The Golden Standard of Beauty

“You got fatter lately!” My facial technician, a sweet woman in her late 20’s, said with a warm smile on her face.

“Oh you know, the holiday season is always hard. I haven’t stopped eating since December.” Averting her eyes, I replied under my breath. Doesn’t she realize that she is pointing out the obvious?

I am in Taiwan for Chinese New Years spending time with my family. Unlike when I am in Hong Kong, when here, I am treated like a local and subjected to the cultural customs. Compared to Hong Kongers, Taiwanese people are warmer. For instance, the servers in Taipei are always friendly and helpful with recommendations. In Hong Kong servers ignore you, then scowl and throw the food with a huff. There are similarities between the two cultures of course- Taiwanese people are just as nosy, and perhaps as unfiltered as Hong Kongers. The only difference is, I don’t understand Cantonese so even if they are calling me fat, it doesn’t matter. Here in Taiwan, these comments, as well intended as they are, assault my western brain.

After my facial, my mom and I went to the hair salon (yeah yeah I am being pampered, I know). Mom was sitting next to me, both of us in salon chairs, the hair washer behind my mother and my stylist behind me. I posed a question “why do people in Taiwan comment on each other’s weight as a form of greeting?”

“Oh I think they are just gossiping.” My hairstylist said as she trimmed my hair. “They don’t have anything to think about so they scrutinize your body.”

“Don’t they think about the other’s feelings? Aren’t afraid to hurt the person’s feelings?”

“Well they don’t think so much maybe. They aren’t always malicious, they don’t mean badly.” Mom quipped.

“It sure does to my ears. It is none of their business what my body looks like. I don’t go and say they look older or uglier since I saw them last.”

“I don’t know why people do this. My client told me last week ‘hmm it looks like you have not exercised in while.'”
My stylist said.

“Haha, at least he was being polite.” My mom laughed.

I looked at my stylist, a beautiful, young and skinny Taiwanese woman, and I can’t help but to wonder what is wrong with people.

The golden standard to beauty is thinness. And there is a whole society of people that enforce this standard. I know Wes has something to say about this topic too so I will let him pick up the thread from here while I go stuff my face with fatty food in time for Chinese New Years celebration.

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One thought on “The Golden Standard of Beauty

  1. I have two comments: 1. This standard of thinness is totally reasonable, considering that in most developed countries thinness is a very good indicator of good health, and it’s opposite is an indicator of poor health. 2. Talking about people’s weight is way more acceptable in Asia than it is in the West, and I can’t help but wonder if this taboo against saying anything upsetting about people’s weight might have anything to do with the obesity epidemic in my homeland. There seems to be a growing trend in the US that criticizes women for wanting to look healthier, and criticizes men for being more attracted to women with healthy bodies (so far, I have not seen any criticism of women who prefer healthy male bodies but that’s a different issue). This trend is well-intentioned (to the extent that it doesn’t originate with processed food companies, which it sometimes does) but on the whole counterproductive from a physical health standpoint (go ahead, eat that whole bucket of ice-cream, don’t let society impose it’s values on you), but it’s all over my facebook feed, mostly in the form of “empowering” posts about “unrealistic” (i.e. not overweight) body images.

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