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Venezuelan Femininity The Painful Embodiment of Beauty

Last summer when I went back home to Caracas, Venezuela, for the first time in about four months, the first thing my mother said when she saw me was: “My God, you are fat!” I had gained about twenty-two pounds, yet had not realized it. I spent each day of my two-week-long vacation working out for hours and dedicating myself to a strict diet regime. For the first time ever, I felt out of place in my favorite dance club: while the zipper of my old dress was on the verge of explosion, 16-year-olds wore miniskirts that showed their size-two bodies and cleavage that showed off their breast implants.

All over the place I felt women looking at me, measuring my thighs and disapproving of my hips— feeling pity for that oversized-me. Under the dance club’s darkness, wounded by blue, green and red flashes of light, I looked grotesque, “abnormal,” in Michel Foucault’s use of the word. Women questioned my appearance, rejoiced at my newly-gained weight, because my abnormality established a contrast and validated their Barbie-like bodies.

It also produced a subtle power dynamic in the room: the Barbies were quick to find dancing partners that night (and for the rest of their lives?) and I, Miss Piggy, remained sitting at the bar watching them have a good time (hoping it was not for the rest of my life). Today, I am back to a size six, but my family and friends advise me to keep dieting, since six is already a “big” and “unfashionable” size. My grandmother prays to the Virgin Mary that I be as “beautiful” and thin as I was before “having the idea of going to graduate school in New York City.”

Venezuelan Femininity The Painful Embodiment of Beauty