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? 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 . . .