Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Body Image Meets Culture Shock

Does this elephant make my butt look big?


"Speaking of body image," I seamlessly segued...

One of the more fascinating parts of travel to foreign countries is a) how your physical appearance is perceived and that b) that perception is actually voiced--language barrier be damned. On this particular journey, I'm finding it especially gratifying and delicious intriguing that my petite and fit friend pretty much gets called fat on the daily. As in, when she remarked that a shop might not have her size, the shopkeeper dispelled her concerns with the ever-consoling, "No, no; Indian women are fat too."

I am trying to keep score as to whether the feedback I'm getting is positive or negative. You be the judge:

  1. A man in the Egyptian spice bazaar in Istanbul called to me as I passed his stall while I munched on Turkish Delight. "Ginger!" he shouted. "Ginger, don't eat that. Will make you fat." I beamed because all I heard was, "You're not fat!" (suggested score: +1)
  2. Another man in Turkey selling roasted chestnuts said to me, "Can I ask you something?" I said no because I had learned by my second day in Turkey that this was always the correct response to any question any Turkish man ever asked me. Regardless, he gestured towards the plump nuts, which explode out of their shells like popped corn, and said, "It has zero calories." I cocked my head and narrowed my eyes. "Uh, that's not true, let alone a question," I stated with confusion. (suggested score: 0)
  3. Kady remained in the tuktuk while I checked bus-departure times, and the driver turned to her and gestured towards me as I walked away: "America?" he asked with equal parts confusion and admiration. "Big muscles!" he said extending his arms in an iconic muscleman pose. No, world. Not muscles. (suggested score: -1)
  4. "The media has it all wrong. Skinny girls just aren't sexy. I like some meat on a woman," every 29-to-40-ish man from the UK with a drink in his hand and no-doubt a fiancee back home who is traveling through India has said to me right after I didn't ask him what kind of woman he found attractive or unattractive. (suggested score: too perplexed by this pick-up attempt to draw a conclusion yet...)

Though I'm uncertain as to whether my self-esteem is swelling or floundering, I have to admit I'm getting a lot fewer foot-massage offers from homeless strangers lately. Not quite sure why...



  1. Roxie said...

    Forget the score. Summer, why do your feet look like this? What happened?

  2. Summer, This doesn't look good. Blotchy.


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