Reading cultural signs

Among the names I've collected in my life, 李 淑 徳 may be my favorite. Chinese was my major in college and I lived in Asia as a young adult, speaking and reading Chinese as I made my living teaching English to other young adults. They were in my class because their moms thought they were enriching their minds. In truth, it was more of a socially acceptable group dating service.

Anyway, I used to speak - and sometimes dream in - a second language. Just enough to grasp the essential differences between Mandarin and English and to ponder the absurdity of my mother tongue. Chinese makes internal sense. English does NOT. The most common grammar question from my Chinese friends? "But, WHY?"

In Do Non-English Speaking Kids Get Dyslexia? we learn that dyslexia doesn't spare different writing systems, it takes a unique form according to the culture one is born into.

I have long believed that eating disorders are a brain malfunction that presents in different ways depending on the person's history and the culture around them. Notice I don't say I think these things "cause" the illness. I think it changes how it presents. Schizophrenia is similar: still a brain disorder, still real, but whether the person sees little green men or Guan Yin depends on the value system and myths of their environment.

Even the way we think of what "me" means has cultural influences.

Naturally, I bring this back to eating disorders. The fact that our society is in a self-satisfied crusade to criminalize body fat has an impact on those with a predisposition for eating disorders. It makes it harder for us to recognize ED symptoms AS an illness before it is too late. This morality-based campaign clearly confuses and makes recovery that much harder. We won't prevent eating disorders, and it may only reduce the suffering, but I think it is worth challenging the obesity hysteria as one of our time's most damaging myths.

In any language, Fat Talk Free Week is a good thing.


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