Monday, December 26, 2011

Fat Pants

It was my first school-wide meeting, and I was looking for something profound to say, something memorable.  I wanted my colleagues to remember my point...what I was fighting for.  So I told everyone I worked with that I used to be fat.  And that got their attention.


My first real memory of being outcasted because of my weight was about in third or fourth grade.  Overall, I was lucky...although I was a fat-ass for my age, I was still good at sports and I was funny, so I was usually safe from the name calling or torments that many others my rotund-size weren't.   When I would meet new kids in new situations and one of them would call me a "fattie" or a "lard ass," I wouldn't even have to say a word...a skinny friend of mine would tell the new kid to shut up for me.  

Unfortunately, this didn't save me on a regional all-star soccer team I was on.  I didn't know anyone,  and I remember one kid in particular made fun of my "boobs" when we played shirts and skins. Comment after comment.  Tearing me down.  I got to listen to this kid talk about how much my chest jiggled when I ran.  

After a few weeks of this, I "accidentally" leg tackled him during practice.  He was lying on the ground, crying.  I was standing over him with a smirk on my "fat face."  Between his tears, he stared up at me and called me more names...but that was the last day he said anything to me about my weight.  The other kids kept commenting on what a crybaby he was...and he stopped coming to practice a few weeks later.

And we were what, 10?


I told my colleagues that I had broken my collarbone while biking about a year prior.   And as the weeks passed, I noticed that I had to go further and further to the right in my closet to find clothes that would fit my growing body.   I could see in their eyes that they wanted to know what connection I was making to our students.  They wanted to know what this story had to do with them.


I got fatter the older I got.  I still played sports.  My sense of humor didn't change.  But as I moved into my teens,  these things didn't save me anymore.  

Junior High had to be the absolute worst years of my life.  I recently moved to a new school and I knew zero people.  Those "crimes" combined with the fact that I was about thirty pounds overweight was a daily nightmare for me.  On the bus to school, skinny kids used to stick shit in my ears and make pig sounds at  me.  One Latino kid in particular (who, in my head, I nicknamed "Monkey Boy" because his lips were so chapped, it looked like he had monkey lips) bent my headphones -- the ones I listened to, to help me try ignore their comments -- in half one day...all because I weighed more than he did.  I remember at that moment, that somewhere deep inside of me, I felt something I had never felt before.  My self-pity changed into hatred....and I dreamed of ripping the shirt off of monkey boy and making him eat it.  A fuse had been born.  All I needed was a match.


I got a few laughs out of my colleagues when I mentioned that, since I couldn't exercise, I became resigned to wearing "my fat pants."  And I realized one day, while I squeezed into these pants, that life was all about perspective.  If the only pants I could fit into were my fat pants...then those weren't actually my fat pants at all.  They were simply my pants.


In high school, I had to take the bus home and walk about a mile from the bus stop to my house.  There was a kid from the water polo team who lived by me that had to do the same walk.

Every day we would walk home together.

And every day he would call me names for twenty minutes.

He didn't look at me as a person. He looked at me as a toy.  A game:  Twenty Minutes of Torment.  But I respected him because at least I knew where I stood.

Some people were nice to me in front of teachers or other friends...but when we were alone, they would throw stuff at me or hit me or push me into walls when no one was looking.  Even at 14 or 15, I had little respect for people who were too afraid to show their true colors in front of everyone else.  It made me distrust a lot of people who were fake...who were phonies...Holden Caulfield had it right.


I ended my school-wide speech connecting my fat pants to our students.  I told my colleagues that I didn't have fat pants.  I just had pants.  And we didn't have smart students, who deserved an education, and not-smart students, who deserved our pity.  In fact, we just had students, and it wasn't up to us to classify them as being acceptable or unacceptable at all.  The fact was they were students no matter what kind of label we tried to put on them.


The last day I was ever made fun of for being fat in high school was after about three months into doing that twenty-minute walk with that water polo guy.  I was on the verge of losing my baby fat.  I was on the verge of looking more "normal."  But I wasn't there yet.  One more thing had to happen.

I was turning the handle on my front door and for whatever reason, the water polo guy finally supplied me with a match.  He made some comment about me being "too fat to live."  He probably didn't know that my dad had recently died. My overweight dad, I should say.

I turned around, walked up to him, and got in his face.  I told him to shut up and leave me alone and somewhere I heard a ticking.

He told me to shut my "fat mouth"...and I heard an alarm go off...and I hit him.  Right in the eye.

He fell over.

Passed out.

And I was afraid that I killed him.

He woke up a few minutes later and went home crying.  But he never bothered me again.


I don't fit in my fat pants least, not right now.  But my journey has taught me one thing -- never stop fighting for what you believe in no matter what anyone else says.