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.

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