I wrote a little about where I come from over at Kin. It went something like this...
If you have ever gone to an Indian’s house for dinner, you know that being full after a meal is not an option. You have to have at least one more serving. You cannot have had enough just yet, there is always room for more. It’s a beautiful sentiment, but also one that is filled with irony.
You see, as much as the culture believes that you have never fully had enough to satisfy your appetite, they believe that you must be the following:
Fair Skinned. Have beautiful hair and most importantly….be thin.
The same ones that invite you over for dinner, have no qualms about saying things like...
“ Oh you have become chubby now huh?”
(“Yes, copious amounts of Rice and a malfunctioning thyroid does that to you”)
“Oh my goodness, what have you been eating?”
(“ Bad hormones and that extra piece of ghee infused sugar you put on my plate”)
“Wow, you have lost so much weight. You must have worked so hard”
(“Yes, I graduated with honors and won a leadership award this year”)
“You must be getting ready for the wedding, you look great”
(“I am in love and I am preparing my heart to be a wife “)
You see, I just didn’t get it. How could you say that I had to leave every meal beyond full, but stick thin? How could living in a culture that comes together only around a table allow me to exercise anything but my eating muscles?
Culture can play a big part in our story. It still does in mine. I still go through periods of self-doubt and questionable self-worth. In a cultural context, my issues have always been about body image. My sister's issues on the other hand, have been about her hair and education- too curly and she wasn't 'book smart' enough. What would yours be? I hope whatever yours might be, you take heart.
The older I get, I am learning this:
Take what is good, learn from the rest that you have left behind.
Culture can direct you or destroy you.
Be proud of where you come from, but keep walking to where you need to be.
Say “Enough, I am full
I don’t need one more helping of what you have to offer right now.
I am not hungry for food.
I may be hungry for something else. If you are serving
My plate is empty and there is room for more."
Friends, you can’t choose the culture you are born into, but you can choose what you birth from your culture. I hope you dish out the compliments and the kindness and the dignity for your neighbor before you invite them over for curry.
What are some of your cultural ironies? Which of those do you need to say enough to?