Pangzi, meaning fatty or fat-so, is definitely how I've felt lately. Now I'm not the type of girl to moan about my weight and how I need to "go on a diet," but being surrounded by a few million size 0 Chinese women can be a bit of a blow to the self-esteem. Usually I can overcome my insecurities by reassuring myself that I am different. I am an American of German ancestry. I am naturally big-boned. I come from the land of deep fried cheese and butter burgers. But then there are certain situations in which this denial/optomism just isn't enough. Here are some cases I've encountered over the past two years:
Case 1: I need to find a pair of jeans. A fairly simple task in America. I can go into The Gap, grab a size 8 (a normal, medium size) and call it a day. But it's so much more complicated here. Trying on jeans at any trendy Chinese store amounts to craming my thighs into a pair of flares that are usually a foot too long for me. After trying on three pairs I generally leave in utter disgust. So, what to do? Afterall, a girl needs pants. There's really only two options: return to the motherland and seek out the nearest Gap or go to the "Big and Fat" shop. Big and Fat shop it is. Here I found myself knee deep in rejects/imperfects from American stores that most likely produce their clothes in China. I happened to come across a pair of American Eagle girl's khakis, size 2. Are you kidding me? I then came across a size 8, only to find it had an elastic waistband. Abort mission. Abort mission. Abort mission.
Case 2: I need some new underwear. As with jeans and pants, finding underwear in America is no big thing. Anywhere I go a size medium will do. In China, whole different story. I was at the store with Ming and picked up a box of 3 pairs, size large.
"Honey, those won't be big enough, try these," he says as he throws me a different box. Size XXL. Extra, extra large? Is this some kind of cruel joke?
"How about I go for the extra large?" I ask him meekly, already knowing the anwer.
XXL. And they ended up being a little tight.
Case 3: I go out to dinner with a close Chinese friend, CiCi. She is cute, sweet, and weights about 90 pounds. We are having a good time, laughing, eating pizza. I realize I shouldn't be eating the pizza, of course, because I can hardly fit into my XXL undies, but everyone needs an occassional indulgence. I try not to feel too guilty. I promise myself I will do 150 sit-ups a night for the next month and from now-on I will walk to the far away grocery store instead of the one down the alley from my apartment. Ah, yes, I will be 115 pounds in no-time. But then I am brought back down to earth when we leave the restaurant. CiCi suddenly turns to me and says, "My, you've gotten fatter, haven't you?" I nearly burst into tears.
Case 4: I am teaching my high school students about student life in America. In China, during the week students only have time for class and to study. The only time for sports is on Sundays or during their ten minute break between classes. Most of them like sports and are in awe over the variety of sports and extra-curriculars American high school students enjoy. One students innocently asked me what kind of sports I played in high school. I explained to my class that I didn't play sports, but was involved in other things such as student council and art. To this one (male) student shouted out, "Oh, so that's why you're so fat!" Perhaps, perhaps.