By Supriya Rakesh
So, it is my college re-union this evening. I don’t even want to go, I really don’t!
But then I think, what the hell, it’s been ten years! Will be nice to meet all the girls… may be even some of the boys. They will all have turned into paunchy dads. Most of them, may be not all of them. The girls are of course skinny and what not. I know; because they’re all over my Instagram. With their GM diets, avocado smoothies, and egg whites. Their svelte sculpted bodies in their hot Yoga pants.
I approached the venue all, all cautious, like a crab calculating its distance and plotting its moves. I know I have done okay in life. Decent job, check. Boyfriend and marriage, check. Travelled around the world, yes even to Czech. Published my short stories, check and mate!
Still, I first stand in a corner and watch from a distance. They all look so smug in their designer outfits — eating, sipping, laughing, catching up.
“Oh! Is this food vegan?”
“I don’t eat gluten any more…”
“Can I have some low-cal champagne?”
I observe them like a birdwatcher studying a rare species. Pretty much how I got through four years of college. I stand my ground, waiting for my friend, Sally. I need a buffer, I really do.
Until one of them spots me.
“Oh my God, Mandy…,” she coos in her high-pitched voice. “There you are! Come on over.” The bait is ready. I approach unsteadily, just as the group gets ready to devour me.
“Oh wow, you have put on! Looking just a bit fat!” A unanimous guzzle.
Fat! From that moment on, things start to blur. Is it the fresh trauma or memory of older ones? Perhaps, it is low blood sugar. I did skip my post-lunch tea and muffin in anticipation of the food here.
I strain to take in all the jibes and counter-jibes. Only the most important information is digested. Yes, there is clear consensus. I have packed in some kilos, 5 to 10 is the guesstimate. I neither confirm nor deny anything.
Then, a platter of suggestions. My responses rise up like reflux but never escape my lips.
“Completely cut out carbs.” I veto the keto!
“Just eat every two hours!” Ummm, why not more often?
Then well-meaning Veena and sharp-tongued Shapira close in on me.
“Hey girl, loving your curves.”
“Yea! Love-handles mean more action!”
Being touched inappropriately under my shirt snaps me out of my reverie. I excuse myself, saying I need to look for Sally.
It’s been ten minutes and Sally is no-where to be seen.
I have gulped down two glasses of strawberry sangria and have no choice but to head for the buffet. I definitely do not want to return to the herd. To have more pity or information stuffed down my throat. A rumbling stomach confirms my decision.
I pick up the plate and stand in the line. I manage a polite smile at a few faces I remember vaguely. But inside, I am fuming.
What the hell do these women think? That I am clueless of my own weight? I haven’t looked in a mirror since what? 2008? Even the clothes I had to throw out gave me no clue! They are doing me a favour, by their astute observations and wise revelations?
Grinding my teeth, I load up my plate… comfort food is what I need right now. I skip the weirdly brown lentil soup (how can I eat it standing) and approach the hearty tomato spaghetti with parmesan cheese.
Or should I go for the veggie brown rice pilaf? The ‘healthier’ choice?
Ugghh, it’s all their fault! Causing such gut-wrenching dilemma in my otherwise sorted brain. My grad school, published author brain. Again, did they expect me to look exactly the same ten years later? All the things I’ve done, achieved, mean nothing against my slightly bulging waistline?
I find myself a table in the corner, and tear into my spaghetti.
Yes of course I’ve gained weight, but only a slight bit– couple of dress sizes at most. I’m not technically fat. Just full-bodied. A real woman. Living in a normal, healthy way. No fad diets or surgeries. Why do we swallow up these beauty standards dished out by fashion, media, society? I slurp my arguments down with my vanilla-bean smoothie.
My plate is almost empty now. I do feel a little better.
Yup, cold dairy as always soothes my nerves. Complex carbs give me perspective. A happy buzz in my head from the strawberry sangria. It’s just one evening, after all! Plus, Sally will be here soon. She’ll get me. Sally’s beyond everything. She’ll have some sage advice for me, some philosophy or the other about self-acceptance.
My phone pings as I head towards the dessert counter. Thank god she’s almost here! It’s a tough choice, but I pick up a bowl of fresh caramel custard (gooey brownies are for little children) and walk towards the door.
She wants me to wait outside so we can meet first, then walk in together. Looks like she needs a buffer too. I’m so excited, I haven’t met Sally in the longest time!
There’s a slight drizzle outside but I’m distracted by the zesty orange drizzle in my bowl. As I dive in to soak a last sumptuous bite, there is a slight tap on the shoulder. I turn to greet her with a full-mouthed grin… My jaws drop, as does the spoon in my hand.
“Wow, Sally” I gobble unwittingly. “You are looking so fat!”
Supriya Rakesh is a researcher, educator, author with a PhD from IIM, Bangalore. Her fiction explores gender and relationships in contemporary India, with recent publications in Kitaab, Muse and Setu Bilingual. Further details at www.supriyarakesh.com.
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