"You look fat" and other culture-gap statements


wendy and me, october 1978

Yesterday, my grandmother told me that I "looked fatter" when I put my swimsuit on and jumped into the pool. She mentioned it again to my sister (in private) this morning. In fact, a common greeting seems to be a statement about whether you have gained or lost weight since the last encounter. Statements like that aren't meant to offend, and the two of us have been receiving comments like it for our entire lives. When Wendy and I were little, both of us had nicknames that were different Taiwanese words for "fatty", and Wendy also was called "mosquito" because of the similarity between "Wendy" and the Mandarin word for mosquito. Other commonly commented-upon subjects include height (or lack thereof), prominent pimplage, forehead oiliness, significant other (of lack thereof), fiscal comfort (or lack thereofof), and appetite (or lack thereof -- meaning that you only ate a single full meal's worth).

I just remembered another story. A friend's elderly grandfather would greet me each time I saw him with the question, "how many pounds do you weigh?" (in Taiwanese). And then, he would hobble toward me and try to pinch my cheeks, occasionally using his cane as a prod if I wasn't close enough. Luckily, he was really slow and I was able to evade him 99% of the time.

I guess it's perfectly normal.