For an American, I am a average sized woman. I’m 5’4″ tall and wear a size 12 in clothing and size 7 in shoes. Perfectly typical.
But in the Philippines, I am both taller and wider than just about anyone else I see! The men here are usually my height or a bit shorter. Women are usually a full head shorter than I am. And both sexes are thinner in general. Those living in poverty are very much skinnier, while most of those in the more affluant families would still be considered “slender” by American standards.
We were walking with our guide and translator the other day, and she wanted to direct my attention to a government official who was walking up to a building ahead of us. “She’s up there, on the stairs, she’s even bigger than you are!” was how she was described. Boo!S
ince I have been here, I have been referred to as both “stout” and as “big”. Compared to Filipinos, I definately am both. So why does it bug me to have someone say so? I have no idea, but it does, and that’s something I need to get over because I’m sure it will happen again before we leave here.
Filipinos are direct. I know this. If you quietly excuse yourself to use the restroom, someone will call out “Do you need tissue?” (referring to the fact you have to bring your own toilet paper to a Philippine bathroom). If you have a stomachache, someone will gently inquire as to how often you are having bowel movements. There don’t seem to be many taboo subjects, or taboo ways of talking about things.
This natual Philippine bluntness and willingness to talk about things that are normally left unsaid is a great boon to my husband’s research. People don’t get all shy when you talk about their income, how they earn their money, their medical issues, or how much they pay for things.
But on a personal note, sometimes I prefer that certain things be left unsaid, especially when they pertain to me!
One thought on ““She’s even bigger than you are.””
Usually in the U.S., you only get that kind of blunt honesty out of children. What strikes me about the story is that the translator seems to have implied no judgment about the words “bigger than you.” It was just a descriptor. It is only our contemporary American obsession with thinness — to the point that women are expected to disappear, to never presume to take up any space in the world, to waste our power obsessing about the lowest rung of Maslow’s hierarchy — that adds connotations of disgust and condemnation to the words “big” and “stout” and “fat.” None of which I think you are, btw, but in a different culture you are suddenly confronted with what I’ve been dealing with all my life. The best advice I’ve ever read for existing in a non-conforming body is to embrace the description and reject the evaluation. You bet I’m fat. And I’m short, and brown-haired, and right-handed. The latter three are just facts without judgments attached to them, as should be the former.