Double Eyelids Good, Double Bones Bad

(In the following piece, guest blogger Joyce Lau writes about a curious Cantonese aesthetic distinction, the double vs. single boned girl. Speaking of aesthetic distinctions, when I was writing the piece on Long Hair’s threat to get his single eyelids turned into doubles, via surgery (which is, thank goodness, now off the agenda), I called up Joyce because I didn’t understand exactly what single and double eyelids were. Funnily enough, she said she never noticed it growing up in America, either. Like me, she noticed that Chinese had different shaped eyes, but the eyelid thing didn’t register. Then one year her Chinese family went on a trip to the mainland and all the relatives started oohing about Joyce’s beautiful eyelids, and wondering where she “had them done.”
 “It turned out that in my family, everybody knows who is seung naan pei. My mom had to explain it to me.”
 And here, Joyce explains The Bone Thing to the readers of Learning Cantonese:

Joyce Lau: Double Eyelids Good, Double Bones Bad

In Daisann’s hilarious account of Long Hair’s cosmetic sugery quandry, she relays that legislator Leung was given an offer to change his single eyelids (daan ngaan pei) to the socially more desirable double ones (seung ngaan
pei).

But the opposite is true for bone structure, at least if you are female. Someone who is naturally “daan gwat” or “single boned” is very finely built, and can eat all she wants without gaining weight. She is therefore the envy
of girls who are naturally “seung gwat” or “double boned.”

This obviously doesn’t mean that some girls have twice as many bones, but that each bone is twice as thick. If you are “seung gwat” that probably means you are heavy set and can’t fit into the one-size-fits-all clothes at
those little discount clothing places in Hong Kong.

Of course, Hong Kong’s standards for “daan gwat” and “seung gwat” are relative. I’m considered small in the West, but I am definitely “seung gwat” according to my female relatives, who point out my (allegedly) “broad
shoulders.”

One family member who shall remain unnamed (lest she kill me) weighs 46 kilos and was taunted for being overweight. So if you use my aunts’ standards, all of America is probably considered “seung gwat” except for
supermodels.

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