Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Weighty Matter

About 90% of folks that have seen me so far post-vacation have exclaimed in delight: 'you have put on weight!'* Um, thank you?

Let me put this in some context: as someone who had to wait a good long time for the old curves to pop out, I am not in the least bit interested in being svelte. Fun-sized women who go straight up and down look like pre-pubescent boy models. However, in the past couple of years I have been conscious of a creeping concern with what being healthy means. The magazines haven't helped. It is becoming harder and harder to ignore conversations about cabbage soup diets and coffee enemas- both of which pleasures I intend to absent myself from forever.

South Africa was a revelation. As a friend remarked who has recently moved there, there are many slim waists to be seen. It is amazingly easy to eat healthy, even if greengrocers seem to have been driven to extinction by the supermarkets. But that's not what vacations are for, and I guess my consumption of game meats and Peroni caught up with me, to the aforementioned delight of so many friends. Aaah, gone are the days when a woman could effectively hide behind her African Heritage.

Watching people run around the Cape seafront, I felt twinges of guilt about my sedentary lifestyle. While a rich African figure is a gift from the creator, an excess ten to fifteen kilos of jiggle and roll is not actually all that much fun for the bearer (especially when up-stairs haulage is involved) nor for the viewer, although that remains subjective. Where is the line of sanity between enjoying one's fabulous self, punishing one's fabulous self with ridiculous eating plans so as to fit into a chinese medium-sized dress, and letting one's fabulous self 'go?'

Its not like there is any more need to plump up like a Toro bride in this day and age, prosperity can be indicated by bling, luxe cars, the ordering of Hennessy on Friday nights. So the yawping pit of one-size-fits-all-and-it-is-zero insanity beckons, especially now that I am no longer in the populous and high-metabolism 15-25 age bracket. To stave off both the rice cakes and the diabetes, I have come up with a series of measures: if you can still jog up two flights of stairs and get to your meeting fresh, shake what your mama beqeathed you for two half-hour sets of live music, and (with or without help) produce a cleavage to drown an oil tanker in at need, life's good.

*In all fairness, 'umenenepa' more directly translates to: "you look fresh, energized, healthy and have put on a little weight" rather than "you've gotten fat." But after ten people tell one that, one's waistband starts to feel unaccountably snug...

1 comment:

  1. Elsie!

    As one who had your opposite problem for most of my teenage years I have to say I sometimes do envy the naturally svelte. But I have found a sort of balance these days. It involves eating as much chocolate as my heart delights. Because chocolate is just toooo good. But it also involves working out and cutting bread out of my diet. I now allow myself bread when I eat out or for special occassions but it does not exist in my pantry (as if I have a pantry!)

    And you know that was a big sacrifice - I love bread. But I love chocolate more.

    And as for the comments. Atleast the Tanzanians have a cute way of saying it. The Southern-Africans just say - YOU ARE SO FAT NOW! Yeah CAPS were needed to emphasize just how invasive and rude such comments tend to be.

    Do you feel like weight is just discussed differently in Africa than in Western countries? Thoughts?



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