How the muse struck
Read on to learn about the inspiration for 'Too Big Too Small'; also, as a result of our turbulent times, a special entry of Covid Diary
About four years ago, my flatmate and I (women in our 20s) went to visit our landlord, a mid-50s man, to get our lease renewed. My flatmate had met him earlier but this was the first time I was meeting him. He sat us down and started chatting with us about the real estate properties he owned around the country. He talked about one quaint little town in the north that is snow-covered most of the year and how he has a beautiful expansive hotel and spa resort there.
He then turned to me and said—
“You know, skiing will help you lose weight. It will be good for you if you visit.”
I was shocked. Who was this man, a stranger no less, telling a woman he had never met before, that she could lose weight and offer suggestions? How did he make the choice to offer comments on my body? What world does he live in, that he believes that it would be okay or acceptable for him to do that?
Unfortunately, that is the world we live in. It was not even the first time I had something like that happen to me, nor was it the last.
Another two years before that, I lived by myself in a tiny penthouse in another city, where my landlord lived on the floor below me. He insisted on taking me along to a guy selling an MLM “health shake” and would not stop pestering me till I went with him, because he said it helped him and wife lose weight and they thought I needed to try it too.
A few school teachers, sometimes co-workers, or the parents of a few college friends, and many many people in the extended family who haven’t seen me in a while have all also commented on my body without a second thought as to what effect their words have. Although they are usually not intentionally unkind, they remain abrasive. It is something I have reluctantly grown accustomed to.
What I find less palatable, however, is their apparent belief that they will tell me something that I don’t already know—give me a miracle cure, teach me about diet and exercise, make my life happier, more meaningful.
I once read a brilliantly written first-person account of an obese woman’s dating adventures.1 She talked about how people often give advice to fat people on how to lose weight and how she already has a “forced knowledge” of all things nutrition, diet, calories, hormones, etc. (So do I.) She also talked about how fat people are made to feel too big and too small. We are simultaneously made to feel too big to fit in (sometimes literally), but too small because we clearly let ourselves get this big, and just too damn invisible as individuals.
That is the inspiration behind Too Big Too Small—we shall not let anyone let us feel we are “too much” of anything. Who we are is just right, just enough.
The coming month shall see us begin sharing stories from within the community. Stay tuned.
Never before have I felt these words mean so much, never before have I said them so fervently. I have said it in all my conversations this week, whether they were people I knew well or not. And I truly meant it. It almost felt like I was willing them to stay safe just by ferociously meaning the words.
I lost a college junior and a teammate at work this week. Having recovered from Covid myself a few weeks ago, my first overwhelming feeling was guilt—why had I survived and they had not?
My second overwhelming feeling was that of fear. Every time I heard mention of someone by anyone, or saw people post pictures of loved ones, my heart raced and I found myself praying silently for their well-being—“no more deaths, please!”
The losses have been shocking and almost unbearable. And they have made me rethink and re-evaluate what a “meaningful life” means to me. Even having worked in the social sector, there are times I have questioned my impact and contribution. Losing a teammate made me question my notions and assumptions around whether impact and contribution have to really be at scale for a meaningful life. But, evidently, the loss of these less-than-30-year-olds has been immense.
Maybe “meaningful” doesn’t have to mean “extraordinary”. Maybe ordinary is good enough.
RIP Minakshi and Abhishek. May those who loved you find solace.
Unfortunately, it was too long ago and I don’t remember what the article was called, and I couldn’t find it upon Googling. If any of you remembers reading it, too, and can find the link, please do share!