Next time someone criticizes you, say “so what?”

By DIVA PAREKH | October 5, 2017

In India, an “aunty” is a very special, strange kind of human. An aunty can be your middle-aged neighbor. She can be what some of your high school teachers turn into after you graduate. She can be one of the women in your parents’ friend group. She can be that relative who talks about how much you’ve grown every time she sees you.

An aunty will tell you that you should eat less while simultaneously being emotionally wounded if you say no when she offers you food.

But most importantly, an aunty is someone who will always comment on your weight. So what if you’ve come back home after being gone for over a year. There’s one thing that’s always more important than any other thing you might have done or accomplished during that time away.

It’s always the same. There’s that glance as you walk into a room, then an awfully awkward, lingering pause, which is followed by the dreaded, “…You’ve put on weight.”

If you’re someone who’s plagued by the comments of aunties, don’t worry. I have a tried-and-tested method for disabling the aunty. It’s just two words: So what?

This works, people, this works better than anything I’ve ever seen work before.

She’ll first look confused. Then she’ll shake her head vigorously and insist she didn’t mean anything by it, that it was just an observation that you’ve put on weight. That’s when you say it again: So what?

This will turn into an excruciatingly long but oddly satisfying cycle where the aunty continues to dig herself into an even deeper hole that she can only get out of by abruptly starting a conversation with your mom. This means you’ve won. Congratulations.

In the two weeks I spent back home over the summer, I had to use this method too many times, too many times to even count.

After a certain point, it stops feeling like a victory. It just feels hopeless.

One of these battles lasted a lot longer than the others. This person asked me why I didn’t find time to go to the gym — they said that as soon as I entered the room. The first thing they noticed was how much weight I’d put on. And it just never ended.

I wanted to scream. I fell off a horse. Because of the injuries, I wasn’t allowed to do things at the gym. I wasn’t even allowed to walk for more than an hour at a time. It’s been nine months since the fall and I’ve only just been given permission to use the elliptical.

My parents saw that I was upset, but all they said was that this is how it is. This is how people are. Forget about it and move on.

It’s hard to just move on though. Most of my closest friends are athletes, and I know what people think when they see us together. How is she friends with them? How did that even happen?

And I answer the question, but why was I asked it in the first place?

Asking myself this question, it’s hard for me not to think of the way I look. You can see it in our group pictures — the difference between the way they look and the way I do. Here’s the thing about those pictures, though: I’m always smiling, because in that moment I feel like I belong.

That’s the kind of feeling I’ve been trying to hold on to, and for the most part, I succeed.

Two weeks ago, however, another student called me a “fat fuck.” As soon as he said that, I started feeling physically sick. My throat felt oddly constricted, and those words have been gnawing away at me ever since.

I wrote this mainly so I could work through those feelings, and I thought (and hoped) that I’d reach some big reconciliation by the end of it, so that maybe I wouldn’t feel my insides twisting every time I think about that comment.

Here I am, at the end of the article, and I don’t want to forget about it and move on. But you, the aunties and the student I won’t name because he’s already in danger of severe physical harm from my friends, you forgot. You moved on.

None of what you said to me has impacted your life. You probably don’t even remember you said it. So here’s me writing about it, hoping you remember, hoping it gnaws at you just a little. And here’s me hoping you change.

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