Monday, January 14, 2013

Just a Little Bit Fat

The scene above continues...
Mark Darcy: Bridget, this is mad
Bridget Jones: And perhaps you thought you found her.
[long pause]
Bridget: Do you want to marry me?
[awkward silence]
Bridget: You see. You can never muster the strength to fight for me.
[long silence. Mark Darcy opens and shuts his mouth. Bridget walks out]

This scene is from "Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason," and my favorite line would be when Bridget says, "My legs only come up to here and yes, I will always be just a little bit fat." Bridget is a most imperfect heroine, bumbling through social etiquette, embarrassing herself publicly, fumbling through relationships, and making assumptions that land her in hot waters. She cooks blue soup, talks before she thinks, and can't kick her bad habits, try though as she might. But in this scene and with that line, I feel like Bridget learned to accept herself - flaws and all - and, though Darcy was the best relationship she's ever been in, walked away when she didn't feel like Darcy was giving her his best.

Being fat is a stigma in a lot of cultures, including mine. At 5'2" with legs that only come up to here and having always been just a little bit fat, I have been the recipient of fat comments, from "suck in your stomach" to "don't wear stripes." I picked up 101 Ways to Help Your Daughter Love Her Body by Richardson and Rehr because negative body image is still a problem, cultivated and exacerbated by many adults.

I've witnessed a grandmother scold and stop her granddaughter from getting second servings of food in front of her friends and peers. Her self-esteem plummeted and now uses an acerbic attitude as a defense mechanism. At a party, a father made fun of a four-year-old girl (not a member of his family) for being chubby in front of other people. In line at a church potluck dinner, one of the volunteer servers offered me a dish. I refused, and while I was still in front of him, he turned to the man serving next to him and said, "Good. Diet."

Thin and light-skinned is the epitome of beauty in the Filipino culture, even though thin girls also receive their share of negative comments (ie: you're too thin, the wind will blow you away). These negative comments are very damaging, but accepted in the culture. Among your "aunties" and "uncles," it's culturally acceptable for any one of these family friends that may not even be related to you to make comments about your weight, size, look, and life. And you have to take it in stride because it's rude to talk back to your elders (or anyone older than you). Worse, "talking back" constitutes anything other than meek submission so discussion was not even possible. You're like Matilda with adults telling you, "I'm big and you're small. I'm right and you're wrong, and there's nothing you can do about it" (Trunchbull).

This pic from Life as a Movie
But there is something we can do about it, and I've seen change happen. It was slow and with only few people at a time, but at least there were people who realized that negative body comments do nothing but discourage, lower self-esteem, and damage emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual health. I saw 3 pathways or starting points that led to change.

1. Letting go of your own personal hurts about your body.
Most people will repeat history. Those same adults who say negative body comments to others grew up hearing negative body comments about themselves. Simply put, they have hung-ups. They need to let the past go, and let their present hurts heal. When you're at a place where you love who you are, physical "flaws" and all, then you will be at a place to love others for who they are.

2. Being open to discussion and education.
Many people become set in their ways, rejecting actual scientific studies contrary to their own beliefs. For example, many Filipino adults reject the idea that spanking your children can lead to extremely disastrous consequences. Perhaps some may argue that the occasional pat in the butt helps in disciplining your child. But in the Philippines, "spanking" is literally child abuse. Think leather belts, wooden brooms, welts, bumps, and bruises on the body of a child. Again, part of it is repeating history. This is how they were disciplined and the only kind of discipline they know to give. Where spanking is physical abuse, the negative body comments are emotional and mental. But there are more and more people who have learned the consequences of negative body comments, or know how to raise children's self-esteem, or have the knowledge on positive ways of handling child health issues. The problem is, other people don't want to listen. You just have to be open to discussion and learning new things, even if the person teaching you is younger than yourself. It's possible to teach old dogs new tricks if the dogs are willing.

3. Standing up to the negativity even if it means contention.
You need to make that first stance. It may be hard and you may face opposition from other people, but if you never make the first stance, you'll never make any stance and there will never be any change. It may be as simple as saying, "Don't say that" when a person says a negative body comment, or it may be a matter of sitting down with the other person and having an in-depth conversation. Whatever it is, you need to stand up to the negativity in order to bring about change, either in yourself or in others.

So maybe our legs only come up to here, and maybe we will always be a little bit fat. But....

But it's time we love ourselves just the way we are. It's time we love our wobbly bits.

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