On Scales and Deadlines

A writer shares her weight related anxiety while navigating new relationships.

WhatsApp Image 2023 10 02 at 10.04.22 PM

It gets frosty in December. A hollow voice in my head tells me I’m not fat, I’m contoured; but the look in my eyes suggests otherwise. I’m staring at the volume of my arms in the changing room of Macy’s in New York. If only my arms were toned, I could have easily fit into this cute sea-green turtleneck. And if only my fupa would disappear. For the uninitiated or the millennials reading this, a fupa is the wide area of protruding fat in the upper pubic region.

I push my thoughts aside but they’re hovering like a drone. I could’ve used bees for this metaphor, but such is life in the big city. I discard the clothes onto a slumpy pile outside the trial room, but a part of me is stuck there. A version of me never left that room. One year later, I’m looking at the clothes in my cupboard while remembering my mother in law’s words – “Do you feel any difference in your body with the new diet plan?” A valid question with no malice, but I’m back to the trial room. The visible is the invisible. And the city gets frosty in December.

**

“Are you eating all of that coconut chutney?” my grandfather asks me. His raspy voice laden with concern echoes something along the lines of coconuts having a lot of calories. I smile and nod, but my fingers drop the dosa softly back to the plate. At this age, I can’t change him. At this age, I don’t want to correct him. I cannot let him know how the world will react to him if they hear him say that, or explain how the personal is political, or that it’s simply rude to point out what’s on another’s plate; and nor do I intend on doing so. Because, sometimes you just need to let Biden wave at the dead. You can’t stop it from happening, so you let go of it.

But my plate IS political, and the emotional debt I carry is incalculable. I need others around me to stop commenting on the way I look, because I need others to know that no one else can hate my arms or my fupa more than I already do. The hate is so deeply ingrained, that I need my loved ones to extend their arms out like a cradle and rock me into a lullaby every night, to love me that extra bit, and to reassure me to be a little easier on myself.

“It’s not aesthetics, it’s health…” my mother-in-law carefully remarks in order to not offend me. But she and I both know it’s not that. We both know that at 85 kgs, and after a round of blood tests, it’s been proven that I’m perfectly healthy. The real reason being that, with my marriage around the corner, my arms must be tapered down into the most antique and intricate patterns of zardozi work, my waist shrunken into a Sabyasachi and my fupa disappeared when I’m wearing the prettiest shararas.

My Instagram saved galleries of bookmarked “clothes I want to wear when thin” is evidence that I am my mother-in-law, and believe in this platonic ideology. The anxiety of my weight runs parallel to my ideals, and I’m left grappling with the paradox of self-love and self-acceptance. For 26 years, an uninvited guest has been feasting at my guts, allowing me to never wear sleeveless tops or dresses outside of my house.

It’s not always hurtful to hear others retort on my appearance, because my personal also happens to be problematic, where I find myselfing vowing to my preconceived notions. Love comes from accepting yourself, but I crave perfection. And now, with the sound of wedding bells in the distant future, there’s a deadline etched not just on the dates, but on the contours of my body; an invisible calendar of self-imposed expectations.

**

Fall is slowly falling again, and I’m doing fit-checks in front of the mirror, taking stock of all my winter items. I wish I’d taken that sea-green turtleneck from Macy’s afterall. I realize now that it wasn’t just an item of clothing, but a fabric of self-worth, and a desire to fit into a mold that the world deems acceptable. Not a cloth, but a necessity of tearing it apart by its seams and wearing it like a backpack that can carry the weight of my soul; or draping it around me like a blanket that allows me to engulf myself into it, and sink into it enough so that it can shelter me from the frost collecting on my window panes.

Sometimes it’s December even in the peak of summers. Yet, amid the winters, there is a soft whisper. I find solace in the gentle embrace of those who love me, not despite my imperfections but because of them. “The white lines on your arms are so cool” my sister keeps telling me. “Like the stripes of a tiger…” she continues.

My fiance convinces me almost everyday that my body is so beautiful and my shoulder blades are the best part about my body. These words don’t fix my body issues; but in the arms of my loved ones, my fupa becomes a testament to the richness of my experiences, and my curves a canvas that is waiting to be painted. And even though I continue waking up in the cold, I know that their love is a fireplace keeping me warm from my own self. 


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