So I set my sights high. If that dude could bag a hottie, so could I. I already had the fat part down. My third grade teacher told me so after I topped the scales at 110 pounds. Unlike those freaks in the Gatorade commercials, I could sweat without lifting a finger. And while I wasn't necessarily loud, I possessed an extra helping or two of charisma. Like Steve Martin's character in Roxanne, I could self-deprecate like a pro for the sake of lightening the mood, able and willing to acknowledge that, yes, there was indeed an elephant in the room, and he's a wild and crazy guy! Like Garfield up there, in all his grand glory, I was fine with being the biggest guy in the room, eating lasagna with both hands and laying on the charm. I was John Candy. Dom Deluise. A splash of Louie Anderson when people got belligerent. While everyone else progressed, squeezing themselves into whatever fashion statement was hip at the time, I rewashed my Zubas and XXXL Lou Albano Hawaiian shirts and made my own statement:
This is me, so deal with it.
And finally, after years of playing the shoulder-to-cry-on role for numerous hotties, I landed one of my own . . .
Very Ron Jeremy, no? And, believe it or not, it wasn't the kickass eyebrows that did it for her. Instead, it was my prowess at the only collegiate intramural sport I ever played . . . root-beer-float chugging. I took home the gold, and the girl.
In the beginning, I imagine it wasn't easy for her. I was the obnoxious kid with a new toy, fiddling with all the parts, trying to take it apart to see what makes it tick. For I had no idea that someone existed who wasn't willing to take me at face value. She demanded that which I had always felt incapable of giving. She held my hand like she was honored to do so. Kissed me with her eyes closed, like she meant it. And in public! She was never content to hide me away. I figured that's how it would work once someone like her decided to go deep with someone like me. That they'd talk of love and respect, but display it only when we were out of sight. I knew in my heart, for so long I just knew, that I was no prize, worthy of being put on display for all the world to see. Not without the act, anyway. People accepted the act. Yet I had become the entertainer who left the roar of the crowd behind only to settle down alone in the back of the bus.
She saw something different. She looked past all the sophomoric shenanigans, beneath all the boisterous bombasting, and through the worn-thin fibers of my one-size-fits-all Bon Jovi concert t-shirt, and saw a heart ready to care. To love. To unconditionally give that one thing which had been withheld for so long.
On an overcast June day in 1991, we exchanged vows. I easily outweighed her by a couple hundred pounds. But she still said I do.
I continued to play the entertainer for over a decade. After all, I reasoned, she may like me, but there are others that need to be put at ease around the fat guy. Eventually, I grew tired of the role. Even a fat suit wears thin after so much wear and tear.
So a couple years after the millennium, I went under the knife and had an open Roux-en-Y. That's a gastric bypass for the skinny laymen out there. Two hundred pounds - a good-sized high school linebacker - have gone missing, and we aren't reporting the theft to the local authorities. Now we wear each others clothes. Gratefully, mostly sweatshirts. We take long walks where I don't get winded. We go out in public and no one stares. And we make love without all that awkward squashing.
Body image? Even as I spent all that time writing my own punch lines, I hated the way I looked. I come from a long line of big eaters, diabetics, and wearers of pants with expandable waistbands. At my heaviest, my waist size was easily double my inseam. That was who we were, and we just had to learn to live with it. Even as the hatred of it diminished the soul.
My wife taught me to forget about the weight. It just didn't matter. And the funny thing? When something doesn't matter anymore, it becomes unnecessary . . .