So there I am--jetlagged--in the surreal underground market beneath Shanghai's Science & Technology Museum. I'm beelining my way to two vendors my friends have assured me are trustworthy, when I hear a chorus of shopkeepers call out to me: PANGZI!
Okay, then! Fatso. Nice.
This, after I had spoken at the WLMA conference about the notion of true beauty as filtered through my next novel, North of Beautiful. I'm up there in front of all these librarians, unwittingly baring my (apparently big fat) belly, as I gesture emphatically: What does it mean to be beautiful? How do we define beautiful? How come we can't see it in ourselves? And isn't it terrible that we are so impacted by our very narrow definition of beautiful...only to be sidelined myself in Shanghai by PANGZI!
My good friend, Mitali Perkins (who just won the Jane Addams Award!), quickly assured me that in some villages in India, fat is beautiful. It means being wealthy! Healthy!
Ummm...I'm in SHANGHAI. Fat does not equal Beautiful. Or wealthy. Or healthy.
On the way home, I thought to myself: how sad is it that of the 100 or so words I know in Mandarin, one of them is PANGZI. How is that even possible? Is our global culture so focused on a woman's looks that we simply cannot escape always being evaluated? Judged? And found WANTING?
If anything, this has made me even more impatient for my book to come out so I have a platform to talk about BEAUTY. To point out that really, every one of us is beautiful. We just need a different definition of Beautiful, one that's COUNTER-CULTURAL. One that's REAL. One that's revolutionary.
To obsess otherwise--with our scales and mirrors--is a Big Fat Waste of Time. So here I am, CHINA: You may think I'm Big and Fat. I think I'm Happy. (And I found presents for my peeps at Little, Brown Books!)
HOW DO YOU DEFINE BEAUTIFUL? I'm all ears.