What's so awful 'bout unibrows, chub, and aging?

I’m back in East Asia for the first time in over a year, and it some ways it feels like coming home. On the other hand, there are some culture shocks I’m experiencing for the second or third time, but still don’t know quite how to handle.

For instance, I’ve become good friends with one of my flatmates, but she and and all of the women I’ve met through her seem to have this unshakable faith in makeup and fashion. How do I tell the super enthusiastic, adorable woman lecturing me on how to spend two hours fixing my eyebrows that I really don’t care? That I don’t want to buy clothes here, or fancy makeup brushes, and I certainly don’t want to spend more than 30 seconds on my hair? I don’t even know what to say about these topics, but everyone is being so nice to me that I feel like I can’t shut them down.

And another thing is that I’m 20, and almost all of the women I meet seem way too eager to coo over my age and wail about how “old” (the ones doing this are never older than 35) they are. I try to change the subject, but I’m always supposed to guess everyone’s age, and never know how I should respond to “Oh, you’re so young?” Is that even a compliment?

The worst part is weight. One of my good friends (Taiwanese, I’ve known her for over a year) is basically being harassed by her family over her weight, and I’d say that her weight is healthy, though it’s true that the food she chooses to eat isn’t. But her family doesn’t seem to care what she eats, they’re making her take diet pills, and when she wants to eat more than a tiny helping of anything (even vegetables and fresh fruit) the badgering starts. They also ask me how much she eats when we have dinner together, don’t I think she’s fat, why would I want to be friends with a fat girl (yes, they actually said that), etc.

I’m not trying to make any stupid stereotypes about Taiwanese women, and I realize that since I’m more or less fresh off the boat I wouldn’t even be able to if I tried. I’m just wondering what’s the best way to respond to all of this. I know it’s just as bad, if not worse, in the US (I’ve seen my share of people with eating disorders, or multiple layers of makeup, or extremely obvious plastic surgery), but there it comes in a format that I’m used to. Any ideas? How do you tell your skinny friends that they aren’t fat? :doh: I feel like I’ve been pondering this question for most of my life . . .

Also, where do I go to meet the Taiwanese girls who are too lazy to subject themselves to all of the beauty tools of our day? I have met some great people so far, but I feel like I must be missing out on some sort of underground “I don’t care whether my eyelashes are curly” club.

oh, and if anyone didn’t believe me about the eyebrows, here’s an excerpt from an email one sweet, caring, and somewhat creepy friend of my flatmate sent me . . .





Are you male or female? Plus, as an FOB, you should be aware that a woman under 30 who weighs over 42kg is indeed a fatty. And as for the unibrow, you should get it shaved and have eyebrows tattooed in its place, preferably in an unattractive shade of blue.

The world is populated by stupid, boring people. Yet if you tell 'em this, they get pissed off! The world isn’t fair, but you will learn with age how/when to swat them away with the grace, wit and good humour they are unequipped to behave with towards you and your friends.

They’ll figure out that you don’t give a crap on the fashion/grooming front quickly enough …

Tell them you appreciate their input, but that you’re really not interested.

If that doesn’t work, tell them to mind their own business.

If that doesn’t work, move out.

Regarding yourself, play the waigoren card. Meaning beauty standards do not apply to you because you are a furriner, period.

The friendly advice will get really tiring (is this the right word?) after a while, so better draw the line in the sand pronto. Otherwise, people will get into more private affairs.

You can explain to teh family that many people that look thin are really full of fat deposits, and that what they have is not a spare tire but rather loose muscle because they do not exercise. You can counterattack and try to get your friends/roomates to exercise. It might not suceed, but you will not feel like a fake or that you are hurting them.

Eating disorders are very common here. Of my 5 roomates, 3 had problems ranging from bulimia and anorexia. I made myself very unpopular with their families by suggesting that what was important was in their brains and not along their butts.

At least you are showing them a different way to live. Hopefully, they will catch one before or after their first hospital visit.

As to my own personal beuty standards, I go out on the street in my pajamas. I shave only during the summer, and recently started caring about my eyebrows because it got in the way of the beard (note: I am a Latino female). No one cares what I wear at work and that is a welcome respite from the airline “put your face on” routine. I get away with this because I am a foreigner, but back home, there is a lot of pressure to get implants -gee, 38 not big enough?- and surgery is as common as pie. I am old enough to know that appearances are deceiving and what comes easily goes easily, so why bother? I am sad for those slaved here in Taiwan under the Beauty Grail, but then every culture has it in some way, and it is up to the individual to find enlightment and liberation.

All hail spandex!!

Tell them that men evolved to be attracted to real, natural women, not to overpriced, pasty crap made from sheep fat and chemical colors smeared on one’s skin. Tell them that they’ve been brainwashed by the commercial “beauty” industry, and that they should try not to be so stupid and shallow.

Of the scores of young and youngish Taiwanese women I’ve been close to over the years, not one in ten has ever had even a dab of make-up on when we’ve been out and about together. Some of those heavily made-up young things one sees in the shops and MRT these days are quite pleasing to the eye, but I wouldn’t want to be putting my mouth on those layers of chemicals and animal extracts.

