“Oka se Laura!”* is not exactly what I want to hear whenever I go back to Samoa. But Samoan adults have that passive aggressive humour down pat, coupled with the monopoly of unquestioned authority, so I just awkwardly laugh while fighting the urge to cover my ridiculed body.
‘Ridicule’ is a strong word Laura, they didn’t mean it like that. Eh! Don’t take it so seriously / personally, they’re just having a laugh. They mock everyone.
Okay, it’s kind of funny the first time. It’s a little awkward for the second time, but I’ll fake a chuckle for the sake of social cohesion. But when it’s a sentiment you’ve heard since before puberty… the novelty of the joke is well and truly worn off.
It hurts most when these ‘jokes’ come from the people you thought are the ones to build you up to face the Big Bad World; even worse when it’s not a joke. Hearing the words “you’re so fat” from people who love you is a hard fucking thing to take in. I find it hard to ignore the opinions of random guys at the bar, petty acquaintances, and strangers on the internet. So hearing this from people I hold so dearly in my heart stings in a way that those other le kaulia (inconsequential) people never could.
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My sister once tried to translate what I saw as cruel, as a message of loving concern. She told me what they mean to say is: you’re not a healthy size and I’m worried about you and I don’t want you to get diabetes type B, but I don’t know how to show my concern in a way that exposes my own emotional vulnerability so I’ll be cold and distant and sometimes comedic about it. I want to help you and I don’t know how. I want you to find the answers yourself, and I don’t want you to go down the road I did.
It’s been a long and painful road learning to love my body. Reaching a point where I felt not only comfortable, but good in short dresses and skirts was such a triumph for me. However I’m not proud of my body in the sense that I think other people should aspire to it, or that I should remain this way. But I’m learning to love it as it is right now, as a foundation to finding ways to care for it in the ways it needs.
*This would technically translate to, “what a Laura!” But in this case, it refers to the shock of how much weight I’d gain since the last time they saw me (never mind if I was eight years old…).