My first lessons in anatomy were in Low German. My parents are both East Frisian (northwest corner of Germany; northeastern corner of the Netherlands) and their dialect of Low German was spoken by many in our families. Mom and Dad spoke it at home when I was very young.
So it was that I learned that my head was my “kopp,” my legs were my “bein,” my eyes were my “ogen,” my ears were my “oren,” and my mouth was my “mund.” I also learned that my stomach was my “buuk” (rhymes with spook.)
It was my Uncle Sterling, however, who provided an adjective for my buuk. Sterling was a teenager when I was a small child and he loved to tease his nephews and nieces. Uncle Sterling told me I had a “dicke buuk” – a fat belly. At age 4 or 5, I was not offended. Uncle Sterling never teased to hurt and I enjoyed his attention.
One day Uncle Sterling grabbed by “dicke buuk” and squeezed it into two little rolls of fat. “See,” Uncle Sterling said, “you have another ‘moors.’” Pronounced “moh-uhz,” moors is the Low German word for one’s posterior. Uncle Sterling had squeezed my tummy fat into what looked like a little butt. The joke lost its humor over time and Uncle Sterling moved on to other things to tease about.
The reality remains that for most of my life I have had a dicke buuk. When most of my teenage peers were slim and trim, I was, well, chubby. Some of my friends had six-pack abs; I had a keg.
In the early ’80s I had some health problems and was ordered by my doctor to lose 100 pounds. When I reached an 85-pound loss old friends stopped me on the street and asked if I were ill. The weight loss slowed down and my doctor finally agreed that I had lost enough.
Strangely enough, even with the weight loss I still felt fat.
The doctor warned me that losing weight was the easiest part; keeping it off was much more difficult. He was right. Many of those pounds have found their way back to my frame over the past 30 years. As I entered middle age (a long time ago) I noticed that the percentage of my peers with six-pack abs was dwindling. More and more of my friends were getting dicke buuks, too.
It’s interesting to observe how my peers handle extra belly fat. Some refuse to acknowledge it, still wearing the same size jeans they did when they were 20 years old. They have had to lower their waists to accommodate the growing stomach which hangs heavily over their hidden belts.
Some men raise their waists as they grow older. As their stomachs grow more prominent, they hike up their pants to make room. By the time they’re 85 there won’t be much space between their waists and their shirt pockets. Most guys, including myself, wear our waists somewhere between. I have reached the age where I don’t care too much what others think. My comfort is more important than someone else’s opinion of how I look. I am now closer to 70 than to 60 and those other parts of the anatomy I learned in Low German as a child are getting my attention again.
My ogen don’t see as well as they used to. I now wear bifocals.
My oren don’t hear as well as they used to. I did not have a good experience with hearing aids. It’s easier (and cheaper) to say, “Huh?”
My mund still works good but the teeth inside are becoming increasingly familiar with my dentist. My bein? Well, the legs work okay; they just don’t bend as well as they used to.
Around the age of 30 I came to peace with how I was built. I accepted the fact that I am large framed and even if I lost a lot of weight I would still be a large person. I found that to be true a few years later.
J.K. Rowling, creator of the Harry Potter fantasy series, weighed in on this matter. “Is ‘fat’ really the worst thing a human being can be?” she asked. “Is ‘fat’ worse than ‘vindictive’, ‘jealous’, ‘shallow’, ‘vain’, ‘boring’ or ‘cruel’? Not to me.”
Not to me either.