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The thin woman will inherit the earth but she won't get the man
Man's World, September 2000


You must have often bumped into her: the lone woman, bearing all the accoutrements of material success, built on the lines of a champion grey hound, with a perennially hungry look in her eyes, parenthesis of dissatisfaction around her mouth and an orange-ish hue to her fingers tips [from too many glasses of carrot juice?]. The lines of her body would make a Ferrari feel frumpish. Her silhouette is as perfect as a wash board's; any which side you look at it. Her elbows are weapons and her rib cage will have you remember that the original eve was fashioned from a bone.

This is the woman, scribes [usually thin women themselves?] celebrate. The thin woman. The woman who has learnt to say no. The woman with the figure to carry clothes. [Never mind that you, the garden post and I will never cease to ask: what figure?] The woman who has the world by its scrotum and will not relinquish her hold on it because what she wants, she gets.

Magazines all over the world devote many pages and much gloss to her. Achievers, they will tell you have a thin shadow. For the thin woman is very often a successful woman. From Jackie Kennedy to Joan Collins to Celine Dion to Princess Di to Claudia Schiffer, the thin woman is built with a core of steel. She is tenacious. She is purposeful. She has an incredible will power. For how else would she survive those days when nothing but comfort eating can help, work out regularly and keep her wayward taste buds leashed?

For some time now, I have endured with gritted teeth this celebration of the thin woman: Not because I'm fat. Simply because there is nothing more annoying than being lumped into a huge and broad category called fat. There is us, the adipose enriched. Supposedly cringing in the fringes. And there is them - the god's own chosen walking tall. For they are the thin brigade and their banners read: The thin woman is a sophisticated woman. The thin woman has chic. Thin is beautiful. Thin is the way to be.

Again and again, I have stumbled across the phrase - If she was fat and ugly… and I would want to stretch across time and kilometres and grab the writer and the sub-ed who let it pass by their shoulders and yell: Ladies, Ladies, being fat doesn't preclude being ugly. Being fat doesn't mean being unhappy. Being fat doesn't mean being consumed by envy for the thin woman.

The time has come for some straight talk. From the gut, padded with a slight swell of flesh but nevertheless…

First, there is the question of why be thin? [Them who are naturally and congenitally wraith-like are excluded from this dialogue] Why persevere so hard to resemble the androgynous stick insect?

Do men demand of women that they be thin? Ask just about any man [age, colour, education, income group no bar] about his fantasy woman and he'll shape an hourglass in the air rather than draw parallel lines. So why do women inflict thinness upon themselves?

Does it speak of a dissatisfaction with who she is? Does it hint of a misguided notion that to shed inches is to shed womanliness? Does thin let her camouflage inadequacies in a power suit? Does being thin mean being in control?

So what's wrong with a few extra inches? We may never be able to wear a clinging sheath dress or a cropped top. Our collarbones will never see the sun rise again. And yet, we are not talking Brobdingnagian proportions here. All we ask is if we tread the middle path of adipose, let us be. Shaped like a woman. Feeling like a woman. Satisfied with the way we look and the way we are. For heaven's sake, don't tell us how we ought to feel like.

For if one is to go by perceptions, there can't be a more dissatisfied creature than a thin woman. She has neither the comfort of sublimating angst by tucking into a plate of French fries followed by a cream pastry nor does she have a man who she can trust will be with her through thick and thin, She lives haunted by the eternal fear 'what if one day fat decides to make its home with me?'

So in spite of her flat abdomen and not even the shadow of a double chin, her thinness is 'in' and her enviable chic, the thin woman is always on the prowl. Where have all the men gone? is her constant refrain that hits a hysterical high every now and then.

If you don't believe me, all you need to do is watch a few soaps that's currently running - TV being a reflection of life etc. You can always start with Ally McBeal, the thinnest of them all. Ally who is constantly searching for the MAN. And the ones she found, she couldn't keep. No wonder, she seems to be losing 'it'. While her housemate, the plump public prosecutor who doesn't have a man either seems to be less agonised. She has at least the comfort of ice cream! Good fattening ice cream!

So is this a tirade against thin? Not really. For there is thin and there is thin. The thinness of an adolescent has a heart warming naivety [ Humbert Humbert of Lolita will vouch for it]; a gawkiness that is endearing in cygnets, colts and teen year olds. Vestiges of this remain in the mid-twenties but thereafter as anti-wrinkle creams will tell you, ageing sets in. What they don't tell you is that thinness begets age. {Even if the body belies it, thin women when dressed in clothes that would suit a teenager better, simply end up looking like mutton dressed as lamb] And worse, thinness begets loneliness…

In his twenties, a man will try anything. From trying to finish a bottle of whisky in one sitting to bungee jumping to swimming with the sharks to dating a thin woman. In fact, he even likes the thought of having a thin woman hanging on his arm. It gives out all the right signals. Me man. Me dating a vee-jay lookalike babe. Me and success hand in hand. Me cool.

But when it comes to marrying a girl, even the most coolest guy around town will seldom behave any different from an average goatherd in Bhatkal. In bed and life, he wants substance. He wants something to hold on to; to cling and nestle against. If the toss up is between a cushion and a coat hanger, he will settle for the rounded contours rather than the straight and the narrow…

Besides he doesn't want to spend the rest of his life submitting to an iron will. A thin woman won't let him snack. A thin woman will frown on his beer guzzling [there is nothing more offending than a beer belly in a thin woman's eye] A thin woman will insist he works out when he'd rather nap. A thin woman will want him to take the dog for a walk while he'd rather sprawl on the couch and play touch and go with the remote control. A thin woman will want to know why he can't do what she can - live on low fat low salt eats and stride ahead with a determined purpose. What man wants that? Even if he's hippest coolest dude this side of the Arabian Sea.

A thin woman is good for a good time. But when it comes to settling down, ask a man and with the accuracy of a homing pigeon coming to roost he will point out the girl with a bosom and fecund hips. In almost every culture, there is an axiom, prospective grooms swear by. Something to do with a woman being a real woman only when she has hair and breasts. Perhaps this was the reason why my great grandmother, a nicely plump woman worked her way through three husbands, one after the other. While my grandmom, an overdeveloped chubby girl became a wife when she was twelve years old and my mom a buxom woman found her husband when she was sixteen.

As the poet said: ripeness is all!

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