I read this article somewhere last year and found it rather upsetting (because it’s true for so many people), but was in the middle of adjusting to medical school, so I never wrote about it. It resurfaced the other day on fb, so here are my thoughts now!
Noel is definitely correct in the sense that in Asia, they have an entirely different standard of beauty. When I go back there, I usually can’t fit into anything less than a “large” and store-owners will say things like, “You’re so ~*healthy.*~” (Their polite version of “you’re fat.”) Family and family friends have no such reservations though; they will straight-up just tell you that you’re fat (usually followed up by something like, “You haven’t eaten much. Eat more!!!”), even when you’re not. Jun and I were talking the other night, and he pointed out, “I don’t know of a single Asian girl whose family doesn’t do that to them. Look at our group.”
Our group is basically almost entirely composed of Asians/Chinese girls, but before you start hating on me for not having too many non-Asian friends, please understand that I grew up in a sheltered suburban bubble where my high school was, I kid you not, 80%+ Asian [mostly Taiwanese/Indian, so I was already “out of the norm” since my family’s from Hong Kong]. UC Davis was almost 50% Asian and a fair amount of my activities (Hawai’i club, science+music majors, being an interpreter at a predominantly Cantonese-speaking medical clinic…) did little to change that. I would have had to actively go out to befriend what few non-Asians we had in our classes, and I feel like that’s practically reverse racism. (I’m not trying to play friendship bingo here.)
I was a scrawny son-of-a-gun for about the first half of my life, so I will attest to the fact that for me, genetics may play a part, but I still don’t believe that you’re predisposed to being slim just because you’re Asian. That’s like saying we’re all good at math, and my grades in freshmen year Honors Algebra 2/Trig will attest to the fact that this is wildly false.
Around the time puberty hit, my dad started telling me I was fat and to this day, it still hasn’t stopped. My mom usually doesn’t join in on this, but every now and then, a comment (at the way bottom of that entry) will slip through. I attribute my very intact (perhaps sometimes slightly over-inflated?) self-esteem to the fact that I just didn’t feel like believing him, and that I had and still have amazing friends, so I never listened to him when he told me I needed to lose 15-20 pounds. I guess it also helps that I always figured he was joking, but the other day, he told me, “I can’t remember a time where you were ever thin,” so I think this really means (a) he’s not actually kidding and (b) he definitely has a completely different standard of beauty than I do.
I do wish that I knew then what I know now about nutrition and working out. (I would be such a badass now. :[ …but you live and you learn. Better late than never!)
But while I managed to escape body image issues and eating disorders from over a decade of this “abuse,” I did in fact grow up hating my freckles. I actually used to pray that they’d magically disappear, because aside from the fat comments, I also heard endless comments from my parents and all their friends, “You’d be so pretty if you didn’t have freckles.”/”Stay out of the sun so you don’t get more freckles, or you won’t be pretty anymore.” Neither of my parents have them, so I’d also sometimes get asked if I’d been adopted. I couldn’t walk through a drugstore/skincare store in Asia without them pouncing on me/my mom and just assuming that I wanted creams to whiten my skin and get rid of my freckles (“You’re so dark! Here! Buy this cream to whiten your face so you’ll be pretty! And you want to get rid of those freckles, right? Here’s a cream for that!!!”). I was really self-conscious about them until perhaps somewhere in the middle of college, which is when I grew a spine and learned to stop caring about nonconstructive criticism on things that I couldn’t change. (My mom has offered to pay to have my freckles burned off my skin. Yep. Happened this summer.)
I’ve gotten nothing but love over here (or really, college and on) for my freckles. Pixie’s husband said something along the lines of, “An Asian with freckles? Could you be any more perfect?!” Thanks, Travis! <3
In any case, I now prefer to troll my parents because it’s great fun. :]
D: Farrah, you’re getting really fat. You need to lose weight.
F: Yeah, you say that to my almost-six-pack! >:O
D: I’m 4 inches taller than you and you weigh almost the same as I do.
F: Brave words that you probably shouldn’t say to someone who could beat you up! :O
M: We can get your freckles removed this summer.
F: WHAT. NO. Do you not like the way my face is right now? Are you saying that you think I’m ugly?
M: No, that’s not what I meant! I just think you’d be prettier without them.
F: I see how it is. So you’re saying I’m ugly because I have freckles.
M: No, that’s not what I meant!
F: Alright, then what did you mean?
M: (cannot find words to dig self out of hole)
F: My job is done here!