By Sophia Whittemore
I couldn’t have been the only one who heard these at a dinner party.
“Why aren’t you eating my food? I’m a good cook! Are you saying I’m a bad cook? It’s bad to refuse my food.”
“Here, eat more, you’re getting skinny.”
“Oops, someone is getting chubby. Freshman fifteen, eh?”
For a lot of Asian parenting, it seems that love is related, quite literally, with what you eat.
But then there’s that strict ideal where you have to juggle a near impossible line between too skinny and too chubby. It’s rude to refuse food, but calling someone out on gaining a few pounds is just seen as “a little family honesty”.
So, where does that leave self-esteem in this dining paradox?
Sometimes “I love you” is replaced by “here, eat this special food I made just for you.” And if you refuse food, it’s viewed as refusing your hard-working parent’s boundless love.
But, goodness forbid if you get “fat”. There’s a very strict line where you aren’t supposed to be fat. Chubby arms? Forget about it.
There’s a complex dynamic that a girl must be well-educated, but she has to know how to cook too. No dating during your teenage years, but you better find a husband. Take a look at this passage from a University of Minnesota article:
“(Southeast Asian families) believe that children make a person wealthy, because they will care for their parents when they are elderly. Men are heads of households; women are in charge of cooking, household budget, and the education of children. Traditionally, men never stay home to care for children.”
Yet, that dynamic also contrasts with values of perfection. Daughters in the family have to eat their mother’s cooking, but “fatness” is just not allowed. It’s cute when you’re young and chubby, but when you’re older? Forget about it.
From an article “The Pressure to be Naturally Perfect by Noel Duan”:
It’s tough enough to grow up with all that pressure put on you, but add physical looks and cooking to the mix? It’ll make any family dinner party tense.
The important thing to know is that, no matter how hard we all chase perfection, we’re still wonderful people in our own way.
Embrace yourself, no matter what.
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