In a recent virtual Christmas party with my Toastmasters International Club, we had fun answering impromptu questions asked during the Ms. Universe 2021 competition but with a twist, assigning each participant a country, such as Ms. Russia to a member who’s based in Moscow and Ms. France to me for having been posted in Paris for my foreign assignment.
I got the question asked of Ms. Paraguay “How can women best handle body-shaming?” but to relate it to the Holiday Season, the Table Topics Master changed it to “During the Holiday Season, one way of celebrating is by eating lots of food, which may lead to weight gain…”
That question made me want to write this piece on appreciating one’s body, something that I have been meaning to write about but never felt the strong impetus until now.
We are all aware that the society dictates standards of beauty, from the voluptuous women shown in Renaissance paintings to the tall, slim and long-haired models of the present generation. There have been efforts in accepting diversity in beauty, but it can be denied that for many, being fair-skinned, tall, and slim is what is considered “beautiful.”
In the Philippines, for example, there’s always a market for whitening products despite the the Filipinas’ naturally-lovely kayumanggi complexion. Also, many products seem to be more attractive to women if they have “slimming” attached to it — slimming tea, slimming juice, slimming pills, slimming drip and so on. Also, for a time, hair salons have been in-demand for hair-straightening treatments, never mind if they are harmful for the hair and can cause dangerous chemicals to be ingested in the body through the scalp. The draw was too strong, such that, even I, with naturally straight hair was talked years ago into getting a hair straightening/rebonding treatment. Yikes!
What prompted me to write about this topic was actually the experience my young daughter, who I can say is a bit bigger than many girls her age, had during a company party in which she was the one tasked to organize the food for the party, an endeavor when she had to do several coordination, phone calls and messages for a few days prior to the event.
So, the day came. The food arrived on time for their party at dawn. (It’s a BPO company). One of her co-employees said directly to her, “Kaya ka naman pala napapakain nang marami, kasi ganyan kasarap ang food.” (It’s no wonder you so much if the food is that delicious.) Worse, another co-employee, a mother, told the others in the group as she was passing by, “Kaya yung anak ko, sinasabihan ko na ‘wag masyado kumain kasi baka lumaki nang ganyan,” (That’s why I always tell my daughter not to eat too much so she wouldn’t get that big.) while pointing at her.
What the heck? I only learned about it the next day when my daughter called me. She tried not to cry when she recounted it and I could only say “Don’t mind them,” when deep inside, I was furious. She wore a new skirt that time, since I told her it’s more special than a usual workday and she left the house feeling beautiful but some narrow-minded, insensitive people thought that the best thing to do during a party is to body-shame someone and feel smug about it.
Now, my daughter has gotten over that incident and she doesn’t mention those comments anymore. But still, I would like to share my views on the matter. I have observed that among Filipinos, one of the things people say after not seeing another person for a long time is “Kumusta, tumaba ka yata?” (How are you? It seems you have gained weight?) And in an effort to lighten the joke, but in truth made it worse, is to add “Napabayaan ka yata sa kusina?” (You were let loose in the kitchen?) with a chuckle. It is not a good joke at all; I wonder why some find it funny or appropriate even.
I’ve been average sized ever since–not fat, not thin, with no special diet nor rigorous exercise regimen–but in college, I became chubby and that’s when I received such comments too. What I observed was that your real friends and your close buddies are never the ones to comment on your weight. It is because there are so many other things to talk about and so many things to catch up on such that gaining weight or losing weight isn’t the first thing you notice upon seeing each other. This leads me to a probable conclusion–only those who have nothing better to say or those who are not really “close” to you will tend to focus on trivial matters.
It’s the Holiday Season. More so, today, it’s Christmas. It’s a time for celebration. Do not let anyone make you sad and prevent you from enjoying a sumptuous meal. Celebrate your body. Appreciate every curve. Marvel at how wonderful it is. Nourish yourself properly. Your body is specially for you to do day to day tasks, to enjoy your leisure activities, to make loved ones feel your warmth and affection through an embrace.
Never let anyone who have nothing better to say make you hate your body and make you feel bad about yourself. Take good care. ❤
The featured image is a painting with the title EqualitySeries6 by Amsterdam and Paris-based Filipino painter Cristopher Adajar, who is a member of Kuwadro Pintura with a gallery located at 10 Avenue de Champaubert, 75015 Paris, France.
I personally was able to meet three out of four Filipino artists who compose Kuwadro Pintura, Dhon Dela Paz, Eric Dimarucut, and Marie Expert but not Mr. Adajar who was still in Amsterdam by the time I visited the gallery in July. But I was already drawn to the art of Mr. Adajar because of its dynamism, lively play of colors, and a fusion of traditional art and 3D design. Should I have or be asked to design a dance studio at any time, I’d surely recommend this piece to adorn the entrance if not the walls. 😉