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Gordita: Not Just For the Dollar Menu Anymore | Manolo for the Big Girl

Gordita: Not Just For the Dollar Menu Anymore

I am thirty-two years old. I know I’m thirty-two years old because every few weeks my best friend and I have a conversation that goes something like this:

BFF: I want to do something really special for my thirty-second birthday, like go back to Galway or pose as a wealthy Japanese businessman and offer David Bowie an obscene amount of cash to give me a foot massage while wearing those silver spandex leggings from Labyrinth.

Me: I think we better stick to Ireland. No offense, but you’re broke and couldn’t be any more Irish if your name was Sunburn McDrinkingproblem so I don’t think the Japanese thing would work. Wait, you’re going to be thirty-two?

BFF: …yes.

Me: Then how old am I?

BFF: You’re also thirty-two.

Me: WHAT?

and so on and so on.

I paint you that little picture only as a side note to illustrate that, despite my dewy fresh skin and inability to sleep through the night without a bottle, I was not born yesterday.

Almost a third of a century has slipped through my well-manicured hands and now, for the first time ever, do I have a nickname about my weight.

Okay, let’s be honest here. It’s entirely possible, plausible even that were one to look through the Vaseline and gauze-covered lens of the past I might’ve had a fat-related nickname kept carefully from my delicate, shell-like ears. But what are you gonna do? Reagan couldn’t fix EVERYTHING in the 80’s and haters, as the internet so wisely tells me, gonna hate.

But now it’s out in the open. Last night Hot Latin Boy and I were chatting about his mother and how much I like her. My personal maternal experience, while a blessing in the potential bestselling roman a clef arena (because it’s not libel if it says “a novel” on the front!), is a little light in the tiny little ball of cherubic goodness arena so I have taken to his viejita in a big way and want to do everything I can to make her happy, as long as it doesn’t involve my cervix or Roman Catholicism.

And she likes me. She can’t say my name –no one here can– but she likes me.

“Whenever I talk to her” reported Hot Latin Boy “she always asks about you. ‘How’s your gordita?’ she’ll say.”

Gordita.

It means “little fat girl” and, strangely enough to American ears where fat = insult, it’s usually an affectionate term for attractive girls with a few extra scoops in their milkshake.

Strangely, it doesn’t bother me.

I thought it would, and the first time I heard it, I felt odd. I felt like it ought to bother me, having been raised in a society where nicknames based on physical characteristics are not generally nice things, especially for women.

And yet I sort of like being gordita. It’s affectionate, non-judgmental, worlds better than “You have such a pretty face” and then a Meaningful Sigh –don’t pretend you don’t know what Meaningful Sigh I’m talking about– as their eyes survey the rest of my body in disappointment.

It’s taking some readjustment, this whole living in a culture where fatness is not a cardinal sin and it’s made me think about how we are so afraid of admitting our bodies exist in space that we just don’t talk about them unless we’re complaining about how they “should” be.

I’m interested in hearing your take on it, especially if you come from a culture where comments or nicknames on weight are acceptable and not shame-based. Put it in the comments.

16 Responses to “Gordita: Not Just For the Dollar Menu Anymore”

  1. Monica February 8, 2012 at 2:56 pm #

    You’re “in,” girl. This stuff is so common in Hispanic culture. I was “la gordita” to my family ever since I was a chubby baby. Even when I thinned out in high school, I was still “la gordita.” Doesn’t even make me blink. My parents call my 6’4″ refrigerator of a husband “el petiso” as a loving joke, meaning “our little guy.”

  2. Monica February 8, 2012 at 2:58 pm #

    Correction: “nuestro petiso” is “our little guy,” but they call him that too!

  3. wildflower February 8, 2012 at 2:59 pm #

    Although I’m American-born-and-raised, my roots hail from China, where it’s a grand thing to be bigger. I don’t speak the language, so I’m not sure what an equivalent of “Gordita” would be, but you know how here in America folks will sometimes say, “You look fantastic! Have you lost weight?” ? That falls *really* weirdly on my ears, because for Chinese people, a generic compliment would be the opposite–“You look fantastic! Have you gained weight?” They would only comment on weight loss if you’ve been ill. “You poor thing; you’ve been working too hard. You’ve lost weight…”

    In China, sometimes they smile at me and say, “You’re such a lovely fat girl!” :~D

  4. sony_b February 8, 2012 at 3:03 pm #

    Love it. I was travelling in India last summer, and our guide in Jaipur starting calling me something like “big Rani” – Rani meaning the primary wife (queen) of the Raja. I took it as a friendly, respectful thing, he didn’t say it until he’d spent a couple of days with us.

    My size is so outsized by Indian standards that it would be surprising if they didn’t say something. Not a lot size 26, 5’8, pasty pasty white women running around Jaipur in the off season. I got a lot of attention there, almost all of it positive.

  5. Denise February 8, 2012 at 3:32 pm #

    Sony_b, your comment fascinates me! I’m a bit shorter than you, but otherwise your description fits me pretty well. I visited South India three years ago in the company of my husband and his parents (who are South Indians) and I can’t say the attention I received was positive! So I’m glad yours was. Incidentally, no one in India believed my husband and I were married. So weird.

    Anyhoo, I worked with a mostly Mexican-American population when I was a midwife, and pretty soon I referred to myself as “la gordita” when my patients would ask me my name (it’s hard to say in Spanish, too, apparently). They would just laugh and smile.

