One of my colleagues once wired her jaws shut so that she would lose weight. Though she did not ask me (and my opinion did not matter because we were not dating) I did not think she was overweight. I actually liked her figure. Given that our employer provided a really good lunch, I felt a bit sorry for her that she missed such fantastic food. She subsisted on juices for about a week. She left the firm shortly after and when next I saw her, she looked bloated. Maybe she'd had a kid, because that would be the only thing that I think could be a consolation for losing all that hard work.

Fat women are considered attractive in large parts of Africa. Fat here does not mean obese. It is a certain pleasant plumpness and roundness and softness. It means well rounded arms, large buttocks, and full breasts. Some cultures in southeastern Nigeria even used to have institutions for fattening up young girls before marriage. These were the fattening rooms. The cultures known for the practice are the Anang, Calabar, Efik, other tribes related to them and probably the Igbo. The rooms were huts in a compound managed by older women. In some places, the girls would be naked all the time so their weight gain would be more observable. They would not do any heavy work. They would eat a lot. They would be rubbed all over with camwood oil so that they glow. They would be pampered and taught how to please their men. Pleasing here naturally includes how to do the sex well. I learnt that the fattening rooms in eastern Africa teach girls a certain posture to indicate their complete sexual availability. The posture is one where the girl lies on the floor and then arches her body such that only her heels and shoulders touch the ground. I tried it and while it is not a hard posture to assume, it is hard to hold. If I saw a woman in such a pose, I would be worried for her comfort. I am not sure I would think she looked sexy. Some of the fattening rooms circumcised the women. Female circumcision usually involved cutting off the clitoris. This is quite unfair since it would reduce the woman's sexual pleasure. It is also counterproductive because if the woman is not enjoying it, she would be less inclined to initiate, thus reducing her availability.

The custom has died now. This is partly because even in the past, it was something done by the rich or the troubled. And given how the world has changed, there are other things that rich people can do for their children and other ways women can remedy an inability to conceive. Secondly, the traditional requirement was that only virgins were admitted. The world has changed in such a way that virgins are in that state for too short a time. By the time they are ready to marry, they probably have the sexual experience the fattening room would have taught them. As for the other things taught in the rooms, that society has not collapsed means those things probably were not that important anyway. Further, beauty standards have changed and rich people aspire to current ideals of thinness. And since generally, the poor ape the rich, the preference for boniness has permeated society. This is a shame because there is a certain earthy beauty about the classic full bodied southern Nigerian women. The typical look among them is one of robustness - wide hips, big breasts, a hearty laugh and manner. A general look of fitness for child bearing. They remind me of the Venus of Willendorf but without the big tummy and pendulous breasts. This is a quality common among women from the entire western coast of sub-Saharan Africa up to South Africa. It is a quality shared by black American women, unsurprising since they are from the same stock. This robust look seems to be a Bantu trait. It has been said that there is more genetic diversity within Africa than there is in the rest of the world because I don't think those of us in the hinterland have it. This is just my imagination.

Even if the custom was still popular, the health implications of extra weight - diabetes, high blood pressure - are now well known. Although, given what people do to be thin, I suppose health is secondary to conforming with beauty standards.

There was a show some time ago about the practice. Some women - a Motswana (singular demonym for people from Botswana), a Ghanaian, a Kenyan, a Nigerian, a South African, and a Zambian - were taken to what was supposed to be a fattening room. I did not watch it because it was on a channel that showed things like the Kardashians and Jersey Shore. Since I can not bring myself to watch such stuff, I do not watch any channel which airs such shows. However, this does not prevent me from passing a negative review on the show. I am sure I would have disliked it because the participants' pictures before going in showed them as fashionably thin and they did not look fat after coming out. Further, while I am no purist about any tradition, I will be cranky here and say it is unlikely any of the women who went in were either virgins or preparing for marriage. Thus, the show ignored the point of the tradition.

Given the variance in African cultures, there is a tribe in Ethiopia where the demand for weight is aimed at the men. Among the Bodi and Me'en, fat men are considered attractive. The men gorge on milk and cow's blood for 6 months to gain really big bellies which they show off at a competition during the Ka'el Festival. It does not appear that only bachelors participate. However, one old custom for only bachelors in my tribe is sharo. It was a test of strength and will where a young man would be flogged and he ought not to even flinch or show any sign that he was in pain. One favorite way to show nonchalance is for the person to hold up a mirror and be applying make up during the flogging. Success in the competition would virtually assure that the guy's suit for a girl would be accepted. I understand that it is still practiced among those who have not been corrupted by civilization. I have never witnessed it.

There appears to be a push to blur gender differences in the west. There is a corresponding push back from other parts of the world and even in the west itself. Maybe the conservatives in the west should import some of these African customs. And since there is an epidemic of obesity, especially in the US, perhaps an adoption of ancient southeastern Nigerian beauty standards could be one way to resist Hollywood's agenda. Glamorizing fat women in opposition to the bony ideal being pushed now would really show those woke gender denying people. It would be a nice reversal of the usual conservative opposition to everything foreign. And since the permissive left have been the ones usually promoting foreign (especially Asian) customs as better and more natural, they wouldn't know how to fight this.