The Things You Shouldn’t Say

Eighth grade is a time of life I’d never revisit. That in-between period where everyone is going through puberty yet exhibiting its signs in various ways. It’s not pretty—well not for everyone. Of course, there are always the girls who seemed to blossom into young womanhood with ease, their bodies becoming lithe and womanly overnight, with clear skin and eyes that didn’t need glasses to see. Whatever they lacked naturally was made up with access to salons and the best stores.

For a girl such as myself, whose gift from the puberty fairies were extra layers of fat and unruly hair, thicker glasses, and zero access to the fashions I wished I could wear, the inequities of middle school womanhood were never more apparent than in the locker room. Yup, we all had to dress out for PE, changing from our school outfits to shorts and school-logo shirts.

You can tell how females feel about their bodies by the way they will change clothes in shared spaced such as a locker room. Those with nothing they wish to hide would strip off shirts and jeans, taking their time transitioning to PE attire while laughing and chatting in their underwear, which was decidedly more adult-looking than not. The rest of us would change clothes quickly and efficiently, taking special care to expose no part of the body to anyone as much as possible. At that age, you either had too much of something, not enough of what you wanted and a shared loathing of the unfairness of it all.

I didn’t grow up with female role models who paid attention to healthful eating and exercise. What I had been exposed to be many women who married and had babies and no longer looked like the women used to be. This was usually blamed on the marriage and the babies and accepted as the price one pays for the life they got. It was a cultural thing because our move to Southern California when I was 12 years old showed me a very different narrative. These girls who floated past puberty woes were the daughters of women who appeared to have floated past pregnancy and childbirth woes. My insecurities were only further inflamed.

But here’s what didn’t help—adults in my world who felt compelled to comment on what was none of their business—my body.

While trying on a junior bridesmaid’s dress, the bride brought over a size 5, which was too tight on me. She commented that her waist was 24 inches and how was it that at age 13, mine was not? Her fiancé walked by and saw me in the dress and said, “well, you know you need to lose weight, right?” But the more tragic part was the shame I felt, tainted with the foolish notion that it was my duty to answer them all and acknowledge that yes, I needed to lose weight.

I got chubbier and high school started. That summer I got a turquoise lace, tea-length formal dress on sale (hideous, but this was 1989). There was a family wedding in the fall, and I was excited to debut the monstrosity there. When I arrived at the wedding and greeted uncles and aunts I hadn’t seen since I was a child, whatever bubble of loveliness was popped when the relatives gave me the up and down and said, “What happened to you?” with looks of disappointment on their faces.

Those experiences and my teenage desire to be someone different from I was, got me motivated. I got serious about improving myself halfway through 9th grade and started doing aerobics classes I’d tape on VHS off of ESPN. When you are young, it doesn’t take too much to kick your body into great shape, and before long all sorts of people made comments about my body again. But this time, the flattery filled a hole that had been dug by the cruelty. And it wasn’t long before my sense of worth became completely propped up by someone else’s approval of my body.

Then I had my first baby, and the pregnancy weight didn’t fly off. Again, relatives and even casual friends made comments about how large I had become. About how I’d need to commit myself to work harder to look better. And I took it, smiling through humiliation, yet seething and hurt on the inside.

How was this anyone’s dang business?

In South Asian culture, there is this very unfortunate phenomenon where pretty much anyone, but especially if they are related to you, feels perfectly entitled to comment, even ask for explanations, about one’s weight gain. Those same people will clamor all over you like ants on an unsupervised slice of watermelon at a summer picnic when you lose weight and, in their eyes, are now acceptable. All of it is wrong.

All I choose to say is this: If you have ever told someone to lose weight or fix themselves up, shame on you. If you are a parent or other adult meant to love and support a person who was verbally assaulted with such unkindness and did nothing about it, shame on you.

And if you’ve been on the receiving end of this BS, know this. Those people who dared to make hurtful comments about something that is none of their ever-loving business are the ones with problems beyond your care or control. And if the ones entrusted to do better by you stood by while you were hurt, they were the ones with the problem.

I was enough then. I am enough now. You were enough then. You are enough now.