I do like to catch a whiff of fine scent from a lass, but have never appreciated seeing a naturally pleasing face smeared with cosmetics, however expensive and carefully applied; and the artifice would hardly stand up for long to a vigorous jaunt out into nature and messing about under waterfalls with me.

Lin33, there are legions of lovely ladies in Taiwan who don’t care a jot about makeup, fashion, skin-whitening and the like. I hope you’ll soon get in with such a crowd so you’ll be spared from being driven spare by all of that superficial and time-wasting silliness.

make new friends, your old ones are lost and beyond redemption. you can’t change them!

Thanks for all the great replies! Wow, that was fast.

Sandman, I am female and appreciate your advice, but I think I’ll go for hot pink eyebrows instead. Blue isn’t really my color.

And thanks, Icon, for setting a liberating and inspirational example. Yay for laughing at the Beauty Grail.

Good advice, I think I’ll just play the waiguoren card, as I do for so many things. When I was first living in Japan I learned to stop worrying about my skin tone (white=bad in the US, tan=bad in Japan, so you can’t win) and my wild hair.

And I guess I wouldn’t describe these 美容-focused girls as shallow, since they’re obviously being nice to my despite my stained, hand-me-down clothes and messy eyebrows, but perhaps they have been brainwashed. The whole “beauty=happiness” and “more stuff=happiness” myths can be hard to resist. Of course, I’ve been sucked in by the “better Mandarin=happiness” idea, so who am I to judge.

As for the friend with the crazy family, I think I’ll just tell them the advice I got from one of my best 中國朋友 (whose husband is quite chubby): make fat friends, they have better personalities. And definitely make sure you marry a fat man. I wonder what they’ll make of that :slight_smile:

Thanks again!


Aging IS pretty awful, but as somebody once said, “beats the hell out of the alternative.”

Same here! Damn you, CIA / DARPA mind-control programs!

The irony is that many of these so-called skinny girls are actually quite fat in terms of body fat percentage because they do absolutely no exercise and have very little muscle. I actually find their legs to be kind of grotesque, despite being small.

My girlfriend would be considered quite fat by most Taiwanese (despite actually having a lower body fat percentage than many of these so-called skinny girls), but who cares? Likewise, she’s kind of tanned because she doesn’t mind getting out there and hiking, cycling or riding a bodyboard while I surf. We did a 20km hike one day during the recent long weekend. Imagine getting the average Taiwanese girl to do that! She’s actually quite strong. We’ll walk for 20+ minutes home from the supermarket and I’ll have to just about wrestle some of the shopping off her because she wants to carry it to (in her words) “train my arms”. It’s all good. I used to wear my ex-girlfriend out in bed because she was so frail. That was no fun at all.

How can ears be frail?

How can ears be frail?[/quote]

Scottish ears aren’t. That’s why you are never worn out.

Oooh, you TIGER, Guy in Taiwan!

Buttercup: I love it when you call me names. :wink:

When I got to Taiwan it was interesting to be in a place where people actually cared about what they thought were “in” colors and styles. Don’t know what it is at the moment? Walk past 5 clothing stores, and they’ll all be selling whatever it is. There’s a hideous haircut (that thing that looks like a sideways watermelon cut) making the rounds for women right now, but at least even the ups and downs of variety from season to season here beats the massive conformity of the sheeple back in the U.S. who can spend time wondering what pair of khaki pants they ought to buy at the GAP/Banana Republic/Old Navy/Costco.

So where does it go from here? In my years out here, I very roughly guestimate based on what I’ve run across that we have approx. equal numbers of western women exulting in the great freedom of not having to dress up with those who carp endlessly of how western men “always” end up with Asian women. Does the former group sometimes turn into the latter, or are they completely separate demographics?

You understimate the strenght of yellow fever. I guess even Jennifer Lopez would have trouble competing with a micro-mini clad Taiwanese girl. It’s a matter of character: one that will challenge you and see through your lines, or a dream girl that will make you feel like a knight in shining armour (with exceptions, of course, mostly the ones that get married to intelligent women, as the pretty girls tire them after a while).

In summary, it is not the packing what counts at the end of the day. My male Taiwanese classmates were also fed up of the whiny, childlike girls and found them quite unattractive.

True, if you look like you just got up, you can’t complain if even the garbage guy won’t whistle at you, but come Saturday night, us hard-working can enhance what we have and show the world we CAN.

Can’t argue with that! :noway:

I ‘have to’ dress up much less in my own country than in Taiwan. People are less focused on dress as a marker for wealth/sexual desirability/professional competence here. It’s nice and people dress with much more originality and flair, although there are still folk like me who buy five identical shirts and pairs of jeans from Marks and Spencers and a pair of Converse, every season, letting the side down. I can afford (and find in my size) much nicer clothes, in the UK, but … I don’t care.

Completely separate, young traveller. Zero interest in Taiwan expat male shagging trends.

The original poster apparently was not terribly fascinated with the Taiwanese women’s cultural phenomena re: dressing, dieting and makeup, and it’s fine if she doesn’t take it with a grain of salt and some good humor. Fair enough. Some people go to Kyoto and couldn’t give two farts for what geishas do to get through their day, while others pay good money to get made up and dressed just like a geisha. Different strokes for different folks. :wink: