Fat Like Me
In Malawi, Africa I was openly told, "You are fat!" Here, at home in North America, I have been told the same thing - yet never as a compliment.
One sunny afternoon, I was walking back from the market in Malawi with my 17 year old neighborhood pal, Chimwemwe (meaning 'happiness' in English). We strolled leisurely back to our village together, carrying food we had bought for dinner—tomatoes, onion, potatoes, and corn.
Chimwemwe held a wide, substantial corn on the cob in her hand. She slapped it against her open palm with a large, celebratory smile, and said, "It is fat, like you!"
"Well . . . thank you . . . " I stammered in response. I attempted to describe to Chimwemwe how such a comment in my country, North America, is taken as an insult rather than a compliment. Chimwemwe was confused. I found myself searching for an answer that made sense, yet I could not find one.
My explanation of why fat is bad in America was embarrassing. I believe I tried to explain our country's love of models such as Kate Moss. Although I can't remember how, I strove to describe the idea of fashion's 'heroin chic.' The conversation ended with Chimwemwe understanding less about our culture than she had to begin with.
After a few years of living in it, Malawi's interpretation of fat made more sense to me than ours did in North America. Fat means money. Fat means resources. Fat means full instead of empty.