When Jason asked me over the phone if I'd be able to make it through giving Kyle's eulogy I joked, "Of course I can make it. I'm a master at compartmentalizing my emotions." It was a joke because it was a lie. When it comes to emotions, go ahead and slap the label "sissy" on me. I'll own up to it. I'm a simple book and I'm an open book.
This has been true of me all my life in every area except one-- My weight.
Don't be fooled into thinking body image problems are the sole possesion of the half with ovaries. Hollywood tells men what we should look like also. But most of us just don't have the discipline to follow through with anorexia and we eat so much that bulimia would take too much of our time and energy. So unless we are athletic or blessed with Brad Pitt genes, we pretty much settle for what settles.
My weight problems began around the age of four, when I realized television was more enjoyable than playing outside with my friends. Shortly after that Atari came out. When that occured, it was all over.
For a couple of years my dad worked and my mom went to school in the evenings, leaving my sister and me home alone to fend for ourselves. But no worries! I watched my grandmother and my dad cook (mom didn't cook,) and I learned a thing or two from them, as well as from the two funny chef's on the Ralph Emery show on the now-defunct Nashville Network. Bacon, eggs fried in bacon grease, spaghetti with a LOT of meat, and the southern white trash classic S.O.S. (shit on shingles,) was my specialty. (S.O.S. is basically cream gravy with hamburger meat slathered on top of white bread.) Seriously, this is the stuff that drove Susan Powter insane. (True children of the 80's familiar with informercials will find that funny.)
The high school part of the story is textbook: Picked last for every team... didn't fit in, which made me want to eat more and watch more television...faced the classic choice, a.) Remain heavy and quiet, b.)Get fit, or c.)Remain heavy and become funny.
I chose the path of Anderson, Farley, and Candy. I developed wit and humor to take the attention off my girth.
I also learned to choose my friends carefully. I rarely had an overweight friend. This seems emotionally counterproductive, to always be around fit people, but it served the purpose of removing me from "that group." I already knew people could see that I was heavy, I didn't need an overweight clique to remind them.
Which brings me to the thing that I think many overweight people struggle with and that fit people never seem to understand. I feel I've always had a healthy understanding of what my friends thought about about most aspects of my life. I was someone who could take your compliments about my humor or my intellect (while understanding that you probably overestimate me just a tad,) and could typically handle any criticism that came my way. But when my friends told me they didn't think of me as their "fat friend," I could not even force myself to believe it was true. In my mind, and in the mind of many in my boat, it was ALWAYS about the weight.
In the summer of '92 I was working 12 hours a day of manual labor at a camp. In the fall was marching band, which is the equivalent of walking two or three miles a day. Then, in the spring, I started working at the camp again. I was 280 lbs. at the beginning of '92 and 190 lbs. at the end of '93. Then the slow climb upward. Two years ago next month I was up to around 290 lbs. I looked something like this:
Actually, I looked exactly like that.
Sometime during that spring UBC went roller skating. I couldn't bend over to buckle my skates... Valerie and Wesley had to do it for me. It was humiliating and the last straw.
I'm trying my best not to make this an informercial for fitness because, here's the deal, and it's another deal you skinny people should know... I've talked to friends who have also lost weight and have heard the same thing-- Regardless of what I look like now, in my mind, I'll always be that guy in the picture. Sometimes it's a wonderful thing to take your past with you, and sometimes it's a bitch.
So where do I go from here? Well, I ran six miles today, am training for this Bearathon, trying to eat healthy, and hover around 200 lbs. But I can't guarantee what I'll look like in two years, and that's kind of frightening. Maybe I need that healthy dose of fear.
(Tara, thanks for the inspiration of vulnerability.)