"I am large. I contain multitudes." - Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

A Weighty Issue

Yesterday morning at NAIA Terminal 3 for my flight back to Singapore after spending the weekend home for Mama's birthday, there was an airport staff member checking passport and boarding pass before immigration. He looked at my passport photo then at my face and said: "Ang laki ng tinaba ninyo. Hindi ba kayo magdidieta?" ("You gained a lot of weight. Aren't you going on a diet?")

I've felt bad ever since. How scathing! Eleanor Roosevelt said you have to give people permission to make you feel small. Apparently, it's the same for people who make you feel fat.

I've always known and begrudgingly accepted that in the Filipino culture, we greet each other in the oddest way: by commenting on how much weight you've either lost or gained. I don't know why that is, but I thought I had it licked. I thought I had the right attitude and learned enough self love for this quirk not to get to me. All weekend long, I've had relatives say "Ang taba mo ngayon" ("You've gotten fat") and I was ok with it.

But to get it from a total stranger. Ouch.

Here's the kicker. It's not as if people back home are thin. In fact, if anything, Filipinos are generally heavier than say, Singaporeans. Not fat, just heavier because we shift the range of the median weight.

I live in Singapore where people are reed thin and I don't get this kind of treatment.

I know, I know. I shouldn't let it get to me.

But it did.

It still does.

It's a raw nerve.

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