Big Pants

IMG_1460Chinese women are twigs, and I’m, umm, not. Recently we emerged from the train station into People’s Square in Shanghai and were photographed four times before we could get a single shot of our family. It’s killing me to think how many photo albums I look fat in. At least there’s no Facebook in China—Dude, check out the pics: What do you call two huge Americans on an e-bike? Three cheers for Communism coughsnort.

Before coming here, I watched a documentary in which a worker in a Chinese clothing factory held up a pair of pants he’d just sewn together, clearly stunned at a waist size that would have accommodated himself and a friend. Through an interpreter he said, “Americans are big. They need big pants,” It’s true, most Americans are bigger than the Chinese, and would remain so even if we all ran marathons every summer. But there’s also the niggling fact that a McDonalds cheeseburger is faster and cheaper than whipping up a salmon steak and a fruit salad. Americans love fast and cheap, which would be why we ask a little Chinese guy to sew our giant pants, and call him weightist when he doesn’t try to hide his frank amazement

Of course, there’s also the issue of Chinese cuisine. In the United States there are Chinese restaurants on practically every corner cranking out tasty morsels of boneless white chicken breast, sweet and sour, sesame seed, or general tso’s, all contributing to the necessity of big pants. No one here has heard of any of those dishes, leading me to believe that in the United States, right at this very moment, a group of Chinese servers is standing in the back kitchen thumbing their noses at the gullible Americans. I’ve walked the walk and smelled the smells in the grocery store, and live eels can be very eloquent. They say that you love whatever food you grow up with, which would explain why I don’t mind the occasional fried pork rind (big pants, big pants). But I’ve got to wonder, are some of these people small because their mothers smiled and said, “Eat this so you get big and strong,” then set out a bowl of soup with tentacles and a duck bill sticking out of the broth—”Nah, I’m good.”

In November we were in the south of China and celebrated Thanksgiving at the Shenzhen Ritz Carlton Thanksgiving buffet where Westerners gathered in hiking boots and stiletto heels to give thanks by eating themselves into the next dress size. Feeling a little homesick, I went straight for the roast turkey and mashed potatoes, but my bizarre children headed for the sushi and goose liver pate, which Porter called “mulch” and liked very much, a good chaser for his lobster and crab. The Shenzhen Ritz Carton is not an option for Christmas dinner, and I still haven’t found vanilla or cranberries, let alone “all the fixins.” Our Chinese tutor pointed out that she had rabbit’s foot for lunch, and said in all seriousness that we should “feed our Bunny good, then eat it for Christmas dinner.” That’s certainly my Christmas wish, a nice holiday meal with a little trauma on the side. Of course, maybe a little culinary trauma is exactly what we need, after all, Americans are big. We need big pants.

Does that make me a weightist?

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