Monday, September 11, 2006


The sense of what is appropriate and inappropriate does not only apply to behaviors but also applies most effectively to our bodies. Each collective has a sense of what is appropriate and what is inappropriate for a body to be or do.

From the moment we are born, society looks at our bodies and tries to bring it in line with the sense of what is appropriate and inappropriate. We worry about a child who might grow up to be bow-legged or cross-eyed or left-handed. We teach our children to hold writing implements properly and the same goes for dining utensils. We worry about children who habitually touch their genitalia or thumbsuck.

We admonish these same children as they grow up not to pick their nose or fart or burp in public, or to cover their mouths when they sneeze (and to say "bless you" when others do).
This sense of appropriate and inappropriate bodies and bodily dispositions is the central problem faced by any teenager and those like me who never really appreciated this sense of bodily norms. We often say that teenagers go through an awkward stage or an ugly duckling stage. Thus, the teenagers' torment when he has to deal with pimples sprouting all over his face or when his voice croaks at inopportune moments.

At least twice or thrice in my lifetime, one huge red pimple has appeared at the very tip of my nose (one was beginning to sprout on my wedding day but thankfully, it was not yet in full bloom), making me appear like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The older I get, the more embarassing it has become and the harder it is for me to hold my head high and behave as if it is not there. I know that it is embarassing because few people bring it up. When someone (uncouth) brings it up, nobody follows it up and people quickly change the topic.

Another problem I face is posture. One day, as I was walking along the street, a woman behind me was telling her companion, "Sayang ang tangkad niya, hindi diretso tumayo" and I knew she was referring to me, a person for whom standing straight does not come naturally.

As we grow old, we are judged based on our ability to have a sense of the appropriate bodily gynmastics. It is high praise when someone says we are comfortable with our bodies (kumportable siya sa katawan niya) or that we know we have a good sense of deportment/ we know how to carry ourselves (kaya niya dalhin katawan niya).

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