Over the holiday season, I was feeling unwell, and it got to the point that my spouse insisted that I go see a doctor. There was one thing I noticed as I was restlessly waiting in the examination room. I noticed this both during the first appointment where the doctor determined the tests that I would undergo, and then the follow-up the appointment when we discussed the results. There were the typical signs such as not to use your cellphone, not be aggressive towards staff, and about medical procedures not covered by our health care coverage. But there was another type of poster that occupied those walls. They were talking about cosmetic surgery. I find it strange that in a facility where you seek help to improve your well-being, they also recommend procedures that focus on improving your appearance.
It is quite evident what these procedures are trying to promote, based on the row of three images left to right, where the abdominal area looks slimmer and less visible.
My cousin recently had a baby, about 3 months ago. She is the type who loves taking selfies and posting them online. She went to Baguio to visit our grandmother, and she posted a photo of them sitting on the couch on Facebook. The first comment on the photo “Why does it look like you can’t fit on the chair anymore? Looks like you got a lot bigger!”
I personally question if there is a positive outcome with greeting someone with a comment about their appearance. I think about my late mother, who, after bearing three children, had grown larger in size. This much I remember because my grandmother kept all my mother’s clothes. I even found her wedding gown. It surely didn’t fit my 16-year-old body, and I’m sure it won’t fit me even now. Was she compared repeatedly with her two sisters who would be labelled as skinny?
When someone makes a criticizing remark on their own appearance, I feel unsure about how to respond. Perhaps what they are saying is not even a lie. For instance, they have gray hair now, or that their skin became darker after being atthe beach for a few days. What gives me pause is the tone, the hint of disgust and displeasure. Should I flatter them or dismiss their self-criticizing remarks? Should I respond by sharing the things I find ugly about my own body?
A half a decade gap between visits to the Philippines is a sizeable one. In this period of time, babies grow into children, teens grow into adults. It is a long enough time to notice changes in one’s appearance that may have occurred gradually. I wonder how I would respond to all these comments that I should anticipate when I visit later this year. The two most common ones I surely will hear are “Your skin is so much lighter, so beautiful!” and “OMG you gained so much weight! What in the world happened!?”
Is this something worth looking into? I personally feel more inclined to see if there is a sparkle in their eyes, from feeling content with all the changes in their lives. I prefer to listen to their voice, to decipher if someone feels worn out with life’s challenges.
As it turns out, this was a topic I have written about in the form of a poem four years ago. The last stanza sums up my sentiments and has not changed since then.
Please don’t greet me with my weight, and wrinkles, zits or cellulite
Rather ask how much more I have gained in life
Experience and learning, discoveries and philosophies with new memories to treasure
As the soul, kind acts and goodness, goes beyond the physical form