Tuesday, February 20, 2007

An honest attempt at confronting body image in Thailand.

This is something that's been brewing in me for a long time, so if it seems like an explosion that's partially what it is. It bubbled over today when I was sitting in a coffee shop for some reason, and I wanted to share.

Before I decided to write this I ordered a brownie. It's still comforting that it doesn't make me feel guilty to do that.

I am SICK of being asked if I am pregnant. Thailand is an enigma when it comes to body image and size. Many people go out of their way to tell me I'm beautiful. I don't know how to respond besides smiling and saying 'thank you.' On the other hand people also like to insinuate that I look pregnant. I am positive that I don't- no one ever mentioned it when I was in a country where most women have large breasts/hips/asses/tummies. (Mmm, that was a good brownie). At the same time it's totally getting to me. I am more aware of body size than I have ever been in my life. Every day I notice the sizes of the Thai women I meet and compare myself. I actually feel satisfaction when I see someone bigger than me. I hate this about myself. When I went shopping for work clothes and didn't fit into an XXL I started to cry right there in the dressing room. This is radically different from who I was 3 months ago. I went to a movie last night and a part of it was set in Mexico. The women in the scene had beautiful round booties and I actually thought "maybe I should move there so I can fit in." But that isn't the answer. I don't know what is.

Another thing is that all of the western straight men I know have tiny Thai girlfriends. Only one has a tummy, and we get along pretty well, at least until she started to compare and see whose was bigger... It's difficult to feel good about my body when the men around me continuously talk about how gorgeous and "fit" the Thai beauties are.

I know for a fact I have put on weight since I've been here. Noodles, sticky rice, and curry will settle into fat faster than you can say Pad Thai. I don't feel very good about this, but I've been known to fluctuate so usually it wouldn't really bother me. Sure I could work out, but there are plenty of excuses why I don't, most of which involve not wanting to spend my teacher's salary on a gym membership.

This issue is one I think about every day. I've started to think twice about what food I order (something I've always taken great pride in not doing) or how much I consume in a day. The other day Garrett pointed out that I often say "I don't eat that much" when we're out to eat which in itself indicates that I'm concerned with seeming like I eat too much. This is something I really need to think about and either change mentally or physically.

I was very lucky to have a family and supportive environment that never encouraged me to think too critically about my body. Somehow I escaped body image problems until now. I don't understand that though, usually young girls are the ones who suffer from this and by my age they begin to understand (if they're lucky) that it's more about how they've been told to view themselves than about any actual problem with their bodies.

This is kind of scattered, and I have a real update coming soon, but I had to get this out of my system.


Anonymous said...

I think we all go through this at some stage of life and it can be very tough. I remember when I worked in Galveston just out of nursing school;. I went to get something from material management and the clerk was pregnant. She said oh you're expecting too ! When are you due? This set me back for quite awhile. I have definately been aware of the pressure on women in relation to body size since living in Michigan.
Motivation to get fit can be very elusive even though we all understand the need.

Bye for now
Love mom

Anonymous said...

Hi Kristen,

Nana here. Learning how to write on your blog. Love you.