Photo by Dayne Topkin on Unsplash

Tok Around the Clock

When everything started shutting down last March, Tik Tok was barely on my radar in terms of preferred social media. Tik Tok was decidedly my high school aged son’s thing. But one year later, 40-something moms have arrived! Ok they are there, but that’s not the point of this post. I must preface this by saying while I do have an account, I only have one so that I can like and make comments (always affirming, I don’t do that mean trolling crap). You will never see me in videos of my own creation. That is my promise to you. But for all you Tik Tok creators, keep doing you! BECAUSE I LOVE IT!    

Almost a year into quarantine, Tik Tok has become a part of my life. That’s right. I’m saying it. And while my family thinks I have an addiction to it and can’t control myself, you tell me. Does someone who is addicted designate a specific time of day to look at Tik Toks, then and only then, without interrupting the flow of the day to “cheat” the schedule? Yeah, I thought so. I do set aside the time after I log off work for the day and before I have to cook dinner, as Tik Tok Wind Down time.

Sure, back in March 2020, Tik Tok was a place to find families doing all those dance challenges (Savage anyone?). And yeah, they were pretty funny and nice escape from mess 2020 was quickly becoming at that time.

But over the course of the summer, the lead up to the elections in November and through to now, Tik Tok evolved from this kind of silly social media platform to a legitimate space for learning just about anything. Thanks to the algorithm, Tik Tok is pretty good and feeding me content that I actually care about (Nope, I have not found myself in Trump Tok, thank you Lord). Of course, algorithms are determined by the level of interaction one has with specific accounts (at least that’s how I understand it), so what I’m shown is pretty predictable if you have any sense of my interests.

That said, I’d like to share some of my favorite Tik Tok creators, whom I follow for a variety of interests they address. After several of my more serious posts, I thought lightening up to share some great accounts to check out would be a good thing.

So herewith is my collection of Tik Tok that is more than just pandemic entertainment.

Food

This category has a two-fold purpose. Easy and tasty recipes (got my best Shawarma Bowls recipe from Tik Tok) and DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia) spots to check out. When there is nothing to do besides go for a drive to pick up takeout, recs from people in the know are extremely helpful. It also makes for great exploration of your locale.

Italian food the way Italian people make it in Italy. Nuff said.
A foodie from Cornell University who knows his way around a kitchen–both at home with his parents and on a budget at school.
Her recipes are delicious! She also seems to live a pretty charmed life in the hills of LA. Fun to watch, fun to cook.
Come for the Chai (chai means tea. stop ordering chai tea lattés. you’re only saying “tea tea lattés.) stay for the hope.
Where ever you live, someone has an account about food treasures in your zone.
This DMV foodie has the deets on great spots to try. (I was so tempted to say deets on eats!)

Wellness

These are actual board certified medical and nutritional professionals who dispense real science and logic. No, they aren’t there to diagnose your issues online. But you can learn a lot from their content which has proven to be super helpful to me, personally.

A registered dietitians with real facts on good nutrition and listening to your body. Love her!
Another fab RD who knows what she’s talking about. She also has fun with TT trends. Don’t judge.
After 45 years on this planet as a female, this OB/GYN is literally the one who told me things I never knew. 100% recommend her page.

Feeding the Mind

Politics, history, current culture, faith. These are creators provide necessary content for today.

If you don’t know Quentin, get to know him. A follower of Christ who walks the walk and gives you straight talk on politics and doing the right thing.
He’s intro’d himself as that pastor from Oklahoma who voted for Biden. He doesn’t mince words about what it means to authntically follow Christ and how that influences voting and life.
It’s that type of stuff that makes great conversation starters and helps you remember there is still good in the world.
Fascinating insights on American politics, culture, and history from someone outside the U.S. who knows what she’s talking about.

For Fun

These creators just make me laugh, smile, and say “whoa.” There are a lot of them out there to discover, but these are favorites.

This woman lives on an island near the north pole where polar bears roam around and there is no light for four months out of the year. Her page is just cool.
This child and her mom are adorable. Both have recently gone internet-famous for morning affirmations they do together, which we all could benefit from repeating.
His guitar playing is sooooo good. He also made to Jimmy Fallon for playing background Uke music while his brother got busted by his mom. Very cool content.
Last, but not least, Meg, the South Asian student who’s delivery and unabashed accent as the best! Shaddap! #IYKYK

So there you have it! If Tik Tok brightens your day during these very tough days, don’t be ashamed! Right now, to keep laughing and learning is the best we can do.