I'm Having Fat Days

Now truth be told, I’m not fat.

I’ll be the first to admit I don’t have a 6-pack stomach… never have. Though, when I was a little kid, I was so thin you could count my ribs. (Which, in retrospect, was probably a tad disgusting and a sign of malnutrition… but I digress) Then, when my family moved and I entered 6th grade (or as I called it: The 1st Circle of Hell)… I had trouble making friends. I became a shy loner (another topic for another blog)… and in lieu of “hanging out” after school or on weekends… I watched TV and snacked.

I never got disgustingly roly-poly… but I did get a belly. I sure wasn’t going to be earning any letter-jackets (always thought they looked silly anyway). I didn’t discover any me-friendly after-school activities until the 5th Circle of Hell… and didn’t find reasons to feel good about myself until I went away to college. (Not saying the reasons weren’t there… I just didn’t find them) Yeah… I got bullied at school… but also got some at home. Such is the perils of being the youngest of 3 boys…. Didn’t want to be at school, and I didn’t want to be home.

Part of which… because I felt fat.

I’m going to refer to my 2 elder siblings as A-hole 1 and A-hole 2. Not to paint them as the epitome of Scum… there are times they’ve both, collectively and separately, been very decent. I’m referring to them that way for 3 reasons: 1) To keep my theme of anonymity on this blog. 2) When it popped in my head, it sounded like something from Dr. Seuss:

“Would you like to see something
Dumber than the slime on your shoe?
Then let me introduce my brothers…
A-hole 1 and A-hole 2.”

And 3) On this subject… especially back then… they WERE complete and total assholes.

It sure felt like they took it as their personal hobby to make my life miserable. I dreaded hearing them walk into the room, because I knew I was going to be insulted. More often than not I was right. What seemed like one of their favorites (especially A-hole 1) was calling me “Fat”.

“Hey Tubby, how are those sit-ups working for you?”

“Mmmm… that looks nice and fattening.”

“God, I can hear you gain weight.”

Like I said, I wasn’t fat… there were kids much bigger in girth than I who were still considered part of the “Beautiful People” crowd. So I kept telling myself AND the two A-holes, “I am not fat!”

But what I knew and what I felt… were apparently 2 different things.

I’m sure they would defend themselves by saying they were “trying to help me”. Perhaps that was their idea of motivation; “If he hates hearing it… he’ll lose the weight, so we’ll stop saying it.” But in the several years of using that 1 tactic… it never worked. Looking back on it now, it especially amazes me as that most people, when something doesn’t work… they try another approach. A different one. They change tactics. There are only 2 types of people that will continue to do the SAME thing and expect a different result. The Insane… and the Incredibly Stupid.

No, insulting me never did motivate me to working out. Though, to his credit, A-hole 1 did try to take me out to the garage to work out with him on his weight set… and I’ve never found “working out” to be more Uninteresting. It just wasn’t fun. I did try to honestly get into it… but eventually A-hole 1 would say something insulting (possibly unintentionally) and then the whole thing wouldn’t feel like a “new” approach… but rather a variation on the old one. And a healthy habit would not be formed. And I would go back to feeling fat.

Feeling fat and Being fat are two different things. How else do you explain the mindset of supermodel wannabes the size of sticks looking at themselves and saying, “I’m so fat!”?

When you feel fat… you feel weak. Emotionally and physically. You don’t think you have the tools, the ability, or the right to defend yourself… so when you’re attacked, you do what every Military general does when they realize they are out-gunned, out-manned, out-powered, out-flanked… they retreat. And when the attack is pressed, they keep retreating… until there’s no where to retreat to. And that’s where they get annihilated.

I retreated. Into my room… into myself. I didn’t feel like I was being “helped”… I felt like I was being attacked. My only ally was my cat who loved me for me… and who witnessed many tears before I went to sleep. My family just thought I was anti-social for no reason.

Sometimes, when I’m feeling particularly morbid… I wonder how I actually managed to survive that time through the “7 Circles of Hell”. And I don’t say “survive” to be metaphoric.

When I was left alone at college on that first day… and I was on my own… I felt such a wave of relief over me, I’m surprised I didn’t burst into tears, I was so happy. I soon made friends… REAL friends, not study-hall-acquaintances… friends that I’m still in touch with 13+ years later. I quickly got involved with my major and department… and the extra-curricular activities that went with it. I was going full-force, running myself practically ragged (and keep in mind, I wasn’t a “partier”. I never drank or smoked or anything like that) and I was loving every minute of it. During Winter Break… there was a short session of classes and activities before the Spring Semester began, but most people stayed home. That 1st year, I spent it at home… and hated it. For every other Winter Break, I made sure I was involved in something that required me to be there soon after Christmas.

