My friend I was showing me her photo album and she asked me if I thought she looked fatter in a picture from 3 years ago or now.
What a question! I was stammering, feeling awkward as I tried to work out what to say.
So I asked her, “What do you want me to say? Would you prefer to be thinner or fatter?”
Her response was, “I don’t care, it’s just fun to compare.”
I know that Tanzanians have different standards of beauty when it comes to bodies, but still this takes me by surprise. For me, size comes with judgement: increase is negative and perhaps shameful, losing weight is positive and encouraged. Less so in Tanzania.
On Facebook people will often comment on their weight and others, perhaps with shock “Jamani!” but often simply because the person looks different, not because they’re better or worse.
I have to work so hard at loving my body, as most Australian women do. I find it hard to imagine a world where someone says to me, “You’re fatter now than before”, and I don’t attach some kind of judgement to that, or don’t have to work hard to worry about it.
I love this about Tanzanian culture, and I tried to remember it the next day when Elliot described me as ‘squishy’!
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.