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Friday, April 27, 2007

On Being Not So Young, Not So Beautiful and Not So Slim

Young, beautiful, slim. Prerequisites for having even a smile returned by the jackasses that pass for some men in Hong Kong. Some men? Hmmmm, let me revise that, A LOT of men in Hong Kong.

And it's not only me saying this. Everyone who lives here and is honest, knows it. If you don't fit some sort of preconceived notion they have embedded in their mind, they don't even acknowledge your existence. I'm so sick and tired of it. Sick and tired of being blanked when I smile or say good morning. Sick and tired of the look that makes you think you've trod in doggy doo or something. Sick and tired of them adopting an air of disdain when I'm spotted, because I'm not young or beautiful or slim. As though I shouldn't occupy eye-space. And hell, this attitude isn't even restricted to the good looking young ones!!!

It's so bad here, that we have 90lb women calling themselves 'fat'. And being told they are. I'm ashamed to say that, in the business I'm in, at the specific company I work for, they perpetuate this terrible dependency on aesthetics. Not only must our buildings look beautiful and pleasing, and our furnishings look beautiful and pleasing, and our food look beautiful and pleasing, there are standards for how our employees look, too. Beyond grooming and well-fitting suits, beyond personal hygiene and an ever-present smile. Everything is so formulaic. Size, height, weight, age, jewellery, hairstyle, hair colour, heel height, skirts not trousers for the women. I sometimes wonder how they allow less than perfect looking guests through their doors to ruin the overall 'style' of the place.

I joke with Nooj that I'd never have made the grade to get this job with our current boss, who upholds these traditions of appearance before substance. The sad thing is it's not a joke, it's the truth. Choices are made which have nothing to do with ability and potential, but are made purely based on appearance. There isn't one overweight person working in our hotel here. Well, not in the front of house anyway, not in the line of sight. Even height requirements are there purely because they don't like the look of people of varying heights working behind the front desk, for example.

In this town's terms I'm not young, beautiful or slim. And I'll accept the reality that I'm none of those. HOWEVER, though rushing towards 50, I am ageing reasonably gently; though I'll never win a beauty pageant, I don't frighten the horses; and while I am definitely a plus-size, there's no need for a seat-belt extender when I fly, no POS label from the airline. I'm just not a little petite thing that fits the required mold around here.

Most of the time when I'm blanked, I'll quickly remove the smile and just go into ignore mode. Like, fuck you mister, and the horse you rode in on. But sometimes it hurts. Yes, I know no one can make me feel bad, only I can. Truth is, though, it can hurt. Because I know why they're doing it. I'm not quite good enough in their book, to warrant even a smile or a good morning. If it was some jackass that's like that with everyone I'd accept it. But when they break into a beaming smile and practically climb over me to stand next to the pretty slim thing in the queue at Starbucks, it has the power to make me feel, well, less than I am.

I tell myself inside my head..."Fiona, don't let them get to you", and most days I win the battle. But the days when I'm not really feeling totally confident in my abilities or my looks, no amount of head talk can get me past feeling sensitive about it.

Those are the days, I don't want to be in public. Those are the days I want to take the shortest route from home to work, and back again. Yes, those are the days. The days where even that short distance in between, has the potential to open up that deep dark hole, that vulnerability, inside me again.


sophie n said...

its not just in hong kong, fi...

it happens here too all the time...i used to be so wrapped up in it too, especially when going out with prettier, slimmer friends...

i eventually just gave up...why even bother...

but as hard as i try sometimes, i know exactly what you mean...its hard to go outside....

Fiona said...

It's strange Sophie, in the States I've always found it so different than here. There, if I give a smile, I get one back. If I say hello or good morning, I get one back. They may not always be the one to initiate, but I always get a response.

I'll never forget standing in the security line in San Franciso after a long flight, feeling very tired. And as I was being checked through, this really nice guy said, "ma'am you have such a beautiful smile"....just like that out of the blue!! I was so taken aback because things like that just don't happen here.

I'm sorry it's like that for you there hon....maybe American men get better with age? If it's the going out bit, I guess it's a meat market everywhere.

anna said...

Have you ever boldly commented on it when they've been so blatantly rude? I don't know much about the culture out there, but I can't imagine anyone would pride themselves on being so incredibly shallow.

I've always felt that men who need to specifically be with trophy girlfriends/wives are just pathetic excuses for human beings who have far less self esteem than I have. They should be pitied. I know what I have to offer (and it doesn't include a slim body) and it's more than any of them will ever know.

I agree that rationalizing doesn't always work. It's more than just a blow to the ego - it's hurtful. Before the hurt goes too deeply, I remind myself that they truly are pathetic to feel that they have to disguise their own shortcomings with a trophy girlfriend. It's similar to the expensive sportscar/small penis theory.

You're beautiful, Fiona... inside and out. These men can't say the same about themselves.

Miranda said...

This was a very good, true post. I too am getting up there in age. There will always be prettier, younger, slimmer girls out there. I take comfort in knowing that they too will eventually get older, and age too.

But I know how you feel...I get sick of it too.

I agree with Anna, you are beautiful inside and out.

Unspoken Drama said...

I think that judgment is everywhere, but maybe on varying levels or degrees. I have always been *plus sized* (geez I hate that word) and even now that I've lost 100 lbs. I am still considered "overweight". I don't think it ever ends. I agree with the others, you are beautiful, inside and out. To hell with all of 'em.