I was getting at school 2 things I felt I had never gotten before… Encouragement… and Opportunity. Even if I failed at a task… it still felt good to not be berated for doing so, but rather a “we’ll do better next time”. That’s a much better environment to be in.

And I have no idea if I lost weight. I got my last little “growth nudge” of that inch that got me to 5’11”… but I don’t think my weight changed. To tell the truth, I didn’t weigh myself for a good few years going. I had other things going on that mattered more to me.

And I think I was actually eating healthier… especially when I started cooking on my own. I don’t know if I was losing weight… but I sure wasn’t gaining any. When I went to California (the fact that I had an opportunity to go to a place 3,600 miles away from “Hell” sure didn’t hurt my decision), I probably got healthier habits… never before realizing how tasty Spinach, Collard Greens, Asparagus, Avocado, Artichoke, etc… could be.

And during one Spring Break, visiting friends in Los Angeles for the first time, something happened. I was feeling REALLY good about myself… I was doing great at Grad School, I had some plays I wrote that were going to be produced at another college in L.A., and I had my hair colored blonde just for the hell of it. It was like the start of a make-over… and then, for no reason really… I picked up a couple of weights and started to do a little working out.

And… I actually found it FUN.

I did it more… and more often. I was actually finding it FUN and enjoyable. I realized that all the times I had been hearing, “working out will make you feel better about yourself”… were WRONG.

Feeling better about myself… made me start working out.

Suddenly, I found what was missing from all those failed work-out attempts back on the other coast. I wasn’t doing it to impress anybody… I just did it because I wanted to… and I was having fun with it.

And there was a noticeable difference. I got into a nice habit with it, and at the start of the next Fall, after a summer of this… people were noticing that my arms were a little bigger, and more defined. I still didn’t have a six-pack stomach… nor was it really flat… but I didn’t have a problem with taking my shirt off. And seeing as how I was about to do a show that required me to run around in a Loincloth… that quality helped. But it turned out, I actually GAINED 10 lbs… but it was muscle, and I was trimmer than I ever had been. So, I was feeling pretty good about my own body.

Don’t know if the family noticed any differences when I came home for Xmas… but if they did, they didn’t say anything. Either they didn’t want to compliment me… or didn’t care to see anything different from what they knew, and didn’t. Who knows. I had long stopped caring, so not hearing anything didn’t bother me. (Which in some ways, may be a tragedy unto itself)

After Grad School ended, I tried to keep a work-out schedule going… but it didn’t always happen. I think it became one of those things where “life got in the way”… and I was still happy where my life was… even if I was doing the “starving artist” thing.

The only real big change in my weight… came when I got sick 2 years ago. The time that laid me up something fierce. I couldn’t keep anything down, went on a liquid diet for a few straight weeks… nothing but misery. When I finally got on the medication that worked, and I started to recover… they found I had gone down to 138 lbs.

Sweet Screaming Jeebus, I haven’t been 138 lbs since Freshman Year of High School! When I was 5’3”!!! That’s not the BEST way to lose weight… and I don’t recommend it.

After a few months, I was doing better getting that weight back to a healthier place. But from losing all that weight so fast… I also lost some muscle mass. So I was gaining the weight back… but it wasn’t the kind I wanted. I found it difficult to get to the Gym again… my self-esteem had taken a bit of a drop. (Being cheated-on does that to you) And after a VERY rough year all-around and in many areas of life… I decided to take a break from Los Angeles… and I came back home to be with family.

I often wonder if I made a mistake.

So, I’m back up to my normal weight… and then some. I even went up one pant size. I’m none too happy about that… but I also don’t think it’s a big deal. It doesn’t change the person I am… and that’s a damn good person, thankyouverymuch (if I do say so myself). Sure I don’t have a fantastic high-paying job as a corporate drone, nor am I around my closest friends all the time… but I’m still hopeful life will improve. It’ll take little baby steps… for my physicality AND professionally. I try to remind myself often… to keep me going to save that money to continue making the art I left behind… only now controlling it all myself.

And it turns out I *have* to remind myself often, because the other day, A-hole 2 said to me, “You’re eating THAT? Hold on, let me see what’s in this… oooh, just what a growing boy needs. You know that’s thoroughly unhealthy for you, right? And how are those sit-ups working for you?”

Now, I find it an incredible amount of self-control on MY part to not smash the small bowl of melted Velveeta I was stirring for my broccoli, right in his A-holish face. I couldn’t believe he was using the SAME TACTICS from 15 years ago!!! Hell… the same WORDS!!! I tried to push it off (again), saying, “Yeah, sure. Very funny.” And when he kept it up, I (understandably, I think) got a little pissy, saying, “Thank you! You can shut up now.”

