During orientation in Tbilisi in our culture session we were warned that weight is not a taboo topic in Georgia. I have found this to be one of the very few tid-bits of information that has been true in my experience. At the first supra with my new host family, my host mother’s sister, who is a very large women, told me that I needed to eat until I was as big as she was. Nearly every day, when my host mother is not telling me to marry a Georgia boy, she is telling me to “chame” (eat) because I need to “get fat in Georgia”. I have yet to figure out why why host family seems to really want me to gain weight. A few other volunteers and I have discussed that it is a status symbol for the foreign guest to gain weight with a family. As in, it is a sign of that families culinary prowess and wealth.
It is not just my host family that discusses my weight, but coworkers as well. The other day a fellow teacher spread her arms out wide, puffed out her cheeks and said something about me getting fat, being fat, or needing to get fat. I still do not know fully understand what she was talking about.
Perhaps my favorite weight related thing is a text in the English textbook that my seventh and eleventh graders use. These English textbooks were written by Georgians and have been approved by the Georgian Ministry of Education and can be found all over the country. In these books there are a few texts about students summer vacations. Interestingly, in each of these texts appearance is a topic that merits a few sentences. In one, a boy grows taller during summer vacation and feels to skinny. In another a suntanned blond girl looks in the mirror and says to herself “I look thinner than last year” and “what a lovely girl I am”. And the final text is about a large girl who “has plump cheeks” and “is the biggest girl in the class” and is told by her friends that “she needs to diet”, but the girl “doesn’t want to”. As my co-teacher explains plump and fat to the students, she puffs out her cheeks and spreads her arms out wide. She then, without a thought, begins to point out fat and thin students, while the rest of the students clamor to point out forgotten fat students.
I am not sure I will ever understand.