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Old 06-22-2009, 05:23 AM   #1
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Default Seeking advice for weird situation (not GLBTQ related)

I am choosing to post this here instead of the main boards because this is where my lovely Dims friends are.

As some of you know, I will be going home to visit family soon. I don't exactly have fond memories of that place, or the people for so many reasons. One of them is size and intolerance of anything that is not the norm.

People are obsessed about thinness where I am from. I may be considered small here, but I am much bigger than almost all of my female friends back home (feel free to request pictures if you are skeptical) and that affected me deeply. I ended up developing anorexia nervosa as a young girl (of course the pressure is not the only, or even the primary cause) and though I have been healthy for years now (though my natural weight of 90-100lbs is still low to most non-Asians), the distorted body image never really went away. In the 3 years I have lived in the UK, I have gained some perspective and a little more self-love, but conflicting messages still bother me a great deal.

People on the streets here in London have told me that I look disgustingly thin and even shoved sandwiches in my face. My past partners who were fat also made it clear that they enjoyed much bigger women, barely tolerated my bony frame and tried to guilt me into gaining. Even my current partner, who is more understanding than the rest and asexual still expressed an aesthetic preference (when probed) for curves that I lack. Being "too thin" makes me extremely insecure and uncomfortable, so I ended up forcing myself to maintain a higher weight and wearing clothes that hid my size. Not the smartest move, but it sort of worked. The old dread about being "too fat" sinks in when I meet my Asian friends, bump into acquaintances, during the weekly phone calls with my parents and occasionally relatives. It was confusing, but not too destructive as it can be quickly neutralized with little reminders that I am "too thin" here, if that makes sense.

Now, I have to go back to feeling "too fat" for almost a month and the thought is starting to freak me out. Just to give you an idea of how bad home conditions were during my "hefty" >90lb days, I was constantly put down by everyone - teachers, coaches, parents, extended family. They used to deny me food and allowance (because 9 year old me supposedly sneaks out of school to stuff my face with evil McDonalds) too and though they can't do that anymore, they are still likely to scrutinize and loudly comment on what I eat. School wasn't much better - think fat camp, everyday, in front of everyone and constant pressure about being dropped from sports unless I lost a great deal of weight, no matter how fit I was. It was a frequent topic of conversation and it made me extremely uncomfortable and self-loathing.

Most of these people are not malicious, just terribly ignorant. If every other East Asian girl my height naturally weighs 80lbs or less (if this is shocking remember that our BMI cut-off is 23 and we have much smaller frames with lighter bones), why shouldn't I too? It doesn't help that weight and food talk permeates our culture. Asking someone if they have eaten is our version of "how are you". When you meet someone you haven't seen in a while, it is the norm to comment and even focus on their weight gain or loss. I have gained 30lbs since I last saw everyone 3 years ago so people will comment, negatively and more likely than not, it will end up making me depressed.

I am bringing my partner with me and we are staying with my family. He is outraged by how they treated me and can't dismiss it as "just a cultural difference". My parents are extremely traditional and already disapprove of him just because he is Caucasian (they did say, rather a poor White boy than a he-she or a woman or literally translated, a fat pig as they called my ex - everything sounds so insulting in Mandarin), and arguing over the dinner table will just be extremely unpleasant. He is the most patient and mild person I know, but having to hold his tongue while my parents pick my body apart is not going to be easy. It doesn't help that I am more than likely to take my frustration out on him because his preference for curves and fear of me getting "sick again" was why I gained so much weight to begin with.

I wrote about my sister recently too. She is 13, 125lbs and is currently going through hell for daring to have a weight in the triple digits. I am worried about her, she seems to be meekly taking it all in with the whole "parents know best" attitude and constantly writing about diets. The family has modified their eating habits until she shows "noticeable improvement" and from what I know, she gets bullied everywhere. I wish I could scream at them and tell them not to ruin another life, but I won't get anywhere with that - I have tried. I don't know how to undo their destructive messages either. It makes me so helpless, angry and sad. I managed to get away, but I don't think she will be as lucky.

I am just so frustrated lately and don't know what to do, short of dropping 10lbs (which will make me "chubby") to cushion the blow a little. Oh well.

Thanks for reading all of that. Advice or just virtual hugs are appreciated.

