Sunday, November 26, 2006

Been Thinking About...


And not the ones on the dinner table either. You see, in China there seems to be a lack of thighs - on the women at least. Now usually I do not walk around staring at womens' thighs. I tend to notice other things, like epicanthal folds. But it is a little difficult not to notice when most of the women walking down the street have a space the size of Mt. Everest between their legs. Okay, it's not that big. But honestly, most the women I see have a gap of at least a few inches, and some have a space that appears to be as wide as their thighs. And it isn't just the skinny women. As the Chinese people are getting larger, so are their thighs. But it seems as if their thighs get bigger on the outside long before they have gained enough weight to close the gap.

On the whole, Chinese women are very tubular in shape. No 36-24-36 women here...I think the measurements would be more like 24-20-24. Now why is this an issue for me? Well, I figured that I would be able to buy clothes in China, and packed accordingly. As I typically wear a US size 4/UK size 6, I knew I wouldn't be a "small" in China, but I thought that I wouldn't have any trouble finding clothing that fits. I went shopping with some girls from Mali, and they wanted jeans. Aside from thighs, we discovered another obvious problem...hips and butt. Even the largest pair of jeans wouldn't fit the smallest of us (about my size in the waist and hips). If they could squeeze their thighs in, the squeezing stopped there. Oh, well, we said, and moved on. I saw a skirt I liked, and decided to buy it. A skirt should be easy, and it was A-line, so thighs, hips, butt - no problem. Not knowing my size here, the saleswoman asked if she could measure me. Oh, of course. As she put her tape measure around my hips, she made an expression that no woman wants to see on the face of someone with a tape measure around their body parts. Uh oh, I thought, maybe this isn't going to be as easy as I thought. She then moved to my waist, and as I looked at the tape measure, we breathed a simultaneous sigh of relief. 21 inches. I think that is about average for a woman of my height and build, maybe even on the smaller end of the range. And after that hip measurement (you didn't think I was posting that online did you?), my fragile ego was beginning to be restored. She handed me my skirt. POP. What was that? Oh, that was the sound of my bubble - bursting. Apparently a 21 inch waist gets you an XL in China. After 15 minutes of bargaining I paid for my skirt and left to locate my vanished vanity.

Of course, now you are wondering if women in China are really that small. The answer...yes and no. I have seen plenty of women here that are larger than me, and quite a few that would be considered overweight in the US. And I have no idea where they go shopping. One day, I think I'll ask someone. China is nothing if not populous, and so seeing plenty of overweight women does not negate the fact that there are millions of thin women. And aside from the lack of general curves - they have
plains and the occasional gentle rolling hill where I have peaks, valleys and mountains - the most obvious thing to me is the lack of thighs. Even my 12 year old sisters have thighs that meet, and both of them are slim girls. I am related to quite a few petite women, and when they walk down the street, you can not see inches of space. Even in dance class, when we stood in 1st position parallel, there was skin-to-skin contact. These women standing in a similar position, no contact. This lack of thighs is strange to me, it borders on abnormal. I do not understand how even with two and three pairs of pants (winter layers) you can still have inches of visible space.

And sometimes, when walking down the street, I feel as if I have too much of everything. From my hair to my color to my figure, everything draws stares, comments, pointing...and I'm left searching for my self-esteem. And so, I decided to walk down the street and hold my head high, no matter what. Oh I notice the looks, and understand some of the comments (some neutral, some shocked, some mean), but I am not going to let it affect me. This is me, I am brown, buxom, bodacious - and proud of it. It is a struggle, but it is one I am willing to fight...and as soon as I learn some more Chinese it's going to get even more interesting. Last week, while walking to work I was really fighting a battle with my self-esteem - it had been a rough day. I noticed these old men staring at me, and immediately began to construct my wall. As I walked past them one man asked where I was from, and the other one said, "because you are beautiful." I was so completely astounded that I stopped in my tracks to say thank you. Ah, there's that ego.

Last night as I celebrated Thanksgiving with my countrymates, we talked about Chinese women and their lack of thighs (and a few other curvaceous body parts.) As we discussed the reasons for their tubular shape (genetics, diet, bike-riding, etc.) we also talked about our own weight gain and loss in the time that we've been here.
Then one of the girls says to me "You look good, you have a nice figure."
"Oh, thanks," I replied.
"I hope I look that good when I'm your age."
"When you're my age? You said that like I'm 76."
"Well, you're almost 30. I hope I look that good in five years." (I'm 26, she's 21.)
My ego was so confused - it didn't know whether it should run and hide or jump for joy. So, it stood still.
I might have big thighs, and in China I'm a little overweight, but in America I'm fine - and apparently I'm aging well. There was my lesson in gratitude this Thanksgiving.

1 comment:

Between the Sky and the Sea said... I think we mutually agreed that you are NOT fat. But let me also point out that you are NOT old! 21-year-olds that look on 26-year-olds as being "that age" have issues with growing up and need to make themselves feel better by pointing out their youth any chance they get. These are the people that say things like "I'm getting old" just so people can point out that they're still young. And why all the impending doom about turning 30? Don't get me started! 26 is not old!! And, personally, when I am "old," I'll still be fly and saying stuff like "I'm fly." Can I get an amen?