Recent posts about body image and the dark/light skin debate have inspired me to write about the topic of size. Specifically, my size. For those of you who haven’t met me in person, I am the product of a teeny-tiny Korean mother (100 lbs, 5 feet tall) and a large, American Anglo-Saxon father (190 lbs, 6’2”).
I measure 5’7” tall and ain’t nobody ever called me lithe or
svelte. Let's just say I’m zaftig. I’ve always been okay with my size and shape
(though more now than when I was an insecure teenager) – except for the one time I went to
I was fifteen at the time, and stood at the height I am now;
however, my figure was much more, uh, nubile. Anyway, being at least a head
taller than every other Korean woman around, I stuck out like a sore thumb.
People gawked and stared at me in the streets, and my family members – whom I
was meeting for the first time – would not stop commenting to my mom (in
Korean, which I didn’t understand) about my appearance. (Mind you, they had
positive things to say!) Still, I felt very self-conscious during that visit. In fact, I can hardly believe I was brave
enough to visit a public bath house with my mom, aunts, and cousins – stripping
down totally nekkid – without thinking twice! I remember feeling quite
comfortable, once denuded, and wishing that there were bathhouses like that
back home in
That was a long time ago, but my feelings of being a giantess still persist when I am around my mother, and among other Korean women. As it is in many cultures, the Korean standard of beauty seems based on smallness and leanness, among other things, like big eyes and white skin. No matter how much weight I lose, I will never be small, therefore, will never achieve that standard of beauty.
My mother tells me that she was always short for her age, always the runt in her class. “That’s why I married your dad,” she claims. “Because I wanted to have a tall kid.” Well, she got that in me, alright. So why is she always complaining about my size?
Maybe I’ve been living near Berkeley, CA, for too long, but I don’t give (much of) a rat’s ass about my figure these days. Sure, I could lose about twenty pounds, but going to the gym regularly and training for a triathlon are not huge priorities of mine right now. Instead, I focus on taking care of my family and advancing in my career. I make a concerted effort to attend a yoga class at least once a week (though twice is my goal), and I walk about a mile a day. Other than that, I don’t get much exercise. And, my diet could certainly use some improvement.
So, whenever my mom lets me know about the latest diet I should try (she’s currently really into the Atkins zero carb thing, which I abhor) – and urges me to dress better than I do – I feel that her criticism is based on her shame of having a honkin’ big-ass American daughter. I know that she’s proud of me in every other way; but, because she’s been brainwashed by her culture (that thin and small are beautiful), it pains her to see her only daughter (who is, after all, a reflection of herself) wearing size 12 clothing.
As the mother of a beautiful and svelte four-year-old girl, myself, I cannot know how I’d feel if Honeybee were to pork out as a teenager and became (what I consider to be) fat. I’d probably want her to lose weight (for health reasons, I'd say), would bug her about her diet, and coax her to get more exercise. What can I say? I, too, am a product of my culture and cannot help but consider the ideal of beauty to a lean and toned body.
The difference between me and my mom, though, is that I’m more motivated by health and longevity (and the prevention of heart disease and diabetes) than I am of just plain lookin’ hot. It'll be interesting to see how this body image thing plays out between me and my daughter as she gets older.
By Twizzle, who's (relatively) happy in her own skin.