I am 5 feet and 1 inch tall. I weigh 45 kgs and have been so since the past 3 years. Since I hit puberty, the most I had weighed was 49 kgs. Never made it to the 50-mark! I have been denied to donate blood for a good cause for being underweight and been questioned if I should be allowed on a roller coaster because who knows? The wind might have just blown me away!
Take it from an underweight girl in her mid-twenties – WE ARE BODY SHAMED TOO. It is equally distressing for a skinny girl to constantly being objectified as a ‘toothpick’ or a ‘tiktiki’ (lizard) as it is for an overweight girl to something bulky. I have been demeaned and humiliated for my weight since I was a child and more than often, it was family members who did it. From the age of 5-10 years, these were some of the common remarks I used to get – “Ekta thali niye raastay boshey jaa, bhalo income hobey!”, “Malnutrition ey bhugtese naki?” and the one for my mom, “Ki? Khawao nah oke?”
As I grew into a teenager, the issue became more serious. Besides getting excellent grades and having exemplary manners, looking presentable had made it to the list of all the things I had to be. Except, for me, it was rather difficult to fit into the Bangladeshi society’s criterion of how a young girl should look like (read forsha and lomba). You see, I was dark-skinned, short and extremely skinny. According to my friends, I have big, deep eyes, sharp features and had lustrous hair back in my teens but none of them were of any good. I grew up amidst these remarks about myself – “Eto shukna hoiley ki dekhtey bhallagey?”, “Mukhey beshi korey lebu ar shosha maakh” and my favourite, “Eto khaato meye biye dibo kemney?”
Before my wedding, I overate during every single meal for two months straight to gain some lbs. It used to leave me feel bloated and exhausted. Apart from the trillion other things that occupied my mind as a bride, gaining some weight had become a priority because “Bou manush eto shukna manaay nah”. Apparently, I did not look anything like a new bride because they are supposed to be glowing and have the perfect skin, hair and body. Someone even went ahead and told me that every man desires his wife to have the 36-24-36 hourglass figure and my husband would appreciate if I had some curves. Yeah, that.
At this point of my write-up, if your blood is boiling with rage, then we are on the same page. Drowning in opinions of people, I wondered why I was to be blamed for being so thin even though it is completely genetic. My father has the exact same figure where his bones, wrists and collarbone pop out like that of a skeleton! It is disturbing how people in our society do not think twice before casually passing a comment about how someone looks. There is a difference between a friendly advice and judgemental remark and with years of experience, I sure know which is which. Who would have thought being too slim would be a curse? So, when I say I can completely relate to people who are on the bulkier side being bullied repeatedly, I mean it.
There are so many people around me who consider me to be lucky because I am size-zero, but only if they knew how much discomfort it brings with it. Gaining weight has been equally taxing for me as losing weight is for others. I ate and ate but the scale on the weighing machine held still. I used to feel so helpless! I am probably one of the very few brides who was worried about her wedding dress being loose! Let me give you the bitter honest bit. I DON’T want to be this skinny. I would love some curves too (in the right places, of course). Who wouldn’t? Now before you instantaneously suggest joining a gym, I have thought about it too. In all honesty, I don’t have the determination or dedication to hit the gym YET. I am quite certain I will discontinue within a few days of working out as I have with Yoga.
Of course this situation has its pros too. My husband is a foodie yet, there are times when my food intake leaves his jaws dropped. He feels jealous that no matter how much I eat, I barely gain weight. “Eto khawa shob jay koi?!”, he jokes. I also don’t take up too much space and cram the backseat of an overcrowded car and sometimes, hop on somebody’s lap without suffocating them. Most importantly, I still fit into my clothes back from 2013.
No amount of whining about body-shame will ever be enough. It is plain disrespectful and impolite to pass comments on someone’s look. I completely appreciate the ones that come from a space of concern and responsibility. This is not for them. However, to all the people who take it as a duty to post a personal opinion on how someone is not looking their best and the remedies to solve this problem, don’t do it. You have no idea what he/she might be going through.
To all the girls and boys who have been body-shamed at some point in life, do not let it get to you. Do not let other people’s opinion about you define who you are. Look in the mirror and tell yourself, “I am beautiful”. That is the only acclamation you need. It was the only acclamation I ever needed. I have been lucky that despite growing up in a judgemental society, I never felt any less of a strong, confident woman, even though, I did not quite tick all the boxes of the Bangladeshi Shundori Checklist. I was also blessed with wonderful individuals in my life who assured me that all my imperfections only made me perfect. So, love yourself the way you are. At the end of the day, if you do not treat your mind and body with respect, how do you expect other people to respect you?