Comments on my body are an every day occurrence. It’s Either I’m “reducing” or “gaining” and will never go a day without hearing about it. Unfortunately, I am usually in a state of gaining, according to my village. Some of my neighbors do this thing where they say “isatou, an Dinka!” (Isatou, you are fat!) and make a pumping motion with their arms to simulate being big. I could die every time that gesture is made. Literally dig myself my own death holes as to burn a few extra calories before I lay for an eternal rest. You can adorn my grave with bags of rice.
Coming from a society where calling someone fat is nearly a sin, the transition to being able to just shine the comment on has been a slow one. Not to mention, being “big” here is a complement and a standard of beauty in many instances. So…how can I really be upset? I guess?
Well, its been nearly a year and a half, now, of being called fat on the daily and me just smiling and saying behind silent self esteem slashes, “thank youuuu”. Another glimpse of my life as a personal trainer and health enthusiast drifting away and drown down with multiple loaves of bread.
*silently soft sobs while wiping tears away with said bread*
Thankfully, for the first time, I was given full clarification about all of the body allegations that have been bestowed upon me for the past year and a half (read this sentence in sarcastic tones, please). About a week after the girls football match, I received a text from the other teams Peace Corps Volunteer coach.
Apparently, her host sister’s felt the need to explain to her as to why I was “nicer” than her. They labeled me “skinny fat”. Fat in the “good way”. This was further explained as me having bigger legs and a bigger butt than the other volunteer…and a nicer face. THIS IS THE CRAZY TALK THAT WE HAVE TO DEAL WITH. Shamelessly those girls told the volunteer that my face was nicer than hers. Disclaimer, it is not and this other volunteer is a tall, slender, beautiful, human being with an equally beautiful soul.
Beauty standards. Although the pressure feels much less here than it does in the US, personally, it still reigns true that someone else is always going to tell you how you should look. In the states I could get away with having an “athletic build”. (WHATEVER THAT MEANS!?!?!) Here it is just considered fat. In The Gambia, I should eat a ton to show that I am healthy and nourished. In the states, I should probably be eating more salads…more half salads.
In the end, I hate to tell you, women, we can’t win. For some strange reason, the bodies that we were given just aren’t right and need to be changed. PSYCH. Live in your body and I’ll live in mine! Moving here has given me perspective. I eat to function. If I were to decide to be on a low carb diet here (because, ladies, we all know that carbs are the devil incarnate, right? Seventeen magazine told us so) I would actually starve to death. So I eat the carbs. My host family boils and fries the living hell out of my vegetables, but some vitamins are better than no vitamins. When you change your mindset and look at food as the thing in which sustains you rather than ruins your life, it changes perspective a little bit.
This post may not be as funny or charming as my other Toubob posts, but for the love of God, YOU ARE ALL BEAUTIFUL HUMANS. You rock the skinny, you rock the muscular, you rock the soft bod, you rock the curvy bod, you rock the petite and the plus sized and the minus sized and the square root of ten sized and I rock the SKINNY FAT.
You rock you.