Who’s the Slimmest of Them All?

Written By

Ushasi Sen Basu

Who’s the Slimmest of Them All? Loading

Let me ask you this:

  1. When you meet a new girl/woman, do you pigeon-hole her immediately in your mind as ‘pretty’ or ‘ugly’?
  2. Do you instinctively like her better if she’s pretty? (Come on, this is a quiz in your head, you can be honest to yourself.)
  3. If she’s fat, —-, and —- (fill blanks with all the cardinal sins of ugliness a woman may commit) do you tend not to take her too seriously? Do you feel the need to meet up with your friends and giggle over her for a bit?
  4. Are you glad you’re not her? Even though she might be (in some cases) smarter and more accomplished than you in other ways that run beneath the surface?
  5. In the event you deign to befriend this unfortunate soul: do you feel the need to educate this fat, ugly person about the fact that she is unattractive and needs to DO something about it?
  6. If the answer to all of the above questions is ‘No’, then congratulations! You belong to a rare, dying breed. OR, you’re a big, fat, liar. (Yes, I called you fat.)

If the answer is ‘Yes’, you’re regrettably one among a multitude. And equally culpable for the negative body image issues among young girls nowadays, along with the fashion, glamour and other related industries pushing an unrealistic standard of beauty.

As I stand in front of the mirror every morning and regard myself with mounting horror, I think to myself how nice it would be if the world was a little bit more accepting of ugliness. I admire a pretty face as much as the next person, and appreciate how some women elevate “looking after their appearance” into an art form. The creams for different times of day, the hair care regimen, the special foods, the massages, the parlour visits running into hours, the time spent in front of the mirror for face-painting and accessorization.  This is all wonderful if it gives the woman joy.

What I am chafing at is, the expectation that all women have a responsibility to undertake all of this, even if she hates to and can think of a million better ways to use her limited time. This is because society still, for all its lip service in the 21st Century, assigns the woman a more decorative role; and punishes her if she steps out of line.

Punish how? This is where all the fat-shaming, the ugly-shaming, the what’s-up-with-your-hair shaming comes in. Oh, it was “only a joke”? Tell that to the woman who has to hear it every time she goes to a large gathering of “friends” who like to “kid around”. Or grits her teeth through the endless “we-only-call-you-fat-because-we-love-you” lectures from the corpulent aunts and uncles at family weddings.

And that’s why little girls barely out of their childhood chaddis are vomiting up their dinners. Sure, most of us simply try different exercise fads and diets. And when they don’t work, we revert to the routine morning shudder in front of our reflections and life goes on.

Finally! My trim readers exclaim, as they check their heart rates on exercise machines and stop to chew on a celery stick. We had begun to think Ushasi didn’t know about exercise at all! She should quit whining about being called fat and just do as we do. What’s the big deal?

I couldn’t agree with you more. Why must looking good be such a big deal?

I look at pictures of all the stick-insect models in glossy magazines and wonder if they’re happy either. They sure look grumpy to me. I empathize — I get irritable when I’m hungry, too.

And I comfort myself that though they have the world’s admiration for their beauty (which in today’s interpretation, predominantly means skinniness); though they will always be treated with more respect than me — I have several things that they don’t have. Hot aloo paratha for breakfast, chicken biriyani for lunch, and lovely chocolate ice cream for dessert after dinner.

If that isn’t worth being called fat for the rest of my life, I don’t know what is; the world be damned.




Ushasi Sen Basu, 37, lives in Bangalore and is the erstwhile Editor-in-Chief of SiyaWoman.com. She published her debut contemporary literary fiction novel, 'Kathputli’ in early 2017, in both Kindle and paperback formats. Ushasi has been a professional writer and editor for over a decade. She also has an unpopular blog called The Crib that pokes fun at everything, including herself. Ushasi (aka Shashi, "U" and 'You-Over-There') loves literature and music, and dances like nobody’s watching. She is the mother of a five-year-old girl, who is the joy of her life and grudging guinea pig for many of her parenting experiments.

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