Tuesday, December 9, 2008

We'll All Go Down Together . . .

Billy Joel has a song, Goodnight Saigon, that talks about how soldiers all sort of have this shared experience and this bond that is truly unbreakable. I prefer Billy Joel's earlier and more "soulful" work vs. his more commercial stuff like Uptown Girl, We Didn't Start the Fire, ironically It's All About Soul, etc. but Goodnight Saigon is probably my favorite Billy Joel song.

Here's why . . . it sort of touches on the idea that you can form tight, permanent and - if need be - morbid bonds with people by sharing just one part, aspect or fraction of your life.

The military, college, 9/11, Kennedy's assassination, surviving a bus with a bomb strapped to it that must stay above 50 MPH for you to survive. You get my point. But what about obesity?!

Is it a shared experience that some how bonds and connects us and should carry us or somehow endear us to each other? Certainly ethnic backgrounds have this effect on people . . . otherwise there would be no "Little (Country)" in most American metropolitan cities and half of all the episodes of Law & Order would have needed better writing. Certainly religion or views on (or away from) God seem to bond us. I've watched The Craft. I get it. As I work more and more with The Arc, I see that developmental disabilities can create a bond between those that have them and those that love people with them. But . . . obesity?!

Here's what I know. In my life I've had two obese parents, three actually obese friends (many of you all are/were pleasently plump . . . but that's all I'm giving you . . . I am not backpedaling from all those times I insisted you were not "fat"), a few obese co-workers.

The truth? I was immediately attracted (emotionally) to and/or felt safer with them because of our shared weight. I am not saying that was the only reason I liked (and/or loved them). I mean two of them were my parents, a few of the heavies were some of the best friends I have ever had and the co-workers were smarter, funnier and more capable, I felt, than many of their thinner contemporaries.

The other side of the truth? I have a wife that is within a healthy range-of-weight. My brothers are both thin. Most of the friends I have had in my life have been thin or on the lighter side of overweight and almost every person I have ever worked with (and many of the co-workers I have admired most like Norma Samson or Lisa Lanspery or Stacy Simpson, etc.) was and still is/are skinny.

But . . . I don't know that I connected myself, emotionally, as quickly to the skinny people as I did my pudgy peeps! I'm sure, as I sit here and type, that I did not. Nope. I think I always prefered, felt a tighter bond with and enjoyed heavier people.

Now - that didn't mean that I was always kinder to those people. No. Quite the opposite. Generally when those people got breaks in life that I did not (note that I call them "breaks" - I leave no room for the person to have earned true opportunities and/or to have had the intellegence, presence, poise and, where appropriate/relevant beauty to get what they got) I resented them double for it?

Look good in bold colors? Pft. Skinny souled bitch!

Find a soulmate? Whatever . . . you'll be on a diet in no time, I'm sure.

Get a promotion? (insert inappropriate musings about "padded knees" here)

Find happiness in any form and actually lose the weight? JUDAS BRUTE ARNOLD!

You see what I'm saying. I was petty. I was so small for being so big.

The idea that I could be one-upped, bested or otherwise challenged by someone that shared my physical disposition and, in most cases, self-esteem deficiency would just crush and infuriate me.

And it worked the other way too. When Joy and I first got together she had a good friend who had once been heavy. He woke up one day, as far as I can tell, and just started losing the weight. He hit the gym. He watched what he ate. He lost the weight. And he hated me for finding a woman who would love me, as Joy did, without me having to shed the weight. I've had people resent me for getting married before them (how DARE I?) and people resent me for having a child before them (how double DARE I?) and I've had people actually express anger that I had gastric bypass and that I'm cleaning up my physical and mental and emotional self.

I am sure I am oversimplifying things here but the point is that being fat does bond us together - in my opinion - and it does give us comfort and enablement and empowerment to be with those that are also heavy but in that bond comes even more pain and anguish when we feel "betrayed" or otherwise "wronged" by someone that we should always agree with . . . right down to which flavor of Ben & Jerry's is best for which type of bad day (I actually had a chart at one point . . . that would make for priceless blog fodder if any of you still have it and want to send it back to me).

I know that many of my friends have been friends for many years. They have seen, in some cases, hundreds of pounds go on my body and a few have seen hundreds come off. No one has experienced the impact of this weight shift - or felt the impacts within our relationship more - than Joy. And she still loves me. No more. No less. I still have good days. I still have bad days. I still have days where I feel good about me and the world is sunny and bright and I still have days where I am not happy so therefore the entire planet should be in misery too. She's a saint and a keeper, this one!

Here's the moral . . . let's take care of each other. Heavy or not. Let's be friends to each other - not because of our weight challenges but in spite of them and let's remember that, inside, our skeltal masses are all approximately the same. Our souls are weightless. Our hearts are fragile and our egos can be limitless.

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