And A-hole 2 does what A-hole 2 usually does when I start to get agitated at him. “What’s the problem? Why are you getting upset?”… said in a stern tone.

If I tell him, “it’s because you’re being an asshole.” He gets defensive… saying how he was just kidding… only “joking around” and how *I’m* the bad guy for being “too sensitive about it”… and how he didn’t mean anything by it.

Fine, maybe I’m the bad guy. I’ll be A-hole 3, gladly. But maybe… just maybe… I’m not.

I know I’m sensitive. Too sensitive for most of my family’s tastes, that’s for sure.

But being “too sensitive” is not something I’m going to apologize for.

It is fairly hard for most people to insult me intentionally. It is VERY easy for someone to insult me accidentally. My family seems to have mastered both of these aspects.

But 1 thing that none of them seem to have mastered… is differentiating between INTENTIONS and ACTIONS. What you do… and how its interpreted by someone else… can be wildly different.

If he’s just “joking around”, and I’m getting upset… maybe I am too sensitive. Or maybe… just maybe… his words are being “misinterpreted” (to put it kindly)… and if they’re being “misinterpreted” so often… maybe he’s just not as articulate and concise as he thinks he is.

Or maybe he hasn’t figured out that those are sentiments and implications that I … JUST… DON’T… CARE…TO… HEAR. Under ANY circumstances.

Or he doesn’t care.

You’d think that if you know something upsets someone you’re supposed to be close to… you’d be savvy enough to NOT do it or say it.

Yet when he asks, "What's the problem?"... I *can't* explain it. Because its the kind of thing that if you can't figure it out... explaining doesn't do any good.

He sees it as me just pulling away from the family again. I see it as another reason to not like him. I’ve never felt so far away from my “immediate family”. We were closer when I was 4,000 miles away.

So is this an exploration of my own self-esteem… or of my contempt for immediate family? *shrug* Maybe a little of both. Ultimately, I can only take responsibility for myself… so while I may be able to see the beginnings and sources of my hang-ups… throwing blame won’t do any good. What’s done is done. The family doesn’t seem to care to change… and I’m tired of changing to accommodate their NOT changing.

I think one day… I will find working-out to be fun again. I know I’m going through a rough time… and have been for awhile… but I still remain hopeful for myself. Hopeful that I’ll find happiness on MY terms. Because I’m NOT A-hole 3. I’m just me.

Maybe this “wedge” between me and my family will one day be completely cleared away. Maybe not. I lament the fact that I’m not closer to them… and I’ve tried. I’ve tried to be “not so sensitive”… and it doesn’t work. What that means for the future… for my future family and children… I don’t know.

I can only ever come halfway.


Reflections on Hallows Eve...

I love Halloween. I always have… people that know me would not be surprised by this. Yet, for some reason, I don’t think I’m enjoying Halloween as much as I used to. Now, the last 2 Halloweens have flat-out sucked for me… but through no fault of anyone’s, really. One was surrounded by personal drama, and the other, I just didn’t get much of a chance to do anything for it. Oh well… c’est la vie. I’ve had bad Halloweens before, so I always just looked forward to the next year.

I’m not saying I had a BAD Halloween this time around… it was actually okay. For the first time since 1998, I’ve been in New England for Halloween. And in my opinion it’s the absolute best place to be at this time of year. For one, the Autumn leaves are all changing colors, lots of orange, red, yellow leaves around… and it is very pretty. There is a reason people come to see the leaves change, and it’s a good reason. But it also helps provide a nice backdrop to the idea of “Halloween”… there are many areas throughout the whole 6-state region where you actually feel like you’re living in a horror film. There is a VERY good reason why Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft set most of their stories in New England.

This year… I went with some friends to Salem, Massachusetts. Now, logic would tell you that it is the perfect place to be for Halloween. The site of the Salem Witch Trials… all that creepy history… what would be better? Well… this time around… “Logic” is arguable. I think it depends on what you want out of Halloween to figure out if Salem is a great place to go or not. Cause I’m not so sure it’s the place for me anymore.

I’d been there once before… back in 1998… my last Halloween in New England before moving to California. The friend I went with back then had her boyfriend coming into town that night through Boston… so we didn’t stay THAT long in Salem before heading out to South Station to pick him up. But there were literally hundreds of thousands of people all walking around in costume. They shut off all traffic through several streets because there are so many people walking around. It really is a sight to see. The other place I would say is comparable to it is Halloween in West Hollywood… with probably just as many people walking around in costume. The primary difference is that in West Hollywood… most of the costumes are people in Drag.

