You a little fat


It’s 6 p.m.

Wayan Sie, the only masseuse in the world that I allow anywhere near me, arrives and I strip, stretching out on my stomach on the bed. The aroma of nutmeg scented oil swirls in the room. She strokes my back with long, sweeping movements, ahhh. Muscles let go. I melt. “That feels so good, Wayan,” I croon happily.

“Ya, Sherry,” she replies. She’s quiet for a moment then says, “You a little fat, ya?”

Wayans hands have been all over my body. Many times. If anyone could detect a few extra pounds, she could. Damn Balinese honesty! “Am I?” I ask.

“Ya, it’s good,” she says.

I meditate on that for the remaining 70 minutes that she kneads, pokes, pummels, and prods me. First I think about the comment another friend made just a month ago. “You’re scrawny,” she said. Okay, who do I believe? No contest. Wayan knows. Then I think about my body. It’s become muscular with all the yoga and walking. It’s that new muscle, I tell myself, as if Wayan doesn’t know the difference between fat and muscle. Right. I wonder why I haven’t noticed. My clothes aren’t any tighter. Of course the loose fitting garb I wear here wouldn’t be tight if I gained 200 pounds.

Wayan finishes. I thank her and she leaves to cook dinner for her husband and son.

Fat. I don’t relate to fat. I’m not fat. I’ve never been fat, well, aside from pudginess prior to puberty, but that doesn’t count. Why am I obsessing about this?

In the U.S. we wouldn’t dream of telling someone what we think when it concerns negative body image. Bali is a different story. In this culture you say it like it is, whether you’ve gained weight, grown a zit the size of a grapefruit, gotten a bad haircut…the Balinese notice and comment. It can be a bit off-putting at first, as is their propensity to want to know your business.

“Where you go?”

“What you buy?”

“How much you pay?

Then I remember. The last massage Wayan gave me was on the heels of a ten day siege of Bali Belly. I had done nothing but puke and poop. There wasn’t much left of me. By comparison I am now, indeed, ‘a little fat’. Okay. I can live with that.

My Wife is Fat

I strolled through the neighborhood this morning with a shadowy intention of ending up at Lake Harriet.  The sky was a powder-blue dome, seamless, the sun its only adornment. I’ve driven or biked the route many times but walking yields sights and sounds that are otherwise lost.

There are huge, peach colored irises in a garden right by the sidewalk. They are the size of coconuts, or cantaloupes, utterly breathtaking. One block has a row of maple trees including the showy Crimson King with the dark purple leaves. There was no traffic.  It was so quiet I could hear bugs skittering through the grass. I could also hear my own thoughts.

I’ve learned a lot about thoughts. Thoughts are the root of everything. No matter what situation I find myself in, how I choose to think about it becomes my reality. That nugget of truth was brought home to me time and again when I talked with my Balinese friends. One conversation in particular comes to mind. We were discussing nutrition, the abundance of healthy eating choices available to the native residents and foreigners alike in Bali. In spite of that, I had noticed that some Balinese women and children are overweight. My friend told me that the Balinese can earn more money now and it is easier to buy rich food or prepackaged cookies, candy, and snacks. He flashed a huge smile and said, “My wife is fat.” It was one of those moments, there were many, when I didn’t know whether to congratulate him, scold him for saying something unkind, or commiserate. I have a terrible tendency to sit with my mouth half open and a glazed look in my eyes while experiencing inner turmoil. Still mentally trying to sort through the etiquette of an answer, he rescued me. “I like it!” he exclaimed.

So, to my point, he thinks fat is beautiful. He THINKS fat is beautiful. Therefore his chubby wife makes him happy. This is what was floating about in my mind as I meandered the streets this morning. I dallied through the rose gardens, across the biking and walking paths that circle the lake, and out onto a wide, plank dock. As I sat down at the end I realized I had been noticed. The fish were gathering. I counted 21 then stopped. They formed a semi-circle at the end of the dock with their pointed noses all headed in my direction, watching, waiting. We eyed each other for about three minutes, then they tired of me and swished away. I took off my sandals and bared my shoulders to the warm rays. Ahhhh. I slowly gave in to gravity and reclined full-length.

Creating my own reality is a big responsibility. Choosing how I will think about everything makes me have to think about thinking. It requires that I become aware of my tendencies toward negative or positive viewpoints. It is the process of mind watching mind. As a child I was taught how to moderate my physical actions. I remember mom saying, “Sit like a lady,” and I knew that meant I should keep my knees together. But there was no instruction regarding how to think in order to create my own happiness.

I have neither a fat wife nor a fat husband. That’s a plus. However, I do have to organize my thinking around wrinkles, retirement, and what matters most as I enter the ‘golden years.’ What surprises me is the feeling of empowerment. Knowing that I can stop at any time, review my thoughts and change them, puts me in charge of my own happiness. Senility may eventually put a wrench in the works, but until then I’m choosing NOT to think about that.

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