Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Compliments

 
We don't call people fat.  It's not polite. 
 
I recently said those words to my children during a dinner discussion.  They came out of my mouth as instinct. 
 
And then I stopped. 
 
Confused.
 
Because in Africa, it is polite to call someone fat.  A compliment, actually.  Having curves is attractive.  Being too skinny is not.
 
These type of advertisements are all over Dar.  Dr. Mkombozi (and others like him) specialize in the fine art of preventing theft, getting you a girlfriend, and "male power" (not sure I know or want to know what that means). 
 
Apparently he can also make your...er....bottom...look like this:
 

 
 
I know, I know.  Just what you've always wanted.
 

But it's true.  Africans like big.  If your wife is skinny, she will probably die of malaria.

It's just oh so lovely when an African friend tells me exuberantly, Look!  You've gained weight!  And I give a strangled Thank You and smile the Fakest Smile Ever.

But I have African daughters with American parents, growing up in between two cultures.  How do I navigate this?

For years, it has broken my heart to see our Tanzanian students fret over their body shape, trying to meet a western ideal, when their own culture (and genetics) already thinks they are perfect.

So this is the deal.  I'm going to try really hard to not make fat a bad word in this house.  Thus, I apologize in advance if my children call you fat someday.  Just smile, take it as a compliment, and remember that we are African.  I think Africa's got the better perspective anyway. 

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