October 25, 2011

Weighing In


“I’m happy being single. I don’t mind it at all. Besides, I’m a senior. I’m not going to get into a serious relationship only to have it end a few months down the road.”

^That may be biggest load of crap I’ve ever let fall from my mouth. Is single life terrible? Nowhere near as bad as some people make it out to be. I’m not dying to be in relationship and I’m clearly functioning normally without a significant other. But am I truly happy? Not at all. I’ve rationalized to myself that I shouldn’t even entertain the thought of being in a relationship this year because I am a senior.

Here’s the truth behind it: I feel inadequate.

What do I mean by inadequate? Basically, think of any kind of insecurity someone can have. Chances are, I have it or some form of it. I’m very insecure about many aspects of myself. Biggest one: weight. This has been more of an issue for me in the past year or so and gets especially difficult around Halloween (which is why all of this has been on my mind).

For Halloween my freshman year, I was… a Chippendale stripper. Yes, feel free to fire any judgment at me you want. I had the bow tie, cuff links, short shorts, and everything else (nothing else). The only reason I was able to pull it off was because I was in the best shape of my life back then. I ran track for 3 years in high school and stayed active during the summers by volunteering at the local YMCA. My job was to play with the kids in the gym or outside. Staying in shape while eating whatever I wanted was never a problem for me. I could down 4 pieces of fried chicken, 2 whole corns on the cob, a hefty serving of green beans, large portion of fried okra, finish it off with a big slice of cake with ice cream and never gain a pound (I’m from Georgia. This was my regular dinner). Needless to say, that doesn’t work if you become less active like I did once getting to Duke. That, combined with the addition of alcohol into my diet, began to cause a steady weight gain and I haven’t been the same size since. Each year brings a few more pounds until Chippendale stripper becomes Theodore from Alvin and the Chipmunks.

Now, it’s not a far stretch to say that having a little more meat on your bones makes it difficult to find lasting relationships in the gay male community. When every other conversation is about how many calories you just ate or how you’re dying because you haven’t been to the gym in two days, it’s difficult to believe that people actually care about something other than physical appearances. I stand by and smile as though nothing’s wrong, but on the inside, I’m crying. I’m crying because I feel like I’m not good enough simply because of my weight. I feel as though no one will actually pay attention to me until I drop about 30 pounds. I cry because I feel like I’m in the minority of gay males who don’t place such heavy emphasis on the exact specifications necessary in a significant other (Oh yay! Another minority group! That’s just what I needed to feel like a regular member of society (-___-)). To make things even better, I get placed in a body type category which has its own stereotypes. Seems like everything in a gay man’s world is weight-centric and it pisses me off to no end. Don't we already have enough categories within our community already? Why do we feel the need to create more labels and more categories to further separate us? I don't understand why I can't just be a guy, and not a bear cub. That extra label tells you absolutely nothing about who I am as a person besides giving you insight into my weight.

I know this all a load of crap though. I know that I’m actually not overweight, like I’m actually a very average weight. It just really sucks when I look at other people and feel like I shouldn’t eat anything for the next month. It’s so hard to stay true to myself when society keeps telling me that I need to change. It’s even worse when people I’m around become physical manifestations of that force. It’s easy enough to give the big middle finger to an abstract concept, but when that abstract concept is personified in an actual person I’m interacting with, that big middle finger finds itself limp by my side. Part of me thinks that if I want to survive in this gay world, then maybe I need to adapt partially to it while retaining who I am at the core. But that’s not me. I don’t even know if that’s possible. I change for no one… at least, I hope not.

7 comments:

  1. A.J,

    Firstly,
    Thanks for sharing. Stuff like this is hard to talk about, and I appreciate you putting yourself out there like this.

    Second,
    You aren't overweight. I know you said that you consciously acknowledge that fact, but I want to reinforce it a little.

    Third (and most importantly),
    You do not have to modify who you are. I mean, isn't that the very reason why things like the out LGBT community, pride parades, the center, and this blog exist in the first place? We're all people who refused to modify ourselves to fit into society's prescribed roles. I don't see how the same logic would not extend to body type. Labels like that have no relevant informational value, and are there for useless and pointless. Self modification is not necessarily a bad thing, but only when it is an urge to improve something about yourself that originates in your own mind. External pressures should not be a cause for self modification. I know this is a very idealistic argument and the real world works in terms of shades of gray and compromise, but I still think you should do you as much as possible. I, for one, like you as you are. Chin up buddy :-).

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  2. AJ Biggers, you are beautiful in every sense of the word.

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  3. Blawrgh. /ditto. /thank you for putting this out there.

    Similarly, I was in good shape arriving at college, and I gained some, lost some, gained it back, ... seems like this might go on for a while.

    Perhaps what I hate the most is on some level I almost felt as though I wouldn't *deserve* to have a boyfriend unless I had lost some weight, which is in some ways self-fulfilling (there's much to be said also about confidence, but at least for me and you, it's super tough to have confidence when you (/I) *feel* overweight, even if it's not the case).

    A thousand sighs. I'm conflicted, because I feel like I should put myself out there, being in the prime of my life or whatever, but like I shouldn't until I'm in super shape--but in the meantime I'm losing daylight. I've tried and mostly succeeded as rationalizing it that I'm just not looking for that right now, but that's kind of how it will always be.

    I guess honesty is the best policy? Surely there are those like us who feel that the weight-centric categories are absurd. Who knows; maybe I'll get myself out there again. Somewhat relatedly, the most realistic, healthy folks are those who have fitness goals based on actual performance, rather than some aesthetic. Keeping that in mind has been helpful to me especially in terms of fitness.

    I wish I had an answer or something more useful, but I definitely feel a similar way/wish this were different.

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  4. A.J., I'm so sorry that people are policing your weight and trying to label you as something you're not. Maybe it's simplistic, but if your average weight and body type is something that people judge you for, then they're not worth your time. It took me a good while to realize that - it kills me a little every time my parents comment on my weight. Anyway, as Athira said above, you are a beautiful person in every way and deserve to be treated as such.

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  5. First and foremost, if you are fat then I died of a heart attack two weeks ago. Though I'm not gay and don't have to deal with the same social pressures, I can understand a lot of the basic sentiment that you are writing about. Often it can be difficult to sort out which mental barriers other people have helped to build and which are of your own design.

    Perhaps the biggest roadblock for me is the fear of rejection on principle, in the sense of "How dare a person like you have the audacity to speak to a person like me!" sense. Although a couple of unfortunate instances certainly didn't help with this mindset, fear can make a person rationalize the behavior of assholes as something a reasonable human being would do.

    This isn't some sort of pep talk designed to change anyone's attitude. AJ, I'm sure you are as cognizant as I am of the feelings I'm talking about. If you're anything like me, the increased self-awareness does surprisingly little to actually prevent those feelings from surfacing. I'm mainly writing to show some solidarity and to say that I understand a part of what you feel, even if I am dealing with it in a different context.

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  6. http://kateharding.net/2009/07/28/beauty/

    Read this. It is helpful.

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  7. Oh AJ, I'm so so sorry that you have ever been made to feel that way. A lot of what motivates me to go to the gym in college is just the fear of going through that again (happened in high school for me). I still feel totally inadequate next to the "always been skinny/never had a caloric gain in my life" girls.

    I kind of use jokes to get through it. Like, "I had a whole leaf of spinach, I'm set for a week" and "No one will love me if I'm fat" ...but the thing is that deep down inside I'm battling with that side of my personality because of being taunted.

    I guess the point of this is that you're definitely not the only one. Even the people who might be making you feel bad (although unaware of it) actually feel exactly how you do.

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