One time, my mom and I got into the subject of how much weight I’ve gained ever since I graduated from high school. She then proceeded to say something along the lines of "Oh diba anak na-realize mo ang payat mo dati nung high school? (Didn’t you realize how thin you were back in high school?)” In a surge of honesty, I answered, “I don’t know Ma, I’ve actually never felt thin.”
It was true. All my life, I’ve always considered myself as “pre-fat”: Fat when people noticed, thin when you’re able to hide it. I suppose it came with growing up with a body quite bigger than the other kids (I was definitely bigger than my older sister, see: upper left photo). Being fat always had a bad ring to it, as if it was something to be ashamed of because my metabolism didn’t seemed at sync with the thinner people around me.
Even during my high school days (when I did drastically lose weight due to my braces), I would tell people that it’s either the braces or the way my clothes have been cleverly cut to make me look thinner. Plus, living in a dorm situated atop a mountain meant numerous walking space (we didn’t have much of a choice, it was a 1-2 km walk from the dorms to the school area everyday). It felt nice to be able to fit in all those cute clothes with ease or snap photos without that unnecessary bulge showing here and there. It felt good. But at the same time, I still felt huge.
I felt that I needed to talk about this because it amazed me how I unconsciously felt the need to justify and seek out the ideal “thin”. It wasn’t that I don’t think being healthy was bad, it was just that it seemed like I wanted it for the wrong reasons.
It was only recently that I was able to verbalize what exactly was bothering me. It started with a final requirement for our Introduction to Art Theory class: we were supposed to interview a local artist and see if we can apply any of the theories we learned in class to his/her artworks. By some miracle, I got to interview Daniel dela Cruz.
I call it a miracle because, aside from the crazy circumstances that led to him being my chosen artist (trust me, it’s a looong story), I distinctly remember seeing his first exhibit back when I was in 1st year high school in 2007. And at the time, I felt myself uncomprehending of why I saw his art beautiful. You know, “It’s beautiful, but why do I think it so?”
Sir Daniel’s a household name for art enthusiasts for his signature style of robust women either magically situated in gravity-defying feats or infused with everyday objects.
I decided to apply Mortimer Adler’s theory on the nature of beauty to Sir Daniel’s works. For Adler, there are two kinds of beauty: enjoyable and admirable. Enjoyable beauty is experienced immediately because your senses find it pleasing upon being perceived. Meanwhile, admirable beauty takes a while because it’s accompanied by mediated thought and acquired knowledge.
Upon seeing Sir Daniel’s works, it seemed that his works did indeed manifest both. In our interview, he mentions that although using the woman as a subject was entirely personal because he simply found her beautiful, he thinks that his age and experience had contributed to helping him infuse substantial messages into his art. This, along with his mastery of the craft. I’d have to agree to this, since his works seemed to be mystically rendered timeless by the intrinsic quality they all possess.
(Oh God, these photos were taken a month ago and looking over them again, I just noticed the child inside her belly now. Woah. Just woah.) Okay, where was I? Oh right, beauty! Haha.
Reading over my assessment, I then wondered why I immediately experienced enjoyable beauty upon seeing Sir Daniel’s works seven years ago. It had pleased me to see women whose hips and thighs were definitely larger than the slender ones often gracing the catwalks and magazines. Why is it then that when I look at my own body, what meets me instead is a sense of frustration?
I understand that there have been many debates about beauty. (It’s in the eyes of the beholder! It’s subjective! And so forth, and so forth~) But I didn’t really write this to seek or formulate a standard. I write this in an attempt to understand how is it that I found beauty in a replica instead of the original inspiration?
Before, I wanted to be thin because I felt it would enhance my beauty when others perceived it. This can be true, because taking care of your body is definitely a form of self-respect (who wouldn’t want to be healthy and fit? I really admire people who are able to build so much discipline in their lifestyles TTwTT) But then again, girls of different shapes and sizes couldn’t possibly possess a singular form of beauty in the guise of being stick thin.
I carried around the pre-fat mentality with me because I’ve always understood fatness as something that made me ugly.
True enough, an audience is needed in perceiving both of Adler’s kinds of beauty. And it might have taken a while, but I realized that maybe it was important that I was my own audience before anyone else was.
(Sidenote: Whew, that was exhausting. It’s my first time attempting this kind of post, and I really don’t know if I actually made sense or not. Hahaha. Drop me a comment on my ask to tell me what you guys think. :) Honesty and love, Mimille)