Last edited by Cors; 06-22-2009 at 05:26 AM.
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Old 06-22-2009, 06:43 AM   #2
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(((((((Cors))))))))) the best defense is a respectful offense. You are you and should be loved for the amazing person that you are! Make it clear to your family that you are heathy and are taking care of yourself. You choices are YOURS to make regarding your love life, your body weight and you have EVERY right to be treated well by your family. When I have been confronted and treated in a manner less than that by family friends and collegues and simply remind them that I treat them with respect and expect the same in return. Comments on my weight, husband and children career choice or decisions I make are not welcome if not done in a respectful manner. Be strong and you will get through!
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Old 06-22-2009, 06:58 AM   #3
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I'm sorry, Cors, that sounds so awful for you. I hope you get through it. Here are some hugs from me. <<<hugs>>
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Old 06-22-2009, 07:15 AM   #4
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I really wish I knew what to say Cors.

Just remember this is only a visit and they are not the people you deal with and see on a day to day basis.

You and only you, know how comfortable and happy you are in your own skin so let anything they say roll off back.

You know that hand on heart you are not in anyway unhealthy and that their perceptions are the unrealistic ones, not yours. Just try to keep thinking positive thoughts.

Support your sis as much as you can by letting her know it is ok to be how she is, and that if she ever moves out of that environment she will find that out for herself. She has you as a role model now and that is good.

Hugs to you hun, stay strong, lean on your partner for support as he clearly adores you. Just remember you can't please all of the people all of the time, no matter what you do, so don't try to please anyone other than yourself and the one beside you.

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Old 06-22-2009, 07:46 AM   #5
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When I'm in that part of the world, I don't worry about be pleasant and accommodating and giving people 'face' anymore. And I don't concern myself with the comments and the rude snickers and the overt stares. Now, it is more about a 'mat salleh' and her Indian child than it is my size, although I remember the sideshow aspect of being a white woman of size in a country filled with tiny people. I was at times literally treated as if I were an exotic animal in a cage. People took pictures, and some didn't even bother to pretend that I was just the "background scenery" in the way of the true shot. I say what pleases me, and react as I choose to. If someone is extremely rude, or says something that they of course assume I don't understand, I give it back as good as I get and then some. One thing that I have learned is that outright assertiveness (actually saying what is on one's mind, rather than hinting around at it) is a powerful tool when used carefully and deliberately. Most of the time, for my own sanity if for no other reason, I'll walk around with tunnel vision and choose not to see the stares, the comments, the ... ignorance. Because that's what it is. It is also just another culture & a different way of life, with no value judgment assigned to it ... but some rules are (or should be) universal, and overt stares, comments and giggles are nothing more than displays of rude ignorance. I treat them as such, and mostly ignore them. When I choose to confront it, I behave exactly as many would likely expect an "ignorant mat salleh" to behave ... I'll stop, look directly at the person/people, and say, "STOP following me/staring at me" or "Lady, get your naughty children away from me NOW." The reaction, as I'm sure you already know: A shocked gasp, censuring glare, and then (blessed relief) ... a quick and usually embarrassed departure. Of course, they think that I'm the rude & uncivilized one. That's OK. I'm not out to change the world, or perceptions. I just say/do what pleases me, in a situation that I'm not going to "win" in no matter how I behave. I also keep in mind that for every rude, bigoted ass, there are many other people who have treated me with civility, hospitality, and welcoming grace ... including my husband's family

Your family isn't going to change, and confronting them won't be a "win" situation for you at all. They will just think that you are being rude and insolent and that you don't care about pride and face. Which, from what you've written, you pretty much don't. If I were in your situation, I'd divert any discussion of weight/lifestyle issues as soon as they came up, and simply refuse to discuss it. You're going to be there for a month, and then you'll make your escape to the life that pleases you. You can afford to be gracious and to overlook some displays of ignorance. This is your family, not strangers on the street (and if you behaved as I do, those strangers would probably be less likely to rush away in outraged humiliation). That doesn't mean that you should let your family run roughshod over you ... just ... choose your battles. Grit your teeth. Firmly but respectfully let them know (repeated as much as necessary) that some topics for discussion are off limits with you, and that you won't be discussing these issues. You already know that the SE Asian perspective on what is "fat" and what is "unhealthy" is skewed unrealistically (or at least, that there are other and equally valid ways of looking at people). I'm assuming that your family will treat your partner respectfully, at least, to his face. If they don't, all bets are off. If it was me, I'd book a hotel for the remainder of the stay, and treat him to the tourist hot spots (as well as all of the natural beauty in out-of-the-way places that tourists know nothing about).