The only personal qualm I have with THAT has nothing to do with the fact that they’re in Drag… it’s the fact that most of the people there dress in Drag *anyway*… you know, they’re practicing transvestites… so doing it for Halloween is redundant, and just an excuse to do what they do on a normal night out… just with more participants. Halloween is more than that, frankly. I’ve always seen it as an opportunity to dress as something DIFFERENT. To look how you normally wouldn’t look. And preferably… it should also be scary. While dressing in drag might make you scary in several parts of the Midwest… I myself think you can try a little harder. But that’s just me. Anyhoo…

One of the first things we encountered, was the creepiest thing we saw all day or night... I thought. The parking lot attendant. No… he wasn’t dressed in costume. Just an older gentleman sitting by a sign that advertised $10 dollar parking. We pulled in, and he approached us saying meekly and with a very wobbly voice, “You guys know that we charge for parking here?” No problem with that… we knew as we were pulling in… but then I noticed that he had that “just off the medication” look in his eyes and was constantly, blatantly ogling the females in our group… most of whom were dressed pretty conservatively. Hell, they could be dressed as Eskimoes, and this guy still would have been overly-excited. THAT creeped the hell out of me. *shudder* Eww….

Salem was very much like the last time. Roads closed off… hundreds of thousands of people… vendor kiosks all over the place… police driving around these nifty little scooters (okay, they didn’t have *those* last time, but they were neat.)… generally speaking, it was one big party. It kinda surprised me how many stores there were with the “Witch” or a Spooky theme to them… and I’m not talking about the temporary kiosks that people put up… I mean the PERMANENT stores and fixtures. Sweet Jeebus, there were a lot of them… and I *was* expecting several of them, but by gum, that was a LOT. I also know there are several places where practicing Pagans and Wiccans and whatnot gather for their own little ceremony, to pay tribute to all those that were victims in the Salem Witch Trials, etc.

Now… something about that bugs me. Really just on a conceptual level. For one… if you want to talk history… back then, the spot of what is now Salem, Massachusetts… all the way up to around Meredith, NH… (a good 100 mile stretch or so)… that was ALL “Salem, Massachusetts”. So the place where we think the Trials took place… most likely they DIDN’T take place right there. Secondly, I’ve yet to see any evidence that showed that anyone who was executed as a witch from that time… was ACTUALLY a witch. You see, back then… if you accused someone of being a witch, and they were convicted… you got their land. And they pretty much had a 100% conviction rate… due in large part to the “court of public opinion” (all too influenced by gossip)… so if someone said you were a Witch… face it, you’re screwed with no way to defend yourself. So, if some guy was eyeing a nice piece of real estate, and the young widow/single woman didn’t react to your advances for marriage… you call her a Witch, you get her farm. And not just women… men too. No one was safe, quite frankly. If they WERE witches… you could at least say, “Well, it was against the law to be a witch, so they were just acting in accordance to the law.” In which case, you simply say, “The Law Blows”, and we say, “Yeah, they figured that out… that’s why they changed it.” But if they were never breaking any law to begin with… well, that seems a little more heinous to me.

Either way, it’s pretty F-ed up, I’m sure everyone will agree… but now looking at today… with the majority of the town industry being BASED around the perception of these trials (not even the facts)… just seemed kind of… I guess “Sell-out” would be the term. Even all these “spiritual tributes” from modern-day witches (as nice as the idea behind them is)… seems kind of pointless if the accused were never even witches themselves. But I’m always willing to be wrong.

I guess I was expecting/hoping to see something that basically said, “Yeah, our town has this bloody history… so once a year we break it out on Halloween night and try to have a fun time. You know, turn a negative into a positive. Why Halloween? Well, it seemed appropriate.” But to realize that people are trying to cash in on this every day of the year… Yeah, that’s where I start to think “Sell-out”.

But having the Halloween celebration there, despite all this… is not a bad thing. Hell… *I* went. Twice. And it is really a sight to see… so many people in costume. Just the logistics of the gathering is worth seeing. And a lot of people do put some imagination into their costumes… some go all out with the blood and gore, etc… and others… not so much.

You know, on one level, there is *nothing* wrong with “Sexy” costumes… dressing as a sexy nurse, sexy cop, sexy firefighter, sexy army girl, sexy cowgirl, sexy cabaret dancer, sexy schoolgirl, sexy sexy, sexy Nintendo character, sexy hand-lotion… whatever. The (large) part of me that appreciates the female form will admire happily… but I will STILL make one complaint: Not scary.

