Wednesday, January 03, 2007

越来越胖 - yue lai yue pang

Okay, I am supposed to be studying, but obviously I'm not. You see, I need just a quick blog venting session. I have a question, and maybe some of you know the answer. Is it typical for men of any African nation to unnecessarily discuss or mention a woman's weight in conversation with said woman?
Tonight, I was eating dinner with some males, and they were mostly talking to each other. Then the conversation lapsed and there was silence. Suddenly, one of the guys looks at me and says, “李欧娜,我觉得你越来越胖。”
Translation :
李欧娜 Li OuNa - my Chinese name
我觉得 wo juede - I think
你 ni - you
越来越 yue lai yue - more and more, increasingly
胖 pang - fat
Now, what am I supposed to say when he says that? Huh? Any suggestions? Thanks? Okay, I'll hit the gym? Excuse me? Should I explain that unlike him, and most of the Africans here, I know how to layer, and so I have on a tank top, an A-shirt (also known as a wife-beater), and a long sleeve top under my sweater as well as leggings, tights, and knee-high socks under my jeans? Or that because I am sick my face is a little swollen? Or that my face always looks rounder with my hair pulled up like it is today? Is that even necessary? Maybe I should tell him that even if I've gained 50 pounds, he has no reason to mention it. Ever. I could ask why my weight is of any consequence to him. Or say that only gay men in America make those kinds of comments. That would really get his blood boiling. Can you tell I'm a little angry and quite annoyed? I settled for "Really?" in Chinese, and nothing more.
The thing that bothers me about it is that he isn't the only one. Before I came to China, I had never heard a man describe me as fat, say I am getting fat, or say that compared to him I am fat.
Do most American men ever even compare their bodies to womens' bodies? And on the occasion that I have heard it in the States, it was almost always intended to hurt. Otherwise, it was between people in an intimate relationship. I've never heard a male casually remark while eating that he thinks the female sitting at the table is getting fat, except when he was dropping a hint that she eats too much. And when you are dropping those kinds of hints, you better know said female pretty darn well. And most African women, c'mon, they generally are NOT skinny Asian girls, unless they are suffering from hunger or malnutrition. So what's up with telling me I'm fat? I've heard it quite a lot in the past few weeks, from a classmates inclusion in his description of me for his homework assignment, as fatter than him (the men I know would never even admit that a woman of my size and stature is bigger than them in any respect...he would find everything else under the sun to describe me), to tonights' dinner table comment.
The other day, I was with the Ambassador and another guy, and the other guy said that he heard about a black girl that was a good student. So I jokingly said it wasn't me, it must be such-and-such (who happens to be quite petite). So he said, oh no it was me, and in the process of the discussion, he said that I am fatter than her. It was so unnecessary and unexpected, and I was so taken aback, that I hit him on the arm and asked if he was calling me fat. He said, well you are fatter than such and such, and then he turned to the Ambassador and asked if that wasn't so. The Ambassador just stared at him, refusing to answer. Then the other guys says to the Ambassador, "Well, how else would you say it?" And the Ambassador grinned and replied, "How would you say it?"
Ah, smart man. And that is why I like to spend time with specific guys, you know, the ones that act like men, and know better than to say my name and the word "fat" in the same sentence...


Max said...


And black men wonder why we have to get "ignant" sometimes! He obviously does not realize that comments like that bring out the dark side of any woman. Especially when said in public like that. Very tactiful response. (I know you cursed him out NY style in your head!)

Lucky he wasn't Jamaican though. A Jamaican man would not have settled for just "fat." Those fools like to break things down in the RUDEST, but comically colorful and descriptive ways: ("Gaal yu batty big like waatahmelon!" or "Gaal what yu eatin! Look how yu ah swell!") I have seen it first hand and been a victim.
PS You like my messed up written patois right?

Memeeflye said...


Milka said...

I think you intimidate them, Leiona. I think you have something special that annoys people who are ordinary. So they try to find something--anything--to bring you down a notch cuz your spirit blinds them. Beleive me. I've known you long enough to make that kind of statement with confidence. (Or to put it bluntly...They're just haters and you're not fat!!)

St. James said...

I am sure you are referring to African men as in African men - not black Americans or Caribbean’s. If that is the case, then you certainly do have a point to be mad - raving mad. But watch for a little over-reaction - fat is not necessarily a bad thing in most of Africa for several reasons - on an aesthetics level, most African men prefer their men well rounded, with the booty shaking down the house (African gentlemen prefer booties ..tons of 'em, NOT blondes - don’t forget that). On another level, fat is not a serious issue for most Africans simply because in most of Africa, only the well to do who can eat well get fat (minus a case or two of pure-play obesity). in America, its the poor that get fat on junk food? It’s a simple distinction, but one that has profound impact on comments that may be accepted in Africa but would be a foolish faux pas for a New York gal like you. And I should know, because I grew up on the streets of Lagos, Nigeria, and I now live in Brooklyn.

So cheer up sister.... its not that bad... though if you punch some African nose I would still hail you.