My husband and I recently vacationed at Koh Samui, a cosmopolitan island on the Gulf of Thailand. We enjoyed a happy laid-back holiday, snorkelling off and on, sipping on delicious coffees, savouring crimson sunsets, and exploring local markets. One of the must dos was to enjoy the gloriously de-stressing massages that the place had to offer.
So on one of the evenings, post go-karting and biking all day, we stepped into a massage parlour and decided to go for a foot massage. As we assumed comfortable postures, half lying and half sitting on adjacent massage chairs, to my surprise, I caught the masseuse staring at my stomach rather suspiciously. After a few hesitant seconds, she finally asked “Baby?” I scoffed and replied, “No. No baby. Only fat!”
And everyone had a good laugh, including me.
I felt a wee bit embarrassed that she thought my stomach resembled a baby bump. Anyway, I chose to believe that her idea of a pregnant tummy was skewed and let it pass as a one off.
Well, I had no idea how naively mistaken I was.
On another day, my husband and I had booked a motorboat to take us to the Ang Thong Marine National Park. It was a gorgeous sunny day, but the sea was extremely choppy. Just as we were about to get on the motorboat, the operator came up to me and asserted in broken English “Baby? No go. The waters very bad. Too much wave. Not good for baby.”
This time it was no longer funny. And I couldn’t choose to be oblivious of the fact that the question had a precedent. Amid mixed feelings of self-realization and ‘what the hell’ attempt at simply brushing aside the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of this assumption, I looked at him disdainfully, and said firmly, “No. No baby.” He exclaimed apologetically, “Oh! Okay. Okay.”
I was annoyed to the gut because I was unwilling to accept the fact staring in my face that my little paunch had probably collected more adipose tissue than I had thought, and hence rightfully, my stomach appeared out of shape. Instead, I turned to my husband and asked him, “What do you think? Do I look !@#$ing pregnant?” He is a wise man who chose to stay silent, and saved himself from an onslaught of theatrics.
Finally, the last straw on the camel’s back.
On our closing day of our holiday, both of us visited the spa of our resort. I decided to pamper myself with a hot stone facial. No awards for guessing what’s coming up. As I lay on the bed, I heard the golden question once again, “Baby? Then don’t……” By this time, I was ready with a poker faced reply that I delivered in a robotic tone garnished with a plastic smile – “No. No baby.” And closed my eyes.
Back in Mumbai with the mind space to reflect on this triple whammy, I realize that this is not body shaming or a difference in cultures or anyone taking anyone’s case or ignorance or over thinking. It is a pure and simple instance of me being ‘unfit.’
While in my immediate ecosystem in India it is commonplace, and hence misconstrued as ‘normal’, to see a reasonable proportion of men and women with a small paunch if not pot bellies, that was clearly not the case in Koh Samui where majority of the population was just so fit, with flat stomachs and lean bodies. In fact, now I remember noticing that every day around 7 pm, whether at work in their stores, or at their homes, the locals left whatever they were in the middle of, ate their dinner before it got dark, and then resumed the activities. Am sure there must be couple of other such lifestyle habits that have, over the years, blessed their generations with nil midriff fat accumulation, an important indicator of good health.
So a big thank you Koh Samui for shaking me out of my comfort zone. I hope the next time I visit you or any country with similar fitness levels as yours, I would have earned myself the privilege of being asked the right question at the right time.
This article was published at Women’s Web.