Camy's guest blog post about her new book and the pestering aunts who feel the need to point out all your fat flaws at family gatherings, got me thinking more about my own struggles of dealing with body image as an Asian woman. I'm Filipino with Chinese and Spanish ancestry.
I am 5'7" with no shoes, and my dress size has fluctuated anywhere between an 8 and 14 over the years. This makes me a big and tall Asian girl which is really uncommon because your typical Asian woman is 5'0-4" and a size 0-6 basically short, thin, and petite.
So, from day one, because of my unusual build, I always felt like a freak of nature particularly in large gatherings of Asian people where image conscious FOBs are a plenty. Don't get me wrong. I love my clan, but that old country mentality can be particularly judgmental and mean. Sometimes they can give you the nastiest look when you go for a second egg roll. The ideal Asian beauty is supposed to look like some perfect Porcelain doll with perfect milky skin and a petite body, and I come no where near that Lucy Liu or Joy Luck Club look. I could pass for dastardly Dragon Lady though.
Growing up, often I wanted to scream and pull my hair out because frequently I heard things from the relatives like "You're so big for an Asian. How did you get so fat when all your cousins are thin?" (Mind you a 12 is considered "fat" to the pestering Asian relatives when you're hovering around a sea of size 2s.) The aunties would even break out the rosary beads and say novena prayers for me with the scary statue of Mary surrounded by those candles with Jesus' "see I died for you" looking face on them. And the constant thorn in my side...
"You'd be so pretty if you just lost some weight." Ugh! I know some of the relatives thought this because my mom was a beauty queen when she was younger. I was fortunate though in that my mom never even talked to me about her beauty queen days, and never made me feel like I had to be like her.
Feeling like a freak of nature my friends was the beginning seeds of my battle with an eating disorder.
...it's taken me until my 30's to feel comfortable about my body size ...
I don't know what it's like in the Asian countries, but in the US, you do not often see Asian girls with eating disorders, at least in my experience. If I'm wrong, please correct me. In all the treatment places I've gone to, and women's groups I've been to, I am always the only Asian.
That's not to say that Asian women do not suffer from eating disorders, but perhaps it could be a cultural reflection of not seeking public treatment, or it could be that because Asian women are just built naturally smaller that there is just no greater need to resort to the extremes of eating disorders to become thinner. I'm just theorizing from personal observations. If anyone medical knows the answer, please share.
Over the years, I've come to really appreciate being tall as if I won the genetic lottery in height, but it's taken me until my 30's to feel comfortable about my body size when I'm around a large group of Asian folk. Now, I don't care anymore because I can appreciate the uniqueness of standing out. But, honestly, it took a great deal of healing on my part to get to this point, and living in the US helps too because there is so much body diversity here.
Heading into my 40's the pressure to be thin has waned and in its place it's about getting married and having a handful of years left to have a baby because you know, every good Asian girl is supposed to also be a good wife and mother. But that is a whole other blog post for later.