Hopefully, your sister will learn from your example, and make her own escape.
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Old 06-22-2009, 08:28 AM   #6
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Things vary so much from family to family within any one culture, and things can vary so much between cultures, that what might make sense to me could be a completely horrible approach in your situation. I’ll throw in my thoughts, but please take with about two thousand grains of salt and double all the normal disclaimers.

There are three things I can think of that I feel are probably pretty safe advice, but which are really general:

- It is best to start as you mean to carry on. Don’t take an approach that you can’t imagine you’d use five years from now.

- When you last lived there full time, you were a child. Now you surely are an adult (if still a young one who is not yet fully independent). You’ve lived that change, your family hasn’t. Depending on cultural traditions they may or may not intellectually accept that you are an adult or should be treated as an adult, but in practice you are—you are living on your own, on the far side of the world, making all of your own decisions. You will have to help them see you as an adult, and that may not be easy or comfortable. I don’t think that you have much hope of going back and blending in as a child, especially traveling with your boy friend, so I don’t see that you have a lot of choice on this one.

- Everyone deserves respect. If you are not being given it, you can demand it and fight for it, and even if they fight back the battle itself tends to help form that respect. But battles are not pleasant, be they battles of yelling and throwing things or battles carried on through smiles and over tea cups. This ties into the previous point about getting them to accept you as an adult, but this can be an even rougher battle. You have to decide if this is the time and place to demand respect if you are not being given it.

When a discussion contains blame (and in essence they are blaming you for being fat), it is best to respond without passion, in a detached sort of way (‘computer mode’). Use the third person a lot. When you have to use the first person, try using the sentence structure “When X happens/when you say X, it makes me feel Y.” (as in: “When you insult me in front of my boyfriend, it makes me feel very disappointed.”). Both of these don’t usually feel natural, but they tend to work well in my experience. Also, when you use that form in a lot of discussions, when you do use the first and second person directly, it carries more impact, because of the contrast.

The rest of what I have to say is more specific, and is very likely complete rubbish because of differences between families and cultures. But if nothing else maybe it gives you a reference point to more clearly identify some wrong approaches.

This is basically agreeing with Ruffie, that offense is better than defense in these things. The first time that your weight comes up when talking with your family, I’d point out “In London everyone says I’m too skinny. I’ve had someone literally shove a sandwich at my face and tell me to eat it. It seems I’m too fat here, and too skinny there.” This is the ‘at the airport or during the ride home’ level of comment. Repeat it as often as you can, to every family member who asks (or others who you will be seeing repeatedly). Sometimes repetition helps let an idea sink in.

When there is an opportunity to talk a little more, say “When I lived here I tried to be thinner so I’d fit in more, but I never had much success—everyone still said I was fat. Living in London I’ve tried to be fatter, so I’d fit in more, but I’ve never had much success at that either—everyone still says I’m too thin.” You may end up having the same conversation with different people, but this is something that you can also repeat many times. It has good shock value

From my experience there is a good chance that your mother and maybe other relatives will be offended that people there don’t think you are beautiful, and especially that they want you to be fatter. Then they will either decide that people in London are crazy and totally dismiss those opinions and tell you that you should ignore them too, or they might realize that you have been in the same situation in both cities, just pulled in opposite directions. Whenever the issue comes up, you can point out that you have never been very good at either gaining or losing weight, the add “Imagine if I was, how fat I might be by now!”


I doubt that this approach will work magic in just one visit, but I think it is a good strategy for the long term: “I can’t change my body much, to please anyone. Be glad of that!”

Having said all of that, I also agree wit Traci-Jo: there is a lot of benefit from just not talking about it. How best to refuse to talk about it is something that you'd know best.

A couple of other more detailed specifics:

- If you know what your sister’s size would be in UK sizes, try bringing her a piece of clothing that is cool (but age appropriate). Even if it is a nice t-shirt, that her older sister brought it for her from London will give it added appeal, that it fits her well will be lovely, and that it is labeled something like “medium” will probably be re-assuring for her in a way that your words alone would not be.

- Try and give your sister an opportunity to talk to you one on one….a long walk, go out for tea, whatever. The age gap and that you’ve been away may mean that you are not close, but that her somewhat exotic older sister wants to spend time with her and listen to her (and generally accepts her) will almost surely make her feel much better, even if she doesn’t show it much (13 is a tough age!).

