The tea, the gossip, the 411, the skinny— is that I’m not.
First, let me tell you what this isn’t. This isn’t a piece on my self-deprecation or how I’m going to strive to meet a goal of a six pack, or eat kale for six weeks (I hate kale). This is my observation of how I feel about being gay fat.
Don’t tell me that I’m not. In the hierarchy of gay culture, I’m on the totem pole somewhere around fat friend meets motherly and sassy figure— the confidant with an exuberant personality, flamboyant gesticulation, and jokes.
There is plenty of room in my daily routine to become more active and lead a healthier lifestyle. I attend yoga frequently but not as often as I would like; being on-the-go makes it difficult to make regular classes. And I despise running— from the cops? Maybe. And even then, I’m calling a cab.
I’ve had to shave for my new gig, because of an antiquated belief that a certain type of oxygen mask won’t adhere properly to a face obscured (and beautified) by facial hair. This, in turn, has made me very self-conscious— my beard has been with me since I realized I could grow it some eight years ago. My lack of face weave opens up more body image insecurities. I’m not used to seeing my face so barren; I feel like it highlights my dental imperfections in addition to looking prepubescent. The skin under my beard hasn’t seen the sun in nearly a decade.
All of these concerns are issues on their own. But the fact that I’m moving to a more cosmopolitan area exacerbates and confounds it all. Chicago has a very vibrant gay scene, and I can’t wait to twirl on my own through Boystown. With that, though, comes the superficiality and vapidness of which we are all guilty. When I’ve visited in the past, the plethora of Adonis type men has been mesmerizing— but now that I am making it my home throws me in the arena. This ain’t my first rodeo, and normally I can hold my own when it comes to the politics of gay men. But anticipating the sheer number of stunning men against my not-fab flab is overwhelming.
Perhaps the move will pressure me to change a few things about my quasi-sedentary lifestyle. Is that, in and of itself, living inauthentically? Maybe I’ll move and change on my own terms as opposed to being ridiculed into thinness.
A cornerstone of this exploration is that I give a valiant effort not to compare myself to others. The previous picture of some random guy I saw at a bar highlights our stark differences. He’s ripped. Gorgeous. And then there’s Berta with the pudge and fur. The battle becomes not to admonish myself over his appearance.
And don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I’m a shell of a person who doesn’t feel bouts of sexiness now and then. But I feel slighted by many men based purely upon my lack of definition. But Berta, you think, the bear community would accept you as you are with your hairy gut. True. And I love the bears— but I’m on the fringes of their subculture. Others have identified me as a cub or an otter; neither fits my persona.
On the flip-side, I don’t feel like a pretty boy. I don’t feel like exerting the effort to become one, either. Greasy tacos taste too good. Buffets are bountiful challenges— finding that balance of enjoying food and not abusing it is an uphill climb.
My mom took me shopping for big-boy work clothes, as I didn’t have a professional wardrobe outside of my pilot uniform. I stood in Banana Republic, ashamed and frustrated— mediums were too constrictive and larges had me swimming. She consoled me and said that I “just have broad shoulders like my dad.” (Cue the husky scene from Sordid Lives). Be that as it may, I think I should be a size small given my height. I bought a scarf instead.
So that’s where I stand. Day by day, I scan my body for how its feeling. Some days, I caress it and think Yaaaaas, kween. You are rocking it! Other days, I want to wrap up in my biggest cardigan and hide my tub of lard. But like the debacle of my shirt size, I fit somewhere in the middle.
Please, please, spare me the “You’re beautiful! Love yourself!” comments. I’ll accept them, graciously, but that’s not why I wrote this— whether or not you’re patronizing me. I wrote it because my perception changes constantly. I could put on my angry feminist voice and yell about positive body image— but I know that I could be healthier. I could point a finger toward my fellow gay men about dismantling our worship of sculpted bodies— but that would make me a hypocrite if and when my body takes on a different form. At minimum, I am attempting to unravel this layered topic out loud.