Though what IS scary is when parents who are accompanying their children to things like this… Letting their 7 year old dress as a sexy/slutty nurse… is F-ing wrong. Just flat-out. I believe that as a general rule for ANY girl whose outfit title contains the word “Sexy”… they shouldn’t wear it unless they’re old enough and big enough so that if they aim for the genitals of sexual assailant… they will double him over, not annoy him. Hell, there should just be a plain test for women… you’re not allowed to wear a slutty outfit, unless you know how to throw a solid punch. Because while freedom of fashion is important… it WILL eventually bring unpleasant consequences… so unless you’re equipped to deal with those consequences, don’t go asking for trouble. Common sense, people!

Alright, alright… coming off the soapbox…

Kids dressing as sluts… it’s like the creepy parking attendant… scary in the wrong way. And Halloween has to be about SCARY. I truly believe that.

I love horror movies… I always have. Truth be told… I hate real-life violence. I’m not crazy about the sight of blood. I don’t like needles. I generally avoid fights, and I’m more apt to put a spider outside than squash it. But I’m fascinated by horror stories and horror films. I think its because it’s a “safe violence”… an artistic expression that helps get frustrations out. Its such a powerful form of art, because someone ELSE can feel expressed or cleansed from witnessing a presentation of that art… the art of horror. If you’re pissed off about something… so much so that you feel the need to hit something… sometimes watching a violent or horror movie can relieve that. It gives and performs the revenge that we wish we could give ourselves… and no one really gets hurt in the end. And all you have to do… is sit and watch it. It releases an “active” urge in a “passive” way.

It can also actively engage your imagination… by NOT showing you certain things. The great filmmakers always knew this. They let your mind fill in the blanks, and next thing you know, you’re in an adrenaline rush of fear… and you never physically moved. Your heart is pumping, you’re breathing quicker… experiencing the thrill of an adventure and danger you’ll thankfully never have yourself.

Some of the best horror movies… are the ones that do just this… and they DON’T show you any blood or gore. One of my favorites, and what I think is one of the best horror movies every made… is The Haunting (the b&w original from 1963). There’s not a drop of blood anywhere in that movie… just story and atmosphere all the way through.

And I think that’s what was missing for me from Salem… Atmosphere. A dark, ominous, moody background… a set stage for a good scary story. Salem is… well… commercial. Stores, kiosks, sausage and pizza vendors, port-o-potties and TOO many people. Really… it was overwhelming. We even left fairly early, and it was getting hard to walk there. And when I think of my favorite horror movies… it was always involving small groups of people… even singular people. It plays on the theme of isolation… being all alone. 400,000 people walking around 1 town at the same time… conceptually doesn’t seem very “isolated”. No real spooky Halloween-type horrors can happen to you when you’re surrounded by people. Even obnoxious drunk ones.

Which becomes ANOTHER qualm of mine. St. Patrick’s Day is for drinking… it was a whole holiday set aside for getting blitzed. So people that use Halloween as just another excuse for getting drunk… doesn’t impress me. Its like the excuse to dress “sexy”. Nothing wrong with it, whatever gets you your Slack. Go for it… Free Country. For me personally… I like to think there’s *more* to it. You can get drunk anyday… this is a day to get “Scared”.

Maybe I consider Halloween to be a chance to actually BE in a horror film… to experience that type of amazing extreme adventure that we can’t get in this world. Not only a chance to imagine going against the fantastic and unknown… but to act out being in it.

That could be why I have such a hard time making Halloween costumes for myself. I didn’t even dress up this year. I put on a “Day of the Dead” shirt I have, loaded up my camera, and just wanted to be a spectator and people-watcher. I always LOVE doing decorations… and being in and making environments to walk through and experience… but dressing up… that won’t scare ME. And if I were in those extreme supernatural situations… I wouldn’t be wearing an annoying, cold, constrictive costume with smelly cream makeup on my face… I would be… Me.

Maybe that’s it… I don’t want to scare. I want to BE scared.

I think the best Halloween I ever had… was very simple. While I did dress up that year, I kept it very simple… and I sat around with a small group of friends, and we told scary stories. I was in undergraduate college… and its one of the fondest memories I have. Even though I was asked to read the most stories (being the “actor”)… telling them was still a way to live through them… and experience those stories like all of those friends that were there to listen. I loved every second of it.

So, I don’t think Salem is for me. Maybe I’ll go back next year… who knows? But right now, I know what I’d prefer… a cloudy night, with the moon peeking through… sitting by candlelight with a select few… reveling in the gloom… savoring the chills up your spine… feeling the heartbeat increase ever so slightly… and then laughing in relief along with good companions.

Yeah… simplicity is what it’s all about.