- Tell your Mom, or whoever is cooking, how much you appreciate being home to her cooking, how good it is, and how much you’ve missed it. (at least, assuming that this is even vaguely true…you can always fudge to “I’ve missed the food here!” if it happens that your mom is not much of a cook). This will help it feel less like you are rejecting everything about home and about her.

- And most importantly of all, remind yourself that it is only for a month!

Again, I made a lot of suggestions, but those are all based on my experiences will are incredibly different than your experiences, so I'd start off with the assumption that all of this is just rubbish, then see if any of it has any value at all.
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Old 06-22-2009, 11:21 AM   #7
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aaaaaaagggggggghhhhhhhhh so many fat-girl hugs from me:
((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((cors)))))))))))))) ))))))))))))))))))))

Good suggestions from everyone so far. If it were my family, I would draw attention to the wobbly bits first rather than waiting for them to attack - sort of "yeah, look how my arm jiggles here, it's great!" However, I know that there's a different sort of dynamic with a lot of asian families, and responding to one's parents in an assertive or direct way is not really done. Unfortunately, most of the communications techniques I know are designed for low-context, direct cultures like the US, not for high-context asian cultures, so I don't know how much help I can be here It may work for you to break the cultural rules and be more direct, but as Ed's pointed out, it will have a big effect on future interactions.

One thing I think might help, and that I hope will be a little easier to deal with, is talking things over a little more with K. It's clearly going to be really hard on him too, but I think the absolute worst situation you could have here is for you to be worrying about him too when you're already trying to cope with the assault from your parents. If you can get him to understand that what you really, really need from him is emotional support and comfort during this trip (not retaliation at your parents or shouting or telling you after a visit how you "should have just told them to fuck off", because none of that will make it easier for you to get through this), I think that may help. As far as his concerns regarding a relapse of the anorexia nervosa - this is quite a personal question, and feel free to not answer or respond in a pm, but are you on any SSRI medication (list here)? The regulation of serotonin is a major factor in preventing relapse of AN, and if you are on a medication of that sort, letting him know about that could be a major reassurance for him. It's obvious that he wants to protect you, and making sure he understands what that means in this situation could help both of you feel better about the whole thing.

Another thing to consider, which you did touch on, is that both of you will be under intense stress during this trip - the blowing up is likely to happen, and it may help to cover the issues beforehand so none of what you say when you explode will catch each other off-guard. I am totally available if either of you want to just rant and let out frustration - K too, I know this will be a tough trip for him as well, and I understand his outrage as the attitudes and expectations you'll be facing are, frankly, kind of horrible. Either one of you can pm me and go AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH!!!! at any time if you need to let the emotions out in a safe place.

Regarding your sister, I agree with everyone else that taking some one-on-one time with her away from the influence of your parents is a good thing, I just don't want you to fall into the trap of feeling like you have to rescue her or that you're responsible for saving her. Being an accessible role model who ISN'T trying to tell her she's fat is already going to be a breath of fresh air for her, and will leave a significant positive impression.

Finally: I'm really, really sorry that you're caught in the middle of these two cultures with completely opposite ideals. Having to live up to one unreasonable societal expectation is enough to break most of us; having to live up to two that are contradicting? Hah! The fact that you've managed to balance and cope thus far is testament to what an awesome, strong woman you are. You are gorgeous and amazing, and I am (I suspect everyone on this board is!) totally here to support you while you deal with the stressful stuff.

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Old 06-22-2009, 04:11 PM   #8
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*HUGS* to you, Cors. This can't be an easy situation to deal with and I honestly cannot even imagine what a great amount of stress you are faced with right now. There are a lot of really good suggestions here - I can't think of anything I can add but my own sentiment of support for you. Best of luck when you visit your parents.
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Old 06-22-2009, 05:08 PM   #9
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That's a difficult situation you're in, Cors. I agree with Teleute, the fact that you've managed to survive such contradicting pressures to be the awesome individual you are is evidence of a remarkable, strong will. And besides, if it wasn't for pressure, diamonds would still be lumps of coal. /cornball

