x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Given our genetic predisposition to accumulating fat in certain areas, we desi women are fortunate that our clothes are so forgiving.

Like most women in their 30s, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t being embroiled in arguments revolving around weight, size and body shape.

For my tiny five-foot frame, 48kg feels right. The doctors concede that I am at the lowest acceptable end of the normal weight for my height. At 46kg, they tell me I am teetering on being underweight. But they lie. The online BMI calculators tell me I could be 43kg and still not be underweight. It’s a scary thought, though, the thought of being that skinny.

My friend laughed when I said that out loud. “You’re scared at the thought of being so skinny? In case you didn’t notice, you already are way too skinny!”

And so begins that oft-performed back and forth routine of “I’m not too skinny” and “Oh yes you are”.

My husband is the only one who refuses to play this game and ­affectionately refers to me by what he thinks is a clever nickname. He pokes me around my often-expanding middle and calls me “Pudge-ala Ali Khan”.

The truth is that I’m just an averagely built girl, lucky enough to be the normal weight for her height. Blessed with thin arms, narrow ankles and a long face, I give the illusion of being skinnier than I really am. The flip side is that the weight that refuses to accumulate on the arms and around the ankles finds a home elsewhere. Like most desi women, that means the belly and hips.

Given our genetic predisposition to fat accumulation in designated areas, we desi women are fortunate that our clothes are so forgiving. Saris and shalwar suits cover you in swathes of fabric that hide most lumps and bulges. It’s happy days when everyone’s dressed desi. It’s when the non-desi outfits come out that the fun starts.

Thanks to the brand Trinny and Susannah, I’ve learnt to steer clear of clothing that will draw attention to my unsavoury bits. Instead of going for a tapered trouser, I’ll pick up a straight cut one, diverting attention away from my saddlebags. I won’t wear anything that bares my belly until I get rid of that last roll of fat there. Dressing according to my body shape means that you will never see my love-handles, saddlebags or the podgy fat that spills over my waistline. But just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean they don’t exist. They’re just very cleverly disguised.

When it is so easy to dress well for almost any shape, it bamboozles me when women appear to be working extra hard on flaunting their less-than-perfect assets. The short girl wearing horizontal stripes (and not in a cute, ironic way), the well-endowed girl wearing a chunky-knit roll neck jumper and the “gained some pounds but didn’t buy new jeans yet” girl with her stomach spilling out of her waistband and on vivid display under a too-short T-shirt. It’s almost as if they are doing it on purpose.

Before you accuse me of an unhealthy obsession with appearances, take a moment to think why it is considered vain to take pride in one’s appearance, while it is universally accepted – even encouraged – to be proud of one’s mental prowess.

Some people work hard at getting a doctorate, others work hard at getting a set of perfectly pearly whites. Different strokes for different folks. But when no one would frame and display the maths exam that earned them a D, why would they display their double chin?

I’m not saying everybody has to have the body of Heidi Klum. Even Heidi Klum doesn’t have the body of Heidi Klum. She wears control trousers to get there, and so should a lot of other ladies. Control trousers and one-size-bigger jeans. And please, no Crocs.

The writer is an honest-to-goodness Desi living in Dubai

artslife@thenational.ae