I think that just about everyone in the world can identify with this post’s title in some way. Depending on where you are from you might react to receiving these three words with anger, or simply shrug it off as a term of endearment.
Being an American living in Asia I have mixed feelings about this comment. In the good ole US of A we often associate our self worth with our bodies. Many of us idolize models, celebrities and athletes who have Herculean physiques to the point that lacking such physique equates to some sort of character flaw. Calling someone fat in the US is basically as bad or worse than calling them stupid.
Thais though certainly aren’t immune to the allure of a perfectly chiseled body. Advertisements are much the same here in Bangkok as they are at home in terms of selling sex and a smooth set of legs along with your soda and seaweed snacks. However, there seems to be something lingering deep in the soil of some Asian cultures which makes it more okay to call someone fat. What is it?
I was recently at the doctors office sitting on the table when I pulled up my shirt for a heart rate check when she said, “Oh, you are getting fat” and motioned toward my belly roll. I shrugged and said, “yeah I guess so”, not actually agreeing but acknowledging that we have strikingly different perceptions of fat. I wasn’t the least bit offended. I’ve been in Asia long enough to consider it endearing. I’ve seen the term flung around as casually as I say “dude” or “good morning”.
While I didn’t take her comment personally, it does have me wondering. I mean, I am writing about it right? What is it about this comment that seems to draw a line in the cultural sand box. On one hand you’ve got a culture obsessing over body image and taking nude selfies with champagne landing effortlessly on a backside proclaiming to “blow up the internet”. On the other, you have a culture in which “you look skinny” or “you look fat” often replaces “good morning”. Neither really seem ok to me. Sure these are extreme examples, but extremes are a telling part of the story that effects the lasting impression of a culture.
Upon doing some research, I had no luck actually finding an answer to why it is okay to call someone fat in Asia. Maybe I have a topic to investigate. I did however find that average BMI is highest in the US and lowest in Thailand. I also found,unsurprisingly, numerous articles about the negative effects that media has on people’s self image in both Asia and the US.
I’m still left wondering, however, what is the key ingredient in the cultural stew that makes it okay or not okay to call someone fat.
What do you think about this situation? I’d love to hear from you, my readers, about your perspectives and experiences on this topic. Let’s get to the bottom of it.