I wish I had advice to give you, but the best I can do is offer you my hopes for strength for you and your partner, and that you two have fun times on your trip as well, to balance out any negativity you might experience. *hugs*
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Old 06-22-2009, 08:40 PM   #10
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After all the great responses, all I have left to offer are my ((((((((((hugs)))))))))). If you need anything at all, I'm just a PM/Facebook message away, Cors.
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Old 06-22-2009, 10:10 PM   #11
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Hugs and sympathies to you Cors for what you are going through. I echo what the others have said, in particular that you are supportive of your sister, as you are probably the only person she has for support relating to the cultural attitudes about weight you are both dealing with. I know that breaking with family can be hard, but if visiting with your family is nothing but drama and counterproductive for you and your partner, I would make it perfectly clear to them that further visits with them are pointless (assuming you are in a position where you could stop visits...) and I would refuse to engage in conversation relating to this subject. At some point in your life you will be an independent adult, if your family insists on deriding you about something that is absolutely none their business (your body) than it must be made clear to them this it will effect your relationship with them in a negative way. Nobody has a right to critique your body Cors, absolutely nobody. Whether it be your family in Asia thinking you are too fat, or people on London thinking you are too thin. What all these people have in common is that they are trying to impose their values of size upon you. Is difficult to fight this sort of thing, especially with family. Engaging in battle is probably a loosing battle in the long run actually, especially in the face of cultural perceptions. These people will only attempt to impose their values upon you if they think they might have an effect. If you aren't in a position to remove yourself from either of these situations, all you can really do is make it perfectly clear to your family and the people in London that you are happy and healthy the way you are and that you don't care what they say. End of subject. They won't let you off that easily no doubt, but a person who doesn't care can't be punished. Be that person who doesn't care what they say and make it unmistakenly clear that you don't care what they think, and in your heart of heart let go of caring about what they think and try to otherwise enjoy your visit to Asia and your life in London.
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Old 06-22-2009, 10:37 PM   #12
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Old 06-22-2009, 10:52 PM   #13
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My two cents: I think the only way to stay sane in either environment is to just stop caring what other people think, and ask yourself how badly you want to fit in. And maybe try to figure out what you might need to do to find some balance even if it means you might have to be "rude" and "disrepectful."

I guess I have a bit of trouble assessing family dynamics most of the time since mine is so aloof. We're all really different people who just happen to be related to each other, so wanting approval from them has never really been on the top of my priority list. I can imagine tho that you wouldn't want to be seen as (I know they're japanese words, and you're chinese, but it popped into my head) henna (strange) or gaijin (foreign) in your own culture, but if they drive you crazy, it might not be so bad to be so different. Just tell people in as respectful a way as you can that they have to accept that you are who you are. Maybe your sister will see that and get some ideas or maybe not. I'm guessing tho if you are close, she will ask for your help if she needs it and at the very least you can commiserate. I'm not sure if any of this is at all helpful, but luckily there's been a lot of great advice already. Good luck and try to stay sane.
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Old 06-23-2009, 12:26 AM   #14
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((((((((Cors))))))))

I can't imagine how difficult this situation is for you, I don't know how I'd handle being put through that. All I can really say is that everyone has given amazing advice and know that we're all here for you and your boyfriend. If it gets to be too much and you just need to vent, we're just a click away.

Please keep us posted on how it's going, and the best of luck and warm wishes to you.
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Old 06-23-2009, 01:15 AM   #15
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Thank you so much for the advice, support and hugs.

Ruffie, unfortunately respect generally goes one-way in families like mine. SE Asians value something called filial piety, which is unfortunately regarded by most as blind obedience to one's elders regardless of whether they are right or wrong. I don't think that it will change anytime soon.

Bexy, I guess it takes some getting used to when it is not just them but an entire culture and region of people who think that way. I also feel bad about being an absent role model - I don't interact with her much because of the time difference and the age gap. My parents often use me as an example of how not to behave (when I was younger I was badly punished for every supposed attempt at rebellion) and more disturbingly, they have made comments about how she should emulate my sharp drop in weight as a young teen ("if she can do it, so can you, you're not trying hard enough"), which makes me feel rather guilty.

Traci, I haven't heard words like "mat salleh" and "face" for a long time. I have no problems being assertive to strangers who feel entitled to grab and poke at my "flab" on the streets, even though my parents often tell me it is "unladylike" and "embarrassing". It is difficult telling them something is off limits because they never seem to get it, even if I freak out. They like bringing things up innocuously every now and then, hoping to catch me off-guard and then blatantly ignore what they don't want to hear (I have been out since I was 14, but that never sank in because they seem to enjoy asking about boyfriends right in front of the girls I brought home years later). I am hoping they will treat my partner well too and not expect him to live up to our cultural norms.

