whole other story.
I am proud of my body. I can actually look at it now. It no longer looks like a babydoll’s head screwed on a Transformer. It looks like a real person’s body, with a stomach boob and all. Sure, it’s not “acceptable” according to China, but it is healthy. But of course, I still have bad days where my Seventeen-Year-Old self comes to the surface.
“Oh my god! We are too big! People are gonna say we’re ‘zhuang’ again! We have to lose weight ASAP!” She says.
I say to her: “Is it really so bad to be ‘Strong’? Is it really that bad to be Charlize Theron’s character from Monsters? Minus the serial killer part? When someone calls you “zhuang”, you can say “Thank you very much, ma’am or sir. I am strong. I can do five chin-ups’.” (note to self: we both gotta work on chin ups)
I stepped out onto the street with my fat roll. Seventeen-Year-Old Moo immediate wanted to do her speech again. But we gave it a break this time.
*double double is a term for coffee served with two creams and two sugars, triple triple is for three creams and three sugars. And quadruple quadruple means, you know… People don’t really order that but the clerks at Tim Hortons would understand.