The Fat-Thin Marriage Divide
Some friends of ours were rather keen for their daughter to marry. (In case you are wondering, this vignette is written with their permission.) She was introduced to an “eligible” boy some months ago, through a family friend, and to the delight of her parents the two of them hit it off, or so it seemed.
A few weeks ago the “eligible’ boy disappeared, as in he stopped seeing her or returning her calls. The girl was traumatized, and the family friend who introduced them to each other claimed to know nothing of his whereabouts.
After much deliberation, the girl contacted the boy’s parents, only to be told rather brusquely by his mother, that their son was too good a catch for an overweight girl such as herself, or to put in crudely in the mother’s words, she was too fat for him. (Well, no marriage in the offing, for now at least, but we never know what the future will bring.)
I was livid when I heard this, but also relieved that she was spared further future engagement with such hurtful people. Whether the boy really felt our friend’s daughter was not a suitable partner because she was not of ideal weight, we do not know, but should his mother have spoken to her in such a manner?
Flashback to my own plump teenage and adolescent years: the comments and barbs on my weight were relentless.
“Your mother and sister are so slim, what happened to you?”
“Are you really her daughter? But your mother is so fit.”
“Hey..there is this really good diet..”
“If you eat so much at one meal, why don’t you cut down your other meals.”
“Do you exercise?”
And these are the kinder statements. There were even more pointed ones about my double chin, belly, and backside. Usually the remarks were made in conjunction with statements such as ‘boys like slim girls’ or ‘the nice boys will look at your thinner friends and not you’ and such, and therefore I gathered that weight and weddings were interconnected.
Then why am I surprised by what happened to our friend’s daughter? Why am I questioning the boy’s mother’s words? Sigh. Because I want to bury the nastiness that I once faced due to not having the “perfect” weight. Because I want to pretend that times have changed. Because I want to convince myself that we are no longer as superficial as we once were, that we are able to look beyond a woman’s weight, and into her character and soul for compatibility.
Clearly that is a delusional thought.
I recall that somewhere between my courtship and wedding, and a few years after, I lost weight and lost weight and became rather thin. Did that please society then? That I was fat transformed into thin, single transformed into married? Of course not. Then I became beshi shukna, and people kept asking me what was wrong. Those were the nice people. The not so nice ones went something like this:
“You look sick”!
“Have you checked your thyroids?”
“Don’t be so thin, boys like some fat.”
“Is something wrong in your marriage?”
“Doesn’t your husband feed you?”
And my favourite, “All happily married girls put on weight after the wedding.”
Indeed. Girls need to be thin before marriage in order to gain weight after marriage. Finally, some clarity, but not long before that gave way to confusion. For when I began to gain weight five years into the marriage, when I resumed being mota, then I was repeatedly questioned, “Are you pregnant again?” with some glee, interspersed with other unkind remarks about distended tummies and jutting hips and what not. I was even told that I had retained my basic youthful shape but I just needed to lose weight to look good. Revert to the shukna state asap.
I never managed to be as thin as I was during and immediately after my wedding (useless me),and in the last fifteen years my weight has gone up and down, I gain I lose, I gain, I lose. And each and every gain and loss is noticed, noted, and discussed, and somehow my husband always seems to feature in the discussions.
I am wondering where I belong in the never-ending mota-shukna discourse, and where my marriage stands in relation to it. When I was considered too thin, the subliminal message was that I was insecure about my husband and should not show it, and when I was considered fat, it was I should not be complacent about my husband and not show it.
I suppose the society’s desired state of married bliss is at some perfect intersection between mota and shukna, because otherwise a little bit of mota here and a little bit of shukna there, and off it goes.
Okay, I have a husband. But what about my friend’s daughter? She was called mota, which implies being well taken care of, complacent, content, epicurean (khete pochondo kore), yet she was cast aside by the (prospective) husband or boyfriend, for someone shukna probably.
Shukna is associated with smart and slim (some vague Western notion of modern) but of course too shukna is haengla, kathi, chokher niche kali, baaje lagche, and nischoi kono problem achchey, so if she becomes too shukna, will she thenbe cast aside for someone mota? Uff it is all too depressing!
Chintamoni grew up in Dhaka, where she will always belong, but never quite fit in. She is an enthusiastic traveller, a compulsive procrastinator, and a contumelious raconteur.