Edx, I don't think there is a way of confronting them directly without severing contact altogether. To an extent, parents will always see you as a child and if anything, always demand the one-way respect they feel like they deserve. My family has gone on numerous trips to the US and while they were initially appalled by the size of the people there and couldn't stop gawking, they don't apply the same standards to "outsiders" at all. They have even said how they think that White people look good fat, Black girls look good with a big booty and well, Asians must be teeny tiny so telling them that non-Asians consider me "too thin" will not work. They are quite eager to set us apart from everyone else and often remind me how I must "stay true to my roots" and not "succumb to Western values" and they will be flabbergasted if they find out that I put on weight here to escape scrutiny. Thanks to genetics and perhaps experience, I can easily maintain a weight of 85 pounds or 105 pounds if I choose - it is so tempting to play with diet a little just to blend in, but I am sick of having to do that all the time. My sister wears a size Small (US 6/8, UK 8/10) and orders from US and UK webstores often but I don't know how reassuring that is when most regular boutiques don't carry her size. I will try bringing her out though. And yep, I really do miss the food! My mum is a great cook but I am not sure if she will be preparing my calorific favourites in light of the family diet change. At least there is always cheap hawker fare.

Teleute, they are incredibly intolerant of any type of difference and announcing my own weight gain will probably backfire. Good points about K though. He is as stressed as I am and while he will probably never fully understand the cultures, he tries to be as supportive as he can and has learned not to make those "just tell them to fuck off" comments. He hates confrontation so he is unlikely to blow-up at my parents, but I wouldn't want him to feel trapped. We have made plans to get of the house as much as we can, went through what to do or say in case things get ugly and promised to be there for each other but not at our own expense, which is probably more difficult than it sounds. Am trying not to make him the scapegoat for my weight gain too, since that was ultimately my choice.

Stan, I don't like the idea of visiting too and try to stay away as much as I can. I suppose I am too soft-hearted sometimes and try to give them the benefit of the doubt. On some days they seem to improve a little, but that usually doesn't last. It took me a long time to learn how to shut their destructive messages out and I used to think how I am much better now, but I am not so sure. Guess I am just overwhelmed by the thought of having to go back to a traumatizing environment after being gone for so long. At least it is just a month.

Olwen, I am not close to my sister but weight issues are simply not something that is openly discussed, unless it is the usual weight-loss bonding girl-talk. I am also paranoid about the type of messages that the rest of my family might have fed her about me and my own body issues.
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Old 06-23-2009, 05:11 AM   #16
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(((Cors)))

I have no advice for you, unfortunately! Your parents sound so ridiculously stubborn, that basically anything you do will backfire. So....I guess I *do* have advice, then....just take it. With people like that, there is no winning, and the best you can do is laugh to yourself at how ignorant they are.

Honestly though, if I was in your position I'd give them an ultimatum: STFU or you lose contact with your daughter. The idea of supposedly loving parents tormenting their children into psychiatric disorders is insane.
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Old 06-23-2009, 06:20 AM   #17
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Darn it, can't rep Cors right now....but you deserve it so much. It sounds like really you are as on top of this as it is possible to be. I'll stop with the advice, but I do invite you to vent your frustrations here as much as will help you.

Will be sending thoughts of patience and serenity south-eastwards once you head that way....
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Old 06-23-2009, 07:04 AM   #18
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(((((((((((((((((Cors))))))))))))))))))))))))
I read your post..i wanted to go and think about it before i replied (Don't think i EVER did that for any other post!!) and i came back and pretty much everything i thought has already been said by all the wonderful and clever people here plus about a million other things i didn't even think of. So i shall just send you my love and best wishes and good energies. xxxx
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Old 06-23-2009, 10:16 AM   #19
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Cors, I dated my husband for nearly 7 years before we were married. It took him nearly that much time to tell them of my existence. We actually broke up for nearly a year because of his inability to tell his family about me - and when we got back together, he assured me that they had been told. I didn't find out until years later (his sister told me) that he hadn't actually told them at all. They found out about me when they travelled to the U.S. to attend my husband's graduation ceremony, and only then because it was clearly obvious that I was a presence in their son's life. I was very bitter and angry about this for a long time, until I spent time with my husband's family, travelled extensively to Malaysia, and began to understand the dynamics of that particular culture & of his family. It is, as you well know, almost diametrically opposed to Western mentality & to American customs/social mores. When you mentioned that you'd come out years before, and that you were travelling with your boyfriend, I was actually a bit surprised. I can't think of any friends or family members who come from SE Asia who would have the courage to openly acknowledge a different way of life or broadcast that they have a serious relationship -- most particularly, a relationship with someone not from the same ethnicity/background.

