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By the way: Sisters in sisterhood, but enemies in silence

Aruna Harjani

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Fri, July 12, 2019  /  12:08 pm
By the way: Sisters in sisterhood, but enemies in silence

I met up with old friends weeks ago for the first time in a year. As we were finishing up, an old friend came up to me and told me, “You have to lose weight, don’t feel bad ya.”

I was speechless for a moment. My weight has been the same for the last 10 years and she decided to say it only now, after I let them know that I just got my master’s degree. 

I looked at her face and noticed that, despite her slim body and her being younger, she had more wrinkles than me. But thanks to an abundance of confidence, which matched my weight, I decided not to fire back and keep my mouth shut. Later, I even thanked myself for my silence because, as she walked past me, men who saw her couldn’t keep their eyes off her.

It's then that I realized that, when women view other women as being higher than them or in a better position, they find ways and means to poke at their sisterhood.

This friend couldn’t get herself a master’s degree so she consoled herself by latching onto my weakness of being overweight. As she bragged about her body, I then thought, “Why be jealous of me?” She seemed to claim she had everything with a slim body.

We are women. We call ourselves sisters in sisterhood, yet we are the main causes of each other’s problems.

TV soap operas show this to be true. Indian serials have the mothers-in-law starting all the problems; Turkish serials present the mistress as the reason for the broken home; for Indonesian serials, it is the rebellious daughter; Pakistani serials feature daughter-in-law issues, and many more. In short, all these series show women as always upsetting the normal lives of other women.

Yes, I won’t deny my fatness. I do get reminders, especially when I go to pharmacies at shopping malls. Salesgirls look at me and immediately offer me diet pills, which I politely refuse in their faces. In my mind, I feel like asking the salesgirls, “Really, am I that fat?” I have been openly called “fat and ugly” to my face and I laugh it off, but at some point it becomes deafening.  

I reckon God has made it so that our bodies naturally expand at a certain age. There must be a reason for it. Some women are lucky to remain as they are but some are not. I just wish God turned it around for me – fat when young and thin when old.

So while many of my sisters in the sisterhood would kill themselves just to look good for other people, I focused to further my education, which I surmised was more essential. I used up my “gym time” for the betterment of my family – making sure they ate the right food and were in good health.

Many women value vanity to the extent that it’s OK to look superb despite being mean. Thus, the focus is on the outer appearance, when at the end of the day, the goodness inside is all that matters.

Once upon a time, I was brainwashed into thinking that having a slim body is all that matters. I would naively think that if a woman were fat, she would not be able to find a suitable husband.  

I have seen young girls ostracized because of their heaviness. Thus, the young girls of today are made to think that way: “If you want to be popular on Instagram, then melt those baby fats”.

The young generation has its role models in pictures – perfect body, flawless skin and six-pack abs, and not knowing some of them might have used Photoshop or achieved their weight unnaturally.

In this day and age, with all the kinds of diseases and sicknesses moving around, I realize the need for good health is more important than having a slim body.

A woman who can hold an intellectual conversation; a woman who has made achievements because of a great talent and hard work – what would be the use of a slim body if a woman didn’t possess any of these traits?

Yes, three decades ago, during the younger days of our mothers, the trend was, “the fatter, the better”.

So, my slim friend, should I remind you that even Marilyn Monroe was a size 12? (ste)