Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Story of Women Overcoming

I was told when I first arrived in South Africa that within the black cultures of the country when a woman looks at you with twinkling eyes and remarks, "you're getting fat," she means it as compliment. She means to say, I'm glad you are enjoying life and enjoying my country. She means to say, I'm glad you are happy and your are healthy. She means to say, I think you are beautiful.

But for my American ears it was so hard to hear.

It was so hard to accept those biting words that brought up all my insecurities, that reminded of all those years hating my body and hating myself, that recalled all those times I told myself I'll be complete when I was skinny--skinny and beautiful.

More than once I gently admonished, "Thank you for your compliment, but in my culture that is a hurtful thing to say." And I tried to erase the words and the fears they brought up and erase how much I hated them for saying it when I knew it wasn't true and I knew it was not the thing that defined me anymore.

But then there were the younger women. Women in their twenties and thirties. Women highly influenced by the Western media prevalent on their TV screens and streaming through their radios. Women who were beginning to see their bodies differently and the bodies of their peers differently. Women who when they said "you're getting fat" meant it not as a compliment but as a cutting, hurtful judgement.

These moments, the moments when one of my peers commented on my weight in judgement. These moments, when our Western polished, politeness didn't stop the cut from being said. These moments, my heart cried out in sorrow...

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