    Plus, latin dudes always love me. Kind of hard to care what they call you when they’re wiping the drool off their faces.

  6. maryann February 8, 2012 at 4:09 pm #

    One of my exes (my first “serious” boyfriend, no less) who was from Mexico called me “gordita.” He said it with such affection that it somehow didn’t bother me at all. I kind of liked it, too. It was ages ago; I was a teenager. Hadn’t thought about him in years.

  7. dcsurfergirl February 8, 2012 at 8:57 pm #

    I am just glad a plus-sized chick can get such a nickname and it’s affectionate!

  8. Starlady7 February 9, 2012 at 6:03 am #

    I’m looking at ‘viejita’ from all angles and deciding if I want to pick it up…..

  9. Madame Suggia February 9, 2012 at 9:27 am #

    M.Suggia often refers to me as “Boomba”. Which is his shortened version of ‘Fattyboombalatty’, and quite hilarious.

  10. Alison February 9, 2012 at 10:23 am #

    As a few folks note above, when the nickname “gordita” was applied to me it rarely referred just to my physical size or shape. In Chile, some of my friends called me “negra” because of my dark hair and others called me “gringuita” because I’m from the US. In like fashion I was both “gordita” and “la flaca,” depending on whom was speaking and what s/he felt like saying at the time. On the whole, the nicknames had little to do with one’s outer essence. There was certainly social pressure to be thin, and the light-skinned, blonde-haired, blue-eyed aesthetics of advertisements felt entirely familiar to all of the expats at my office, but the way Chileans talked about and to each other in terms of size, shape, and the body was different from what I had gotten used to in the US — and refreshingly so. This was almost 10 years ago, however, and I’m curious to know whether or not mass culture and global brands have influenced the conversation.

    Every time that I find myself doing research in Yucatán (Mexico) I am shocked at the gap between the images promoted on TV and in magazines and the way that the people of the region, especially the women, actually look. Fortunately, Maya women have a long tradition of ignoring unhealthy images that tell them to be other than they are.

  11. Margie February 9, 2012 at 11:10 am #

    I have always been “la gordita” in my family. Often when my mom is introducing me to a friend or church member, I am affectionately referred to as “mi gordita”. I don’t mind. And I have always known that it was always how people distinguished me from my “guerita” sister and my brother “prieto”. In the Hispanic culture, nothing is ever meant to be hurtful (directly hurtful that is). Everything is affectionately said. And to make it even more so, we add little extra endings like “…ito, …ita” so that it means “little ___”. Now it is not only affectionate but cute!!! My dad has recently just been calling me “pumpkin” though. I’m “Daddy’s pumpkin”. He got it from the line in the song “you can tell she’s daddy’s pumpkin by the way she rock and rolls” but he sings it without the rock!!! I just roll! I’ll be 33 in April and I am still daddy’s pumpkin and mom’s gordita! speaking of which… I just gorditas for dinner the other night!

  12. mccxxiii February 9, 2012 at 3:56 pm #

    No nickname here, but I’m going to put my mind to getting a Latino boyfriend! :)

  13. The gold digger February 10, 2012 at 6:13 pm #

    1. because it’s not libel if it says “a novel” on the front!

    Also not libel if it’s true. That’s what I plan to stand on when my “novel” hits the stands.

    2. I lived in Chile for two years and being called “Gordita took a lot of getting used to. My co-worker even commented once, “It looks like you’ve put on weight.”

    There was no insult in it. Just fact. Also, this statement was coming from an indigenous women whose culture equated “gordita” with “can afford food.” My co-workers would ask, “Why are American women so obsessed with being thin? Do they want to look sick?”

    I now call my cat “Gordita.” She’s my gordita gatita.

  14. M-C February 11, 2012 at 5:22 am #

    I’m with wildflower here, there’s a lot of cultural background to the concept. Being born so close to the time where my mother nearly starved to death usually got me compliments for being a big, tall, healthy, amazon sort of girl. And so one thing I miss about the long Cuban relationship was my pet name – nalgona.

  15. Dana February 11, 2012 at 2:06 pm #

    This story compels me to comment! The other day our lovely neighbours who are very small — short and petite — called my husband and I cuddly and I laughed out loud! I know it was so endearing and means our personality incorporated into that but it made me laugh that these smaller people find my 6’4″ husband and my 6’2″ self CUDDLY! I love it! It made me so happy! So it is strange how certain adjectives can turn out to be so heart-warming…

    PS. This is my favourite place to read great writing — where ever I read the latest post I always end up reading it aloud to whomever I am with ♡

  16. Ari Flynn February 11, 2012 at 8:34 pm #

    I once worked in a restaurant where the entire kitchen staff spoke Spanish as a first language. One of the waitresses was one of those ladies who is obsessed with bleaching and plucking and painting and dieting and generally looking like anything except what she actually looked like. The kitchen staff called her “la Flaca”. She never did wrap her head around the idea that they thought her obsession with being skinny was bewildering and kind of bugnuts.

    They ended up calling me Princesa; I have positively unholy amounts of hair and got bored just staking it to the back of my head, so I used to go to work with all kinds of braids and doodads and sparkly things keeping it out of my way.

    One of them called his girlfriend Gordita, though, always accompanied by the international standard “Oh my god, SUCH AWESOME BOOBAGE” hand gesture.