I understand now, far more than I may have wanted to, why it was so difficult for my husband to tell his family about me. Several years into our relationship, his cousin from Singapore visited, and met me. My husband was honest with him about who I was, knowing that his cousin would not likely divulge his relationship to the rest of the family. After my husband and I were married, I found an unopened letter addressed to me amongst his things. I opened it and was ... aghast ... to see that his cousin had written me this lengthy, chillingly polite and altogether cruel letter, telling me how nice it was to meet me, and that I should enjoy my "fling" with Jerry and have as much fun as possible but to keep in mind that he had a family to return to. We'd been seriously dating for 3 years when the cousin met me, and I was deeply in love with Jerry. Had I seen that letter when it was meant for me, I would have probably ended things. I would have been devastated.

My husband's family is very, very good to me. They have accepted me graciously, and I credit his sisters with the most precious, priceless gift that is my son ... without their involvement, and his family's assistance, we never would have been able to adopt Jegan. I think that Jerry's fear about what would have happened, had he told them years ago, was somewhat unfounded. At the same time, I also know that as much as I love & respect his family ... and the feelings are returned ... there is a divide between us and it cannot be breached. I will always be someone that they don't fully understand. To this day, I still speak and act in ways that are natural and unconscious to me, and at times shocking and off-putting to them. Fortunately, I've learned much and am still learning, and this doesn't happen as often as it used to. His family is naturally inclined to be open-minded and tolerant, and they've adjusted too. I am accustomed to speaking my mind, freely and as the thoughts come to me, am open-minded about sex/sexuality/alternative lifestyles, am not at all religious, have no patience for what I view to be superstitious/adherence to "old wives tales", customs (I'm still struggling with that one), and have a rather bawdy sense of humor. I think you can probably understand how that can translate: abrasive, rude, loud, ignorant, arrogant. What probably helped, in the early years, is that Jerry's small cousins and nephews/nieces adored me, openly and unabashedly, as I did them. What was so difficult for us, the adults, was very natural for the children. Hopefully, your SO will experience the same thing. It may be helpful to let him know upfront about your family & cultural dynamics, if you haven't already. My husband did very little to prepare me _or_ his family, and it led to some misunderstandings and hurt feelings all around.
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Old 06-23-2009, 12:23 PM   #20
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Well, in the name of research, I think we need pics
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Old 06-23-2009, 12:37 PM   #21
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Cors

i'm realyl sorry for the mind fuck you are being oput through. My mom's favorite topic conversation is my weight but I don't get nearly the crap you do.

I think you've probably had enough advice from everyone here and in the end I'm sure you know better then we do what you should do and what will work best. So instead I'll wish you good luck and remind you that this too shall pass.

Really... it will.
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Old 06-23-2009, 03:59 PM   #22
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Quote:
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People on the streets here in London have told me that I look disgustingly thin and even shoved sandwiches in my face.
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I have no problems being assertive to strangers who feel entitled to grab and poke at my "flab" on the streets, even though my parents often tell me it is "unladylike" and "embarrassing".


Might I suggest carrying a cricket bat wrapped in barbed wire to teach these assholes a quick lesson in common manners?
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Old 06-24-2009, 06:46 AM   #23
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Thanks to the others who commented.

Melian, I agree. As for loving, well, I would say many Asian parents see their child as some sort of an investment (must beat them into getting straight As, so they can get a good job to support us) and hardly ever show affection (hugs, kisses, I love yous). Most of my peers don't seem to have a problem with seeing that as love though, after all, parents always know best - I suppose I am just not cut out for that culture.

