11.21.2007

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.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I may be way out in left field here, but I love to psycho-analyze. That's my thing. I'm guessing the root of your problems with a-holes 1 & 2 are simply due to the fact that they may have low self-esteem themselves. They may at one point, even now, struggle with their weight or appearance? but their personalities don't lend themselves to "getting personal" about it so they mask it with insults towards someone who IS sensitive.
Now, I delve a bit into astrology, so I hope you don't mind. By reading your other blogs you sound like a Cancer to me...I'm guessing your brothers are maybe a libra, capricorn, or pisces?
Even if I'm wrong I bet a lot of the animosity may be aggravated by the fact that you DID start out on your own sooner than they did. They probably have "cush" jobs but did they ever really follow their dreams? Or were they too chicken? maybe they see your courage as a threat and envy you a little because they've never been able to challenge themselves and now their own goals are slipping away.
My theory is when people insult me, they're doing it because they're hurting and "misery loves company".
Like I said, I may be completely wrong, but I figured I'd let you have some food for though.
If it's worth anything, I admire your talent and intellect. You sound like someone I'd get along with fabulously :)

V. Riley said...

Wow... you are right on a few things: I *am* a Cancer, and 1 & 2 are a Libra and Gemini respectively. Neither of them seem to struggle with their weight, that seemed to be all mine.

Thank you for your compliments, I appreciate it, and for the food for thought.

Mmmmmm.... thinking food....

Anonymous said...

hmmm...Gemini. That would've been my 4th guess if I knew a bit more about him. I'll bet he's the one that can talk his way out of any situation, thinking he's all "intellectual" and clever.
I hope you find peace with your siblings, and your family altogether.

I also hope you keep writing, you have amazing talent. (and being a voyeur myself I love to have a window into people's lives) especially those with a brain.
Hope to have something to "peek" in on soon!

- just a girl

Anonymous said...

My questions is...where were your parents when your brothers were acting like this? Did they not know about it?
I have 2 younger brothers and we picked on each other sometimes, but we were never allowed to be cruel...if we were, we were punished.

I agree with anonymous girl...I think your brothers have very low self-esteems. Most people who are truly confident don't feel the need to belittle others.

On another note, I am a Capricorn...and I think I am quite nice.

-H

V. Riley said...

I'm sure they knew... they just saw it as "picking on" and "teasing" rather than "cruel", as you said. In fact, if THEY were in my position, they would probably have ignored it completely. I've never been able to let stuff roll off my back like they can.

Let's not try to paint the whole immediate family as monsters... Parents did the best they could with what they had and what they knew. Yeah, my Dad can't emotionally express himself if his life depended on it, but what's done is done. Ultimately, I'm the man I am, so I can't think they completely botched the job.

And A-holes 1 & 2 *have* grown and changed themselves (though not always readily apparent... I'm sure they think the same of me).

Keep in mind that everything I say, and everything anyone says, is always one-sided. I do my best to call it down the middle... the facts of what happened and how *I* interpreted it. Cause that's all I can do.

So don't go taking out their kneepcaps if you see them on the street. ;) (I'm just sayin) :D

fritz said...

You're right--you can't change them. You can only control yourself (or attempt to)--some people are better at this than others.

I would agree that your particular family suffers from being in a rut. Everyone is still playing the roles they had 30 years ago. Part of it's probably that if they can't see the problem, then it doesn't exist. In babies and toddlers, this is referred to as object permanence, and it's a huge developmental milestone when they realize that just b/c Mama's out of sight, she still exists, and will come back. Sounds like your family is a bunch of habit-bound ostriches. On the surface, it's way easier for them to hide behind a veil of contentment (or general dislike) so they can pretend everything's fine (or at least typical). That way they don't have to face the ugly facts that a)they're not perfect b)they aren't always nice c)you might be a better person than they are (better being a highly subjective term).

I would guess they've never given much thought to how they phrase things. If they did, they would be using words that lined up better with their benevolent intentions. As is, they're suffering from a lack of empathy. It really shouldn't matter *why* you get upset when they're joking; just that you do get upset *should* be enough to clue them in to stop. But then there's the whole negative attention being better than no attention thing (why lots of little kids "misbehave"). They know which buttons to push to get a rise out of you, so they keep pushing those same buttons.

When you get around to procreating, you'll discover you're a good father. How do I know? Because you're already thinking about this stuff. You don't want to deliberately mess up your kids by continuing unhealthy patterns. That's half the battle--recognizing there's a problem. The other half is the pisser--actually changing your own pattern of behavior..easy enough when you're well-rested and calm, but when you're sleep deprived and upset, you'll find yourself reverting to the freak-show things your family did to you. Scary beyond belief, but still possible to change.

Check out the forums on mothering.com (yes, there are some dads on there too)...specifically the gentle discipline forum. As with anything, there's a whole spectrum ranging from incredibly child centered (consensual living--nutshell is everyone in the family has a say) to parent centered, but b/c it's all under the gentle discipline umbrella, all those parents are trying to raise their kids without hitting (spanking), shaming, yelling, etc. They actually want to treat their kids with the respect that all humans deserve. Anyway, lots of the parents there found the forum when they realized they had issues with their own childhoods that were interfering in their current family dynamics. There are several book recommendations geared specifically towards working through your own issues so you have more of a clean slate w/ your kids.

rickieblue said...

for some reason, i just barely read this post. i relate to it quite a bit, because my relationship with my brother is very much on the "you're too fucking sensitive, get over it" vein you described. i actually copied it into an email and sent it to him, hoping that it would help him to understand why i don't speak to him anymore. thanks for posting!