Latently obese. Only in Asia, I thought. I looked at the reading on the little machine, and then at my little personal trainer. She smiled, “Yes.” Yes, what? Yes, this is why you need me. You need me because you have curves here and there, and the potential to become obese. She didn’t say this, only because she couldn’t find the English words. However, she did frequently exclaim, “Your face is red,” after I stepped off the treadmill. Then she’d put on a big smile, and tell me to do 25 push-ups. Somehow this was all meant to be encouraging. I was latently obese, had a red face, and wore XL underwear in Thailand.
Over the years, I had a bit of a body complex in Thailand. Initially, I cared too much, and when I wasn’t teaching, I was at the gym running on the treadmill or at home doing jumping jacks. Shopping was the worst. It was definitely not retail therapy. I’d come home, and agonize over my curves. Why did I have to buy an XL swimsuit? Why couldn’t I be Thai size? In terms of my height, I was Thai size. In fact, I was shorter than many Thai women, but I had those western curves. Those curves that were just a part of me.
After a while, I realized that my butt wasn’t getting any smaller, and I decided to just laugh about it. I learned how to say ‘big butt’ in Thai, so that I could explain to the sales ladies why I needed a larger size. They’d smile, say, “Me, too,” even if it wasn’t true, and bring me another size. I began to embrace my curves, and by the time I left Thailand, I was buying size M underwear. It wasn’t because my butt was disappearing, but because Thai women weren’t ‘one size fits all’ anymore. The market was waking up, and offering larger sizes. Plus-size shops were even opening up, and I was always delighted when I came across a Thai woman with bigger boobs than me.
When I returned to the West in 2010, I had an even bigger realization. I wasn’t latently obese at all. I was actually considered small. This was really strange for me. After years of feeling larger than average, I was now smaller than average. I was only back for a year and half, before all that changed again. In Korea, I would feel short, too curvy, and a little frumpy. Even my boss told me to ‘fashion up.’ Anyhow, I’ll save Korea for another blog post.