Photoshoot at Kui Yuan

China, Why Is This OK?

Photoshoot at Kui YuanIt’s sadly funny that when it comes to China, there could be many topics related to this question.

But there’s one societal norm in particular among Chinese people that irks me to no end. I’m not sure how exactly to put it, so let me give some examples I’m sure many of you who have had any encounters with Chinese people have experienced.

“You got fatter!”

“You’re SO much skinnier!”

“You lost SO much weight.”

“Did you get fatter?”

“Aiii, you have a baby face!”

“You need to lose weight!”

“You look so much better in person than in the photos your mom posts on WeChat!”

“Hi! Wow, you look pregnant in that outfit!”

Literally every statement above I have received within these past two months. And each time, I’m thinking, “FUCK. OFF.”

Just ask my sister, to whom I’ve furiously complained whenever coworkers and relatives tell me this shit. Sure, to them and every other Chinese person, this is totally normal, fine, and not at all damaging to one’s self esteem. In fact, telling me with a straight face that I look like a fat pregnant woman in my outfit at 8 a.m. is how anyone would greet a coworker in China (I only wish I were kidding about this very recent and very irritating interaction).

OK, based on experiences with my own mother and relatives even back in the States, I understand updating you on your weight status is among the many lovely greetings Chinese people feel compelled to say upon seeing you (another is asking whether you’ve eaten yet). But no matter how many times I get told I either lost or gained weight, I will NEVER get used to it.

If you want to know how to immediately shut me down and make me feel uncomfortable (even if you say I lost weight), then please, go ahead and ask me if I gained weight in the middle of a conversation we’re having at a dinner table. Because how the fuck am I actually supposed to respond? Why, yes. I think I did get fatter. You too noticed my baby face? Think I should stop eating? Why, just take this plate away from me and call the next plastic surgeon.

At this same dinner, a lady I literally had just met proceeded to examine my features, prompting everyone else at this table in a private dining room to tell me exactly what was good and bad about my face. “You have a great chin. Just like your dad. And nose! But you do have extra fat in your cheeks. And you would look so much better if you were taller.”

WHOA. Lady, what is even your name? I met you exactly an hour ago, if that. Who even are you?

Sigh. Like my sister said, this would so not fly in the U.S. Overprotective parents and all the fat Americans would scream and shout, talk about how everyone’s special and unique in their own way, blahblahblah.

Which makes you wonder. Which society is more damaging? One that likes to ignore the very real issues of obesity and general weight issues in favor of the more popular trend of protecting people’s feelings? Or one that too openly makes weight and image part of everyday conversation but not to much effect, other than hurting unaccustomed Westerners like me?

Look, I don’t want to come off as some butt-hurt American who can’t deal with the truth (or whatever you call these perceived dramatic weight losses and gains within such short periods of time). But for Pete’s sake, can you please understand that issues with my weight or apparently terrible posture are FAR from what I want to hear in any conversation? Westerners are a sensitive bunch. We can’t take this critique. We just want to hear we’re awesome, like, all the time.

I myself will never give into this practice of telling you about your weight status, whether you’re Chinese or not. Because China, this is just not okay.