Friday, March 6, 2009

Body Image

Since being diagnosed and as a result I am watching what I am eating and exercising life a mofo, I've lost some weight. People notice and are quite complimentary of it. What's definitely different about it for me than for other people is that while I appreciate the compliments, I don't think I'm any more or less attractive than I started out in. There are things I like about my body that I didn't like before. I like the fact it runs better (literally!). I like the fact that it can get to a tennis ball easier. I like the fact, I am not getting the afternoon blahs. But the looks part don't particularly affect me one way or another.

I know piece of it is because I'm a man and carry a significant amount of privilege when it comes to what I do with my body. When Kiera Knightley and Scarlett Johansson pose naked for Vanity Fair, it's something every starlet needs to do. They get airbrushed and have to starve themselves to make sure they are presentable. When Paul Rudd, Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, and that guy from How I Met Your Mother pose for Vanity Fair, they get bodysuits, they don't have to go on a diet, and get to be in movies with women much thinner as their love interests. While people judge my body plenty because I'm fat, it's not commodified they way a woman's body is.

The other piece to my difference to weight as a measure of my attractiveness is connected to the fact that I'm an ASIAN man and lack a lot of privilege. Western perceptions of Asians being passive, delicate, and feminine make Asian women quite he commodity (as if being a commodity is ever good). But for us Asian men, we're rendered invisible. I would say before, Lost, when did we regularly see a buffed-out sexual Asian man on tv? The challenge with this invisibility has been to divorce ourselves from thinking we're attractive. We're not low on the totem pole, we're not on the totem pole. For me, attractive was never about weight. It was about race. I was either unattractive because I was an Asian guy or I was attractive because I was an Asian guy (and therefore a fetish).

Being gay has peversely helped when it comes to the whole body image thing. For us gays, there are scenes based on who you're attracted to. There's JRs for the guys whole are into the preppies. There's Windows for the guys into the Daddies. There's HRC's intern program for the guys into the twinks (Hee!). And of course there's the bear scene. There's bears and otters and wolves and muskrats and beavers, well not beavers. Anyway there's a furry animal for almost any body type. And where that has worked in my favor is that I've tended not to personalize rejection. Someone not being attracted to me has always meant, I'm not their type. I never had any hopes that if I did anything different I would land the perfect guy. (I landed the perfect guy by getting my shit together and being emotionally honest.) If someone wasn't attracted to me it was clearly because I wasn't their type.

And quite frankly, there isn't a scene in DC for men who are into fat Asians. In the Bay Area it's a different story. When J and I were having dim sum, we saw an interracial couple who looked and dressed exactly like us, right down to the glasses and cargo shorts. We were like matching salt and pepper shakers. But really, there wasn't a 150+ pound chapter for Asians and Friends.

That leads us to today where I am now getting complimented on my body. Compliments are nice but the only change is that I'm getting smaller. I'm just as bald as I've ever been. I still dress like a slob.

So I have to thank you oppressive society and looks obsessed gay men. I never knew how much of a gift being invisible can be. I've never beaten myself up for being fat. And now I'm not equating losing weight with being a HOTAY. I've lost weight, not my mind.

1 comment:

Stef said...

It sounds like you have a good perspective on your body image, which just makes you even healthier as you're losing weight and improving everything overall.

Body image has always been a drag for me. I do confess that the one time I lost a lot of weight - 42 pounds, back in 2000 - I did notice some things changing for me mentally and not always in a good way. I went down 2 sizes, and I was 25 at the time and so pysched that I could finally shop in "normal sized" clothes and buy the kinds of cutesy little tops and skirts and jeans that I'd always wanted. And, I found myself become a lot more appearance-conscious, and in a way almost a little shallow. I loved being that size, but I'd hope if I ever get there again that it'd be with the perspective of being a little older and wiser...