A 45-year-old fat man trying to find his inner skinny dude.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

On being a fat kid

When I was in high school, my dad's law firm merged with a smaller firm. The new firm was not big by today's standards. It had maybe 30 lawyers, max. I worked there the summer after the merger as a general bobo/gofer.

One of the new parters was an old guy, probably pushing 80 at the time. He was an old thin guy who wore bow ties. The strangest thing about his appearance was the coarse white hair growing out of his nose. I don't mean the nostrils. I mean out of the top of his nose.

I decided to introduce myself. After all, this was an experienced, fancy lawyer--a burgermeister in my hometown. I told him my name. Did he say hi? No. Did he say, pleasure to make your acquaintance? No. The first words out of his mouth were, "You're fat like your dad."

I was shocked, and I was amazed that he could insult both my dad and me in five words. Amazing.

Ok, so I figured out that he was a world-class asshole. But still. That happened at the beginning of the summer, and I don't think I ever felt comfortable working there again. I told my dad what he'd said, and my dad laughed and said the guy wasn't such a bad guy. But I think it hurt my dad, too. For both of us.

My dad was kind of thick as a kid. But he also played on his high school tennis team. Comparatively, I was a much fatter guy, even though I dropped some weight and eventually became a bad shotputter.

I know my dad didn't like it that I was fat. I didn't. Why should he? But I grew up feeling as though I hadn't met expectations, and I still feel it. I might even feel it now more than I ever have. Mid-life crisis? Who knows?

I might be having a kid, which is to say that my wife might be pregnant. We're both on the heavy side, and we both worry that the kid will be fat. I don't worry that it will reflect badly on me (which I think bothered my dad). I worry that the kid will take as much shit as I did--from family, from strangers, from well-meaning friends and acquaintances.

My wife's mother has been perpetually on my wife about her weight, and if you look at pictures of my wife as a kid, you can see that she's perfectly normal, maybe a little heavier than some of her friends, but not giant. She was a lovely kid. She's a lovely woman. She struggles. I struggle. We both worry that having a fat kid will be bad for the kid because of the shit people dish out.

We're living differently than we used to. We eat a lot better than we used to, especially portion-wise, which is where we have trouble. We go to the gym together, too. We want this to be a way we live so the kid will grow up without turning to food for comfort the way we did.

My eyes these days really are bigger than my stomach. Sometimes I over-order, especially sushi. I get uncomfortably full. It's a kick. When I'm preparing a meal, I sometimes want to eat a lot. Usually I realize I'm feeling agitated about something. I eat less than I want. If I'm still hungry, I'll eat more. It happens, but rarely.

I read a book about Buddhism years ago in which someone said, "I eat when I'm hungry. I sleep when I'm tired."

That's the goal. Keep food as fuel only. Finding comfort in other things is the goal. I don't really know how to do that yet. But I'm--so far--pretty successful at letting the feelings pass without having to eat.

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