EAT A CHEESEBURGER
Originally written for PLUMP.PH in 2015
“EAT A CHEESEBURGER!” she yells at the screen as Chanel Iman struts gracefully down the runway in her fluffy white wings at the 2010 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. I’m at a viewing party of sorts and, the first time I see the tall, lanky, bronze Angel, I instantly connect with her. You know how you pick a character in a book, a movie, or a TV show and decide it’s them you’re rooting for? They are the ones you look like, or act like, or sound like, or simply identify as your “type” of person. Chanel was mine.
“SINO BA YAN?! BAKIT BA SIYA KASALI DIYAN?” Being part Korean and part African American makes her look the most Pinay in the sea of blonde, white bombshells. She is about my age and noticeably thinner and smaller-framed than her fellow Angels but she walks with a sweet confidence and a perfected thousand watt smile she has earned from modeling professionally since she was just 13.
“UGH. KADIRI!” The yeller croaks whenever my girl comes out beaming past the cameras. I force my own smile as I sneak a peak at my skinny arms and do a psychic rundown of my measurements in comparison to Chanel’s. On all counts, I’d need more than a just cheeseburger to get even close to her size.
But I’m smiling because everyone is. Because the yeller probably means it as a joke. Because maybe she’s just jealous. Because it’s actually a compliment. Because it’s socially acceptable to rant and rage against people who are obviously unhealthy.
I’ve been underweight for most of my life and I’m both fortunate and unfortunate to be unable to blame it on a medical condition. I do blame it on a combination of my genes, food preferences, and eating habits. The rest of my numbers dictate that I am as healthy as the average Filipina in her 20s. I just don’t weigh enough or have fat in all the right places. But not for lack of trying.
“JUST EAT MORE!” At my heaviest I was still 5 to 10 pounds short of the “ideal” weight for my height. I had just gotten my braces and was forced to eat my weight in ice cream, champorado, and chicken noodle soup with rice and eggs because I couldn’t chew much else. And when I’d gotten the hang of it, my family and I flew to the States for two months of gorging on the largest, fattiest, oiliest food I’d ever had in my life. When we got back, I could hardly catch my breath just walking up and down the stairs at school and couldn’t stand the taste and smell of burgers and fried chicken for a year. But hey I’d grown a decent chest and rib coverage to finally look like a lady! Or so I thought.
“AKALA KO BABAE.” One day, I was feeling particularly confident in my tank top and loose jeans (which I hoped would make my legs look even less chickeny) when I came across a random stranger who eyed me suspiciously as we walked toward each other. Just as our paths crossed and upon closer inspection, he spat out in disgust, offended by my apparent deceptiveness for dressing like a girl. Which I am. Unfortunately, I guess, my lack of cleavage said otherwise. Not only did I fail at being sexy enough to warrant a stranger’s unsolicited lust but I’d apparently failed at being what we now call a “real woman”.
I shed what little weight I’d gained in the next few weeks with the help of our country’s natural sauna (a.k.a. climate) and lost the sorry excuse for curves I’d prayed for since I was a child who learned that boys like big butts and cannot lie. I hoped I’d experience less immature comments after graduation.
“YOU’RE SO THIN! I HATE YOU!” Apparently, that’s corporate-speak for hello. But who am I to complain? I’m older and wiser and I’ve been told that I shouldn’t whine because I’m relatively well represented in media, thin-shaming is not oppressive (unlike fat-shaming), and being thin is a fate largely considered better than being fat.
The thing is, I’m not the one comparing. Because it shouldn’t be a case of fat-shaming versus thin-shaming or whether curves or bones deserve more love over the other. In no way can I nor do I even insinuate that thin-shaming is as bad as fat-shaming or in congruence to it at all.
It’s a case against body-shaming and for body-love. And it’s not love if love for one body-type requires hate for the other. Being an advocate for one should not threaten the other or even have to mention it at all.
We have a tendency to assume we need to pick a side. We don’t. Thin-shaming does not strengthen the case against fat-shaming or vice versa. It just makes us hypocrites.
So to all those whom these ignorant comments belong, go love your body! But please leave mine out of it. Our beautiful bodies are more than a basis of comparison and my body is not an insult to yours. Get over yourself.
“DI BALE NANG MATABA KESA NAMAN HIPON. TANDAAN MO, WALANG TINATAPON SA LECHON.” K.