The weight watchers

2014-06-10 10:00

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I live in Cape Town. I’ve lived here since 1999. Well, except that one misguided winter of 2007 when I moved up to Joburg and stayed there for a year.

To be fair on Johannesburg, I knew the moment I got off the plane that I wouldn’t stay long. There’s just something about the city’s bone-chilling winter, the brown grass, the missing mountains, the grey skies and the phallic apartheid architecture. It all made me eat a lot. Not the good stuff either.

When I moved, Cape Town was in the thick of gentrification. So automatically, when I got to Jozi, it had to be a crappy neighbourhood or nothing. The very first place I moved into was a house in the dodgiest part of Troyeville. So real.

Sadly, it was a little too close to a shop that traded in greasy carapau fish and chips. The next-door neighbours traded in Black Label quarts. The realest.

With a spiteful winter to deal with, the thought of a potential beach body and my vegan pretensions left back in the Republic of Cape Town, I indulged. And grew.

But I digress. I am a Capetonian again and almost every summer holiday I join my fellow refugees (thanks Helen) on the N2 and head home to the Eastern Cape to visit family. All good. The trouble comes when I have to see neighbours and members of my extended family.

The conversation always starts off something like this. “Hello, unjani?” and I’m like: “I’m fine and how are you?”

“Iyhu! Awusetyebe! Utya ntoni eKapa?” (Yoh! You’ve got so fat! What are you eating in Cape Town?)

Inside I’m thinking: “No, not this shit again.” Of course, I am well aware of my girth. I do shop for clothes, you know. I’ve watched as the Xs increased. I remember when my weight was at its comment-worthiest, when I had to add a second X to a challenging XL.

A PR rep from a denim brand that was sending out free swag to bloggers in the hope of hashtags called asking for my size so they could send me their latest shirt. I was having a particularly shitty day, the kind where I could have done with a greasy carapau, hot chips and a Black Label.

The thought of opening my mouth and saying “XXL” to some skinny PR person was the last thing I wanted to do. Never mind that they called me at work, in an open-plan office, while I was sitting with our even skinnier raw-vegan intern. So many bloody skin-and-bone raw vegans in Cape Town.

Anyway, I did the only reasonable thing I could think of. I lied, I dropped the double X, the intern fidgeted. The shirt still sits in my closet, waiting for me to drop the double X.

As for distant relatives who like to offer their weight observations as though they’ve made a wondrous discovery, or as if they were congratulating me on winning some magical fat lottery, I’m just never quite sure what to say.

The most recent incident was when I had to visit home for a funeral, at which I ran into one of these stranger relatives.

After telling me how fat I’d become, she went on to say: “But you look okay, you know, your face is still good-looking.” How kind. I was feeling extra cheery, so I responded: “Oh well, I’m just working hard to be as big and beautiful as you.”

I could do with carapau and chips right about now.

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