Pardon the pun..you’ll get it later.
As some of you dear readers may know, I am currently living in Milan, Italy for the next couple of months. I’ve been here since early February and it has been QUITE the experience. Italy is simply a gorgeous, beautiful, and breathtaking country. I am simply in love with Italian cuisine, Italian fashion, Italian history, and of course, the Italian language, which is hands-down the most beautiful and romantic language I’ve ever encountered. “Ti voglio bene!” – I love you, friend. “Lei sembra molto bella” – You are looking beautiful.
Now, before I begin my gripe-fest with Europe, I must first clarify that I do not speak for anyone but myself in this post. The opinions here are my opinions and thoughts alone and no one else’s. Granted, I know there are many different sides to a story and I make no scientific or factual observations – these are just MY own personal observations that come from my own personal experiences in Italy. I hate generalizations and I don’t mean to make any here so I apologize if I offend anyone.
Women’s Weight: In my conversations with my European female friends and in my own shopping excursions, I’ve come to find that Europeans are very very weight conscious, especially European women. Now, what is alarming to me is what constitutes as “fat” to many European women. In my early days here, I went shopping for a pair of jeans at some local boutiques. Now, normally I am a size 2-4 in U.S. sizes but here I am anywhere between a 36-40 in European sizes, which is roughly a size 6, 8, 0r even 10 in U.S. sizes. Granted, I had just come off the Thanksgiving/Christmas holiday and was a little fuller figured than usual. I tried a size 36, didn’t fit. I tried a size 38, didn’t fit. Finally, I asked for a size 40…
“Oh, you want a fat size?” The saleslady asked me. “Size 40, fat.”
What? Fat. Me? I’d never in my life been referred to as fat. At 5’2″, my heaviest weight ever has been 120 pounds and that was when I was pumped full of depo-provera birth control chemicals and going through my freshman 15. At this time, I weighed around 115 pounds. Really? At 115 pounds, was I really fat?
And then I started to look around and take notice of other European women. The average weight of women my age appeared to be around 100-105 pounds. And then I became the “shoulder to lean on” as one of my close European friends, weighing in at 100 pounds, ranted incessantly about how fat she was and started skipping meals to help her slim down. And then I had several pleasant experiences of entering a women’s restroom only to be greeted with the sounds of someone obviously in the purging stages of bingeing and purging. In addition, after I attended the birthday dinner for one of my American friends here in Milan, I happened to be seated next to some Italian girls who whispered on and on about how fat the American girls in attendance were and how we can’t possibly expect to be skinny by eating the way we did. From my observations, it appears that not only do European girls pay extremely close attention to their weight and diet, they also pay close attention to yours…and have no qualms about criticizing you for it.
Finally, I was called fat yet again by another shop girl after I went to try on dresses for the opera…sigh.
What can be considered fat or overweight? Really? After my experiences in Europe, I don’t really know. Granted, Europeans are generally smaller-framed than Americans, but in a region bursting with fashion frenzy, models galore, fashionistas, fashion trends, fashion, fashion, fashion, perhaps it is not too far-fetched to say that this has resulted in an unhealthy approach to weight, diet, and self-esteem by many European women? And perhaps it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to say that this perception from the European women I’ve chosen to surround myself with have sort of fucked with my own views concerning my weight and diet?
I was in a funk for a couple of days after being called fat, I admit it. Yet, after some major self-reflection, I refuse to let these comments dictate how I see myself and ruin my Italian experience. Bring on the pasta, bring on the bread, bring on the ham! Bring on the wine! I might return to the states a couple of pounds heavier or not but at least I can say that I enjoyed Italian food to the fullest and truly lived the authentic Italian experience. I mean, could I really say I’d lived life to the fullest if I passed on all this wonderful food? Hey, I’ll just be the stereotypical fat American out here…but at least I am happy.
Then again, maybe the shop girls who called me fat, really meant PHAT…