LePhare said...

Good post Fi, and so true.

I've sat in on selection committees where comments have been made about size, age, and even the colour of a persons hair. Thankfully I never had to consider anything other than if the person can do the job or not.

Sunny Delight said...

My Lovely Friend,

This topic, covers so many areas, aside from age and size. You and I have "mailed" about it.

There are 'appearance' messages (prejudices) everywhere, unfortunately they do affect how a persons feels about themselves....that is just our human nature....I love that you wrote of this here, I hope that there are Hong Kong lurkers who read your blog, and are made to think about a society that values surface over substance.

Big, big Hugs!

Fusion said...

It's a crime how some poeple judge people on thier looks, and not what really matters. My wife fought weight issues all her life, and used to say it is one of the worst prejudices left. I look at the whole person, becuase that's what counts to me. Fiona, your size or shape means nothing to me, you are an awesome lady! Don't give a shit about what others think ever again, just flip 'em the bird! :D

George said...

Know something Fiona ... I am in Canada and it's pretty well the same here as well. We do smile and are polite but in the eyes of many men ... young, slim and pretty seem to attract more attention than even the average, middle aged woman who may in fact look awesome.

Sally-Sal said...

Fiona, honey, the thing is, you *are* beautiful. Sorry to have to be the one to break it to you.. ;)

Those guys who base attraction on perfection are the saddest people in this world.

What they don't realize is they're passing a woman who is everything. They will never know the wonderfully amazing woman you are, and I'm glad. Men like that don't deserve a second of your precious time.

You are and always will be beautiful.

You have that advantage.

As you grow older, you will still have that wonderfully beautiful spirit, that fire, that life, that presence that draws people to you. The beauty in your eyes, your face, and in your heart that draws people to you. Men, as well as women.

You've got something wonderful going on. You're this amazingly wonderful, warm, (and yes, beautiful) woman who also happens to be smart, funny, and compassionate.

I know that I admire you much more than I could ever express in words.

If I passed you on the street, those fantastically gorgeous eyes would catch my own, and I would have a special smile, just for you, Fi.

Anonymous said...

Men are dogs, not in a derogatory way, but it's just how they're wired. Their eyes are drawn to the young women, it's their genes I think.

That being said I'd still want a smile!

I had more to say but Katie's literally standing here, tapping me on the shoulder. She wants to go out. See ya.

Matt Kohai said...

I've seen your photo, m'dear. The people who don't smile are idiots. Smiles are free and use fewer muscles than frowns!

Anonymous said...

To hell with them Fiona. You are an amazing woman and if someone doesn't notice that they I honestly do not think they are worth your time!

Young and a size 0 ... that seems to be the going trend doesn't it?

Jonas said...

I realized, a few years ago, that I'd become invisible to many/most. And you know what? It's kinda nice. I live my life as best I can. I have my friends, my loves, the tides and rhythms of my life. I've grown old and gray, and that's OK. I've got my friends, my loves, my rhythms and my tides...that's all I want. That's all I need.

I think of you, and I smile.

Fiona said...

Thank you all so much for your comments, I'm completely overwhelmed by the response and support. Thank you!

Anna - If it gets bad enough, yes. Some years ago, after one particularly rude person actually commented, yes I did. In a busy bar, Nooj and I were attempting to leave and it was jam packed. We had to squeeze between a group of guys gathered at the bar. Nooj is a very attractive shapely girl so they made scooted over a bit and gave her lots of smiles and hello's and are you leaving so early sort of comments. Then I squeezed between them and this guy said - Christ you're fat, you really should lose some weight. I replied - you're probably right, but you're an asshole and always will be. I do always try to remind myself that it's them missing out, not me. And I do have someone who loves me very, very much which they will most likely never find with their attitude. Thank you Anna.

Miranda - thank you :) I just will never understand the blatant rudeness of them.

Drama - wow, well done on the weight loss! I like being in the States, noone stares!! Thank you for your comment hon :)

Ian - we have passed up some great people, I have no doubt. But at least they all look good with the furniture ;)

Sunny - Hong Kong is a very shallow place. The most important things are having the lastest cell phone, handbag, car, that sort of thing....image image image. It doesn't have much of a soul this place in reality. Big hugs and thank you :)

Fusion - the bird...now is that the third finger? ;)

George - wellcome and thank you. I'd settle for polite. When you don't even get that...it's oh so wearing!

Sally - you're right, the ones that count are the ones that notice. And thank god I've finally been 'noticed' *VBS*...even with all I said, I'm the happiest I've ever been in my life. I know I have a man who loves every little bit of me, and who loves even the potential of me, the parts not yet discovered. Thank you for your encouraging words hon :)

Deb - woof indeed *L* Yeah, I'd settle for a reciprocating smile or good morning. I'm not asking for a date!! I hope you had fun with Katie :)

Matt - so true about the smiles :)

Oblivion - this place sells nothing above a UK 14 (USA 12) and I mean NOTHING. My boss, who is considered average in these parts, buys her clothes in the junior miss section in the States. Thank you for your kind words :)

Jonas - thank you for the smile. Maybe I'll get to that place yet, but until I do I still would like a smile or hello reciprocated. But maybe it's just asking for too much. Mind you I can't wait for my next visit to the States where I'm no longer someone that people try to pretend isn't there :)


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