Age 8 – Mom takes me shopping for clothes. I am excited. Mom asks the clothing clerk to help us find some jeans that will fit my size. He measures my waist, then comments to my mother: “He’s a husky boy.”
Age 9 – My family goes to New York to visit my aunt. She comments about my brother’s handsome features. She then turns to me, looks, then announces to my mother: “Mikey is getting fat.”
Age 9 – My first diet. I just stopped eating. Or maybe I just tried to stop eating, but filet-o-fish, brownies, and m&m’s melt well in my mouth.
Age 11 – Recess is torture. Kids tease me. They say that I’m fat, but I can’t be fat because I run fast. Fat kids don’t run fast. I’m faster than all of them in my class. So, I’m not fat.
Age 13 – My friends constantly tease me, “Mike’s got boobs.” Boys give me purple nurples because fat is just fat, and fat has turned into muscle. Yet.
Age 14 – I miss the cutoff for registering for football. I join the wrestling team. It’s a great way to stay in shape. I like that it’s a great way to lose weight.
Age 15 – My chest turns into muscles. I will never be fat again. I hope.
Age 15 – Wrestling season. One day before I must weigh in. I’m weighing 124 pounds. Coach Reid asks if I will make the 119 weight class. I secretly laugh because he doesn’t know my secret: I can lose seven pounds in a day. Three shirts and a sweatshirt, jump rope, run, sweat, spit, jump rope, run, sweat, spit, jump rope, run, sweat, spit. And if you don’t eat at all you can float two pounds over night.
Age 15 – Next day. Weigh in. I am weighing 117 pounds. Time to eat. Time to binge.Then time to get rid of it before the match. So I sit on the toilet until it’s all gone.
Age 16 – I have a spiritual awakening. I find Jesus. I want all of him, because I want none of me. I pray and I fast. And I fast and I fast. And I pray some more. And I fast some more because my body is a temple that must be destroyed. And when it is destroyed, my spirit will be greater. And Jesus will love me more. So I fast some more to gain the Kingdom of God.
Age 16 – My first girlfriend pinches my love handles and nicknames me ‘chubba’. I am still scarred by her playful pet name.
Age 21 – I’m weighing 135 pounds. This is less than my first girlfriend and her mother. They are horrified by this admission. I am proud of this fact.
Graduate school – I’ve gained much weight. I am ugly. I am fat. I recite this mantra secretly. Often.
2010 – Amsterdam with Cecy. I catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror. I look truncated. I wish to be naked. I hate the shape of clothes and how they hug whatever you try to hide. My words begin to spar themselves: You are ugly. I am beautiful. You are ugly. I am beautiful. I am beautiful. You are fat. I am. I am. I am beautiful.
Today – I am onstage, feeling uncomfortable in my skin. Someone takes a photo of me. I see the image, but it is not as distorted as the one in my head. I look better than the sickness in my head. I smile. I’m starting to believe how beautiful it is just to be me.