Body Shaming: Is it a Cultural Thing?

I live for August. For the past few years, August has always meant vacation to Dominican Republic. For those who are unaware, I come from Dominican parents. Both were born there, along with my two older sisters. My parents travel frequently back and forth, and in August, my sisters and I join them. During this time, our other family from my dads side joins us, and it’s always a huge get together over there. 

I love coming “home” and it is always a highlight of my year. The feeling I get while I’m here is indescribable. The air is different, the sky is bluer, and the way of life is just simpler. While we try to make trips into town for the annual festival, and to the rivers, or other “fun things,” I’m completely satisfied staying home all day reading or catching up on my video games. I never get the feeling of boredom as I would sitting home all day in Reading. 

There are some family members I only get to see on this trip, like my grandmother and family members on my mothers side. It’s nice to catch up and marvel about how much our lives have changed since the last time we saw each other. 
With all those positives out of the way, I must address the negative. Which despite being in country that is considered “third world,” slow internet speeds, and countless mosquitos bites, I didn’t have many negatives. Except one: the consistent attention to ones body. 
I’ll be frank, I’m overweight. It’s not something that I try to hide or ignore. I’m aware I’ve put on the pounds. I’m also aware I am completely in control of my weight so it’s not something I’m sitting here crying over and lamenting. I’m aware that I can put in the work and lose weight. I know I’ve been working on it. I still love my body and myself. It’s not where I am it to be but it’s a work in progress. My physical health is important to me but I’m not going to sacrifice my mental health over it either. 
That being said, my one issue when I come to Dominican Republic is the constant unsolicited feedback I receive from family members or family friends. People who don’t know me or see me once a year that feel entitled to comment on my body. “Tu si ta gorda/ llenita/ fuerte” are all comments saying the same thing “you’ve gained weight.” One older gentlemen who is allegedly a cousin or an uncle of a family member saw me and didn’t even say hi. The first words out of his mouth were “muchacha, tu estas gorda.” (Girl, you are fat!) I’ve probably said like five words to this old man my entire life, yet he felt he knew me enough to comment on my body. 
Yes, I’m aware I’ve gained weight. But when the first thing I hear out of these people who love and miss me is regarding to my appearance and weight, my blood boils. And it’s just not to me. My sister who has basically been the same weight since high school gets it too. They either say she’s too skinny or she’s gained weight, which she hasn’t. My other traveling family members also said they’ve been experiencing this as well. 
Now usually, I’m not one to hold my tongue. I have no problem saying how I feel, especially if it hurts my feelings or bothers me. But over here in DR, I revert back to the teachings of my parents, “don’t be rude, don’t talk back, just smile and nod.” So I do just that. However, my head is filled with a million things to say back. 
Maybe I’m just sensitive, however, I can’t get over how entitled people feel to comment on someone else’s appearance. I don’t understand why that concerns someone else. Unless it’s regarding a new hair cut or color, I’ve never had someone else that wasn’t Dominican comment on my body. I had a breast reduction and unless I brought it up, no one brought attention to the change. Are other cultures more aware that it’s disrespectful to bring up someone’s appearance? Do other people just not give a damn about what you look like?
Maybe I’ll find out on the next episode of Dragon Ball Z…. 🤷🏽‍♀️

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