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Conversations with Celia

July 13, 2010

One of Henry’s two babysitters is thin — very thin. In fact, I have never ever seen her eat even one morsel of food, although I have known her for more than a year and we have spent a lot of time together, since I work at home.

I’ve even met her best friend on a few occasions, a girl who looks as if she eats on a pretty regular basis. Like, maybe every two hours. But, who am I to judge? Or at least to judge out loud?

“You’re fat,” Diya tells her friend one afternoon, in her perfectly upright English, with bright eyes and a big loving smile on her face.

Uh-oh.

Her friend replies slowly, without ire, in a rendition of what they call “the Vincy talk,” ie, the way people talk in St. Vincent, where they are from.

“And you too skinny,” she says, rolling her eyes.

I love meeting people from all over the world and learning what they eat and how they interact and what they care about. And one thing I have recently learned from a very small sample is that talking about appearance is not taboo in the Caribbean in the way that it is here.

I had my first taste of this when I was 8 months pregnant, and was poised to make the trip down the front stoop. Since I couldn’t see my feet, I was attempting to activate some muscle memory and grabbing for the railing when I noticed a neighbor who owned the house two down was about to pass. He stopped in his tracks and looked me up and down.

“My dear,” he said that day — he’s from Jamaica originally, and always calls me my dear. “My dear. You have become very fat in a very short period of time. You must have been eating the pork chops. The turkeys. The roast beefs.”

I’m not saying that the man didn’t have a point, but I did feel compelled to make sure he knew that I was 8 months pregnant.

When I told him, he shrugged and cheerfully walked off.

A few months later he redeemed himself when he passed me on the street pushing my newborn in a stroller, and he said “Well well well, now that fat’s all riding next to you in the carriage.”

Most of it, I wanted to say. Most of it.

*********************

Henry also has another babysitter. She’s from Grenada, and she is more of a regular-shaped individual. Ie, if you had never seen her eat in front of you, you wouldn’t be stuck wondering if she had simply never taken it up as a hobby. She moved to the States comparatively recently, and when she talks, there is no doubt about her being from the islands.

A few weeks ago, we had this conversation:

Celia: I just met some twins you know, out in the park with Henry.

Me: Oh, which twins?

Celia: I don’t know their names.

Me: Who were they with? A sitter or their mom?

Celia: They mom.

Me: What’s she look like?

Celia: They mom? She taller than you.

Me: Hmm.

Celia: She thinner than you.

Me: . . . .

I was surprised, though she was just describing the mom of the mystery twins in comparison to me. It was an expedient way of doing it, I suppose. And it wasn’t designed to be insulting: it was simply direct in a way that I’m not used to.

After all, if she had chosen something like “She had stripes on her shirt,” that wouldn’t have gotten us anywhere, since the woman presumably has more than one shirt. Unless she had some sort of affectation that made her wear a striped shirt every day and she was the neighborhood twin-haver art-poser freak who only wore stripes. Even if we had one of those, and I don’t think we do, some other people would probably still wear stripes and have twins at the same time.

But that’s not what Celia said: she said taller and thinner, and chances are good that the twins’ mom would remain, in the short-term at least, thinner than me. And unless she had a shocking accident, she was likely to be taller than me for the rest of our lives. So I guess it was effective, though perhaps not effective enough, since I still have no idea who she was talking about.

But maybe the next person Celia would run across and be compelled to describe would be fatter than me! And or shorter! And Celia would tell me about it! I could just wait for that to happen.

Then, a few weeks later, they came back from the other playground.

Celia: I met a brown-skin little girl in the park. She know Henry and her mom know you. She say you met last week.

Me: Was it Deena and Baby Delilah?

Celia: I don’t know their name. And then I meet a red-skin lady, looking like you. She know Henry, too.

Ahem. No one is saying that I am not a red-skin lady. In fact, if someone said that I was not a red-skin lady, they would be a liar! But this also caught me off-guard, somehow.

Me: Um. Ok. What else does she look like?

Celia: She taller than you, she (cut off)

Me: Don’t say it! Stop saying it!

Celia: . . . .

Me: So, what’s her baby look like?

Celia: She taller than Henry.

Me: Hmm.

Celia: She thinner than Henry.

(End scene.)

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. July 13, 2010 2:05 pm

    I never say this, but LOL. In fact, LMFAO.

    Oh, tears are running down my cheeks!

  2. Heather permalink
    July 13, 2010 3:07 pm

    Awesome.

  3. Rachel permalink
    July 13, 2010 6:30 pm

    Amazing. Laughing out loud despite the tragedy of a flooded basement and sick (read invalid) husband we have around here. Much needed comic relief. Thanks!

  4. July 14, 2010 7:46 am

    great post! my experience was that although americans are less likely to comment directly on one’s weight/appearance in general, the filter goes down during pregnancy — i remember getting comments like “well your face does look bigger” and “i think your hips got wider.” 🙂

  5. Michelle permalink
    July 14, 2010 1:59 pm

    We are a polite and circumspect people, aren’t we? Except when we’re not.

  6. April permalink
    July 20, 2010 3:13 pm

    OMG. Somehow I just now read this post. First it made me swell up a bit and then the swelling turned into a snort. Because: FUNNY! You one funny red-skinned lady.

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