My latest slip? Last week I loaded my cross country skis into the Subaru and headed up to North Fork Park. In the summer it's a campground. In the winter, a local non-profit group, Ogden Nordic, grooms the roads for cross country skiing. When I arrived at the trail head, I discovered they'd made changes last winter while I was basking in the African sunshine. They've built a warming hut, added ski rentals, and changed the "suggested donation" to a user fee. I bought a season ticket. I'm not sure I'll ski enough times to break even over the daily fee (16 times!), but I wanted to support their efforts. As I was filling out the paper, one of the two gentlemen staffing the hut told me about ski lessons and workshop days. I've been wanting to learn how to skate-ski for a few years, so I said (in light-hearted Tanzanian fashion), "Can short, fat people skate?"
That's right. "Fat" is America's other F-word. Fat! Fat! Fat! (I occasionally use the original F-word, too, but we can talk about that another time.) One of my listeners turned away from me as if he hadn't heard. The other looked surprised for a moment, then said to the first, "Well, there's Marybeth." The first guy looked over his shoulder with an uncomfortable expression. I was just kidding, guys! I only brought it up because skating is very aerobic and most of the people you see doing it are long-legged and skinny. And I'm not.
Fat rises to the top of America's consciousness every New Year's Day. Many people resolve to lose weight. The gym gets really crowded. People eat cabbage soup every day for lunch. Or order hamburgers and eat the meat and leave the bun on the plate. And lick the grease off the fries, but leave the actual potatoes on the plate. Okay, I'm just kidding on that last one. I'm making fun of the Atkins diet. And the gym will be empty again by February.
My friend M (featured in a recent post about visiting the Giant Sequoias, and soon to be featured in posts about other national park visits) delights in taking unflattering photos of me when we travel together. Most are variations of my sweat-drenched head when I remove my hat after a strenuous hike. There was one in Costa Rica featuring chocolate smears around my mouth.
I'm not sure she intended this one to be unflattering. I think she was just placing me in the spectacular landscape. But when I saw it, my first reaction was horror at my fat ass. Especially since I just bought those hiking pants. That reaction means that I am settling back into the American mind set wherein "fat" is a dirty word.
But after a few minutes' reflection, I thought K2, being Tanzanian, might like this picture of me. So I emailed it to him. He replied with a nice compliment on how good I am looking here in America. This must be what they mean by "cultural relativity." Fat! Fat! Fat!