Thursday, June 28, 2012
Under cover of night I put a pearl in the ground. Where did you go? Not so far. Please don't go, not too far.
You don't mean that, say you're sorry. You don't mean that, I'll make you sorry.
He leans back in his swivel chair, that permanent jeer plastered on his face. The earring glitters as he turns and points at me. I give an answer and he moves onto the student next to me. The correct answer is the sentence that he is thinking in his head and it's a waiting game to see who he points at and it's a matter of time before one of us gets the answer and this is when the game begins again.
I'm not really listening. I know all I need to know about population health and so his words flow over me without making any impact at all yet the tension that he generates keeps me rooted to my seat and facing him with eager eyes. He's talking about BMI and how different races have different amounts of fat free mass. It's not news to me, and I'm still barely listening.
"And it may sound harsh, but if you are Asian and you have a BMI of 21, then you're probably obese."
Now I'm listening! And my heart feels like it's been kicked in the testicles. Based on that premise, I'm Asian, I have a BMI of 21.7, therefore I must be clearly obese. That is the only conclusion that can be drawn.
I'm surprised. It's not something I expected to hear. And immediately, I know that he is right, so right and so wrong at the same time. All my years of teaching seems to reel in my head. I know that he is referencing children's BMI ranges, I know that for Asian adults, a BMI of 23 is what constitutes being overweight. I know all this, I know, I know, I know.
But at the same time, I've just been labelled obese and it's not something that I can shake. I'm obese. I'm obese. I'm obese. Each repetition of the phrase echos a beat of my heart, thudding, faster and faster, panic rising, breaths becoming shallow, mind racing. I'm obese. I am. I am. I am.
There are 2 voices that take over then. One is the professor. He tells me that I'm not fat, I'm not obese. That my BMI is perfectly normal, and that it is nothing to worry about. But this time his voice is so quiet, like he is talking to me from inside a sealed box. I've been trying to contact him for 2 weeks now with no reply. His hold on me loosens.
The second voice is a friend. She tells me that I have to face the truth. I have to acknowledge my obesity. "So what, you're obese. So do something about it you lump." So do something about it. There is a rising anger within me. Why would someone say that to me? Why? I'll prove them all wrong. I'll get myself thin. I'll make them sorry they ever called me obese.