A Tamil Girl’s Battle with Body Image

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“Oh, my you’ve gotten so fat from the last time I saw you”
“Why are your thighs this big, and your butt, it’s enormous!”
“Have you tried dieting and controlling your eating habits?”.

Hearing this for the past few years of my life has taken a toll on my self-esteem.  I’ve always considered my face attractive with large expressive eyes, perfectly arched eyebrows, an average nose along with perfect plump lips. I had a pear shaped body which many people in my family considered to be ugly. I always liked my thick thighs and round butt. Unfortunately, it was too much for others to handle.

 

Because I have no siblings, growing up I was pampered with food. No, I was not spoiled because I do get the wooden stick almost all the time for my silly antics.  Since I was raised only with my mom throughout my entire childhood, I was very responsible and always wanted to be first in everything that I chose to pursue. However, I found that my brown-skin created ten times the struggle. I was told that I was too ugly, not attractive and mostly FAT.  I was often ostracized by my peers. In dance class, I was always put at the back because I was not slim like my other classmates. People can be so rude to the core, to the point where you just want to lock yourself into a dark space and never go out. Some individuals even had the audacity to tell my mom to apply for an open pass permit to get parking, implying that my looks meant that she had a disabled daughter!

 

I always loved wearing fashionable short dresses for the summer or shorts that are very short. My mom restrained me from wearing this type of clothing.  Her rationale was simple; “Only slim girls can wear short body-tight clothing because it only looks nice on their thin body type”. “If you wear clothing like that, people will laugh at your fat butt and thick thighs. They will think you are a whore so you cannot wear it”.  What hurt the most was when my mother listened to others and bullied me at home. Home was hell for me. I was not allowed to join any extracurricular activities that took part after school, not allowed to go to any birthday parties and not allowed to be contacted via phone and MSN messenger. But school was no better because I was a loner and had no friends. When I tried to make new friends, I was just bullied more. I was the laughing stalk of my class so I gave up on making friends and decided to sit alone during recess with a sketchbook, doodling away.

 

When I complained to my mom that I was being bullied at school by my peers, she replied “Well, they are telling the truth. You are fat and ugly!”  I fell deeply into depression.  As a child, I had no clue what I was doing wrong. I ate on time, got straight A’s and never fought with anyone. I really thought that I was a waste of a life. Dying was the only option I had. When I was 15, I tried to kill myself by drinking chlorine, and nail polish remover.  Little did I know that death was no a possibility with this combination, but I became very sick.

 

Spiseforstyrrelse-900x675High-school was a toughie. It was all about dating, having your first kiss, boyfriends, checking each other out, skipping classes to go to the mall, and making new friends to be popular. Everyone was dating except me.   The bright side was that I formed a group with two Tamil girls whom I considered my friends. The three of us did everything together from checking out hot guys, skipping classes, to playing cards and just chilling.

 

They were definitely slimmer than me. I avoided all shopping sprees because I was too embarrassed to shop for my size with them. Over time, these girls whom I considered my friends eventually betrayed me and made fun of my appearance. I felt completely abandoned. I was back to square one, hanging alone in the library or the computer lab to be far away from any human interactions. I avoided the cafeteria at all cost because my inferiority complex kicked in.  I assumed people would laugh at me if I bought anything to eat.

 
Editors-Note

Many Muslim girls came to school early  covered from head to toe with their hijab. Once in school, they would take off their entire outfit and change into skin revealing clothing, removing their hijab. When the day was over, they reclaimed their identity as a modest Muslim by changing back to their original clothing and returned home. I thought maybe I should try this method too since I loved wearing other clothing other than my over-sized tops and jogging pants. At this time, I became Bulimic. Eating and running to the bathroom to force the meal out became a routine. I starved myself at times or kept forcing myself to vomit. I started to lose three pounds daily and I was ecstatic.  Every time I hit the scale I felt so relieved that my weight continued to drop.

Three months passed and I lost 40lbs without breaking a sweat!
I earned “the Tamil Nicki Minaj” title from guys trying to hit
on me. I changed my Facebook to profile photos of me dressed with
bodycon dresses and short shorts. My inbox flooded with
messages from 1533550_10152161513839191_425846413_nguys that I knew, and some that I did not. Most of the messages consisted of “Hey sexy, can I have your number?” Some guys from my high school who once bullied me started having regular conversations asking me to meet up and chill. I did not meet up or have phone conversations with them, strictly keeping it to Facebook messaging. I asked all of them why they were so mean during high school.  They had no reply to my questions, claiming that it was the “past”.  Some of them even asked me to be their girlfriend. Of course, I rejected them, all of them.  Sometimes you have to give people a taste of their own medicine. Revenge was sweet!

 

These people were such jerks! How dare they insult my appearance when I was a larger size and now they want to get into my pants just because I weigh less.  And the worst part was, some of these guys were in serious relationships!

 

Even though I was overwhelmed with offers by multiple men, our Tamil community still rejected me. They always had something to complain about, whether it is the face, or pimples or the facial complexion. “She still has a big butt, that doesn’t look nice”.  Any gathering I attended, I was asked what my secret to losing weight was. I always calmly ignored the questions and walked away.

 

 

Being noticed with positive comments helped me to overcome my inferiority complex. But despite my smaller frame, my mother still insisted that I avoid tight clothing because I was not stick skinny. I cared less about her opinion and continued to do what I enjoyed. I wore bikinis, tube tops, booty shorts and anything that made me feel confident! But what still bothers me is the importance society bestows smaller figured women while mistreating the rest of us. In my dictionary, “average” is dependent on everyone’s preference. There is no “average” unless it comes to math.  An individual’s standard may be different from another. To one, eating one pizza slice is average, but to another eating the entire pizza is average. Who are we to decide and judge others?

 

Due to my unhealthy weight loss strategy, I was eventually diagnosed with a peptic ulcer. I felt ashamed of getting myself into so much trouble just to please society’s standards.  I regret every single time I puked just to lose a few pounds. With the help of some doctors and a critical surgery, my health is now somewhat okay. I continue to eat healthy and disregarded what other people put into my mind.  Today, body shaming is still a huge issue, especially with the help of social media. Some embrace full figured bodies and love showing it off, such as Ashley Graham. But others still desperately try to lose as much as they can in order to strive to look like a Victoria’s Secret model.

 

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What I always tell everyone around me is you only have this life, and it is a very short one. Be merry, do good to others and enjoy life. Don’t put yourself down because of what media portrays or what Tamil aunties or anyone else tells you. These type of people will never point out your strengths, but always love to point out all your flaws. Everyone is beautiful regardless of shape, size, or color. Embrace yourself because of you are one of a kind!

 

Editor's Note


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Author

Swetha

Swetha

a passionate sociologist; challenging the society's norms. She enjoys helping animals in need and always looking positively towards the future.

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