If You Can’t Say Something Nice…

I ducked into the supermarket on the way home from kickboxing this morning. It’s fair to say I wasn’t looking my best. Red-faced with hair in desperate need of a wash, and the full knowledge that lycra is not my friend, I sat outside in the car and weighed up my options – I wanted salad. I knew if I didn’t invest in a lettuce, a couple of fresh figs and handful of tomatoes, my lunch was going to head down the path of a re-heated green chicken curry. I’ve lost a few kilos lately but I have a lot more to go, and with 5 weeks until our summer holidays I know that it’s now or never. Heading home to Australia means heading home to winter; steak and mushroom pies, gutsy McLaren Vale reds, and the inevitable result of a few extra kilos to bring back on the plane. My own very personal excess baggage.

I stopped at a Carrefour which is close to where the children go to school, they have a few cheeses there that I haven’t seen elsewhere. While I loaded the basket with fruit and vegetables I threw in a gooey cylinder of pure indulgent fromagé pleasure. The kind of French cheese that is best left on the bench for a day, allowing it to ooze over the sides of fresh bread before being washed down with a glass of red. It was going to the back of the fridge to be saved for one of those Thursday nights where G and I skip dinner and sit in front of the telly with an episode of House of Cards and a bottle or red. Bliss.

As I said good morning to the supermarket check-out operator I lifted my shopping basket onto the conveyor belt. She smiled, said the same and began to swipe the barcodes. When she made it to the cheese she stopped, and then proceeded to look me up and down.

“I like this one, this one’s good” she smiled. I agreed, told her my husband and I loved it.

“You know though, it’s this that is making you fat.” Her arms made the motion of a curvaceous woman’s body. A very curvaceous women’s body. We’re talking arms outstretched.

The woman waiting in line behind me shook her head in amazement, I giggled and calmly replied that that was why I was standing in front of her in my gym gear, so that I could eat cheese. As I handed her my debit card she looked confused, confused in a but you’re still fat and you shouldn’t be eating cheese kind of way. I thanked her and made my way to Starbucks for a coffee. A few minutes later as I walked to the car I ran into the woman who was standing behind me in line.

“Can you believe she said that?” she asked me.

“Yes. I can!” I giggled “It’s happened so often since I’ve been here, it actually makes me laugh now. You can’t take offence. I just put it down to a cultural difference. I really don’t think she was trying to be offensive.”

A few years ago G and I returned from our summer break. I’d enjoyed our holiday very much, a little too much, and had become well acquainted with the staff at the local bakery. I’d also made friends at the fish and chip shop, the local drive-in bottle shop, and the bread lady at the Farmers Market and I were on a first name basis. My next door neighbour here in Qatar at the time had a full time cleaning lady who often helped G and I out with babysitting. When she came to say hello upon our return to Qatar her opening line involved clutching the top of my arm and exclaiming “Madam, what happened?! You got so fat!”. I was gutted (pardon the pun). I knew she was right, I had stacked on the weight on our trip home but she was the first person to say it out loud. Not one of my friends in Australia or my family had dared make a remark, they never have.

In all of my years of fluctuating weight there’s a pattern which seems to be universal in the western world. If you lose weight everyone feels the need to comment “Oh my gosh, you look fantastic, have you lost weight?”. If you put on weight nothing is said, perhaps a polite  “You’re looking well.” The f word? Not once. Not once has a friend, sister, Aunt or cousin jumped in with an alarmed “what happened to you?!”.

As much as I feel the honest approach has merit, I’m not sure my self esteem is equipped to cope with it full time. Or perhaps that’s the problem, I’ve become too sensitive in my western ways. What do you think? Is weight a different conversation when it comes to your geographical location?

I don’t often ask you do this but today I’d love to hear your comments. Where are you located? And is your weight a public discussion? Has anyone ever said anything out loud to you about your weight? I know those of you in Asia will have stories to tell. A girlfriend of mine still giggles over her introduction to family to her Indonesian housekeeper.

“Have I introduced you to my mother in law?”

“Yes, she’s very fat isn’t she.”

Insert awkward pause here. For about a week.

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