TraciJo, I am sorry to hear what your husband did though I can understand why it was difficult for him. At least his family didn't insist on picking a bride for him and it is great that they love you now. I'm surprised to hear that they are fine with you being non-religious though, since that is usually what ends up getting in the way for many couples. I don't know if my family will be a huge part of my life in the future as I wish to live in a different place and have not been on good terms with them since I was a young teen. I guess the only reason why they didn't complain too much about K is because I have always been openly "rebellious" and have done worse stuff in their books. They are also homophobic fundamentalist Christians who have been frustrated with my "deviant" sexuality for years, so I imagine me bringing a "decent" (soft-spoken, shy, thin, no piercings, tattoos, doesn't smoke, drink or do drugs, looks like his gender, goes to church once in a while, doesn't seem to believe in "sinful Western values" like premarital sex) bio-male home is a welcome change.

StarWitness, I wish I could! It doesn't help that most people who actually comment or grab at me are children or old women - being mean to them doesn't quite work. Adults usually just gawk and most of them avert their gaze when I turn around.
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Old 06-24-2009, 04:11 PM   #24
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Hi Cors

Firstly I would just like to say that although as a white woman I couldn't fully understand what you are going through in terms of cultural pressures and expectations. I do understand that family situations can be stressful and we put up with and accept criticisms from them that we just wouldn't tolerate in other circumstances. There is a saying that 'you can choose your friends but you can't choose your family'. I feel you should keep this in mind if ANY of your friends back home try to criticise you or put you down in any way make the choice as an adult not to spend any time with them at all. If as you say they do not intend to put you down or make you uncomfortable, I would just say to them that in British culture you are considered very thin and laugh it off, be confident and happy in your own skin and don't let anything you hear at home negatively affect you. The same goes for your family, tell them that although you respect your culture and can see why they think you are big in comparison to other people at home, you have lived away for so long that you simply didn't notice or consider it an issue. Tell them that you are very healthy, i.e, don't get sick, haven't seen a doctor in ages and you have a healthy and moral lifestyle. Respectfully tell them that you thought they would value these things far higher than numbers of pounds on a scale and you thought they would be proud of you. If they put any pressure on you in any way, tell them You are disappointed in them. You don't need to get angry or overly defensive or anything because in some ways to do that would give their views more validity and power than they deserve. You will be the best judge of whether or not you can say these things or whether these comments would be considered too disrespectful to your elders.

Cors, I do not profess to know what it is like to be in such a quandry. I have experienced prejudices from people who don't really matter to me so I haven't paid them too much thought. I do feel uncomfortable when one of my aunts asks me what I'm doing about my weight and initated a conversation with me to enable her to suggest I had a gastric band. Personally I would never do this and have never given her any reason to believe that it is something I would even consider.

You must really be feeling like an outsider everywhere to be getting such a hard time from both cultures. When I read that someone shoved a sandwich at you, my initial reaction was to feel angry and thought to myself that I would have rubbed it right into their face. Now I feel that these morons are not worth your energy. I remember watching Maria Carey in an interview discussing being mixed race and said she was bullied by white people for being black and bullied by black people for being too white. I feel you are in a simmilar situation. The most important opinion of you is YOURS. You need to love yourself, you are a beautiful and intelligent woman and if your visit back home is horrible for you then don't go home too often if at all. Or indeed tell them if they make your visit unpleasant then you wont be back. Our friends are the family we pick for ourselves so if your biological family don't give you the unconditional love and support you need you need to seek it elsewhere. Easier said than done I know.

As for your boyfriend, tell him that although you love him for being offended on your behalf, and indeed that he would jump to your defense, he needs to let you take the lead on how to deal with it. In doing that he will be supporting you the best way he can.

I wish you all the best and hope your trip goes as well as can be expected.

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Old 06-25-2009, 08:53 AM   #25
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Cors, if being there makes you miserable, a month seems like a long time to stay. Maybe you can decide to go and be "yourself" unapologetically. Straddling two cultures can be no fun, especially where family takes the signs of you hybridity as an affront to custom. Sounds like "home" to you now is primarily in the West.

It's not easy, abandoning one's culture of origin entirely. But going back to enjoy connecting with your roots and being around the people you love shouldn't have to mean misery. Make it clear that you expect to be treated as a full adult, on your terms, with the minimum of respect that that entails. Try to define a workable way to what might constitute "respect" in the context of your re-encounter with family, and communicate this clearly and calmly. Stand firm and don't let yourself fall into the child-like state that interacting with your family and culture of origin may have required to this point.
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