Big Fat Memories
The first time I remember being made fun of for being overweight was in the fourth grade. We were all made to weigh in PE class and I weighed the most. 186 Pounds. I was so embarrassed and Mr. Hayes made no attempt to keep our weight confidential. The name calling I started to receive was very painful. Mr. Hayes didn't seem to notice, in fact he would make things difficult most of the time. I didn't like taking my shirt off in front of people, and Mr. Hayes knew it! But during basketball practice for the 3rd and 4th grade basketball team he decided that we would play shirts Vs. skins. Skins had to play without a shirt. I remember hoping and praying that he would put me on the shirts team, but of course Mr. Sensitive said...”Anderson! Skins”. There was absolutely no way I was playing without my shirt. Already the kids teased me by saying that I needed to wear a bra, and now I have to show them my big boy breast? Uh, no...not happening. I made a decision at that point to walk away from practice. I left the building without saying a word, walked home, made myself a sandwich, and watched TV. I was no longer on the team. This was the first of many instances throughout my childhood where my weight made things bad. I eventually became a class clown and pretended that the teasing didn't bother me. If I made the class laugh, even if it was at my expense, I was being accepted and liked I thought. But when the teasing turned into bullying, I decided I didn't want to be there. I gave my mom so much trouble about going to school it's a wonder how I ever made it out of my elementary years on schedule. Back then I was the only fat kid in school. Seriously, I was the one and only. Sadly, that's not the case these days. Every time I drive by a school playground I wonder how many kids are out there going through what I did as an overweight kid.
As a young adult I used my sense of humor to shield my true feelings about my weight. My heroes were John Candy and John Goodman, and they were pretty cool characters. Everybody likes the funny fat guy! So I became one. I think this self-acceptance as the big funny guy has contributed significantly to me stay fat all these years. I'll always have my sense of humor and I don't have to rely on my weight to have it! I can always be just the funny guy, instead of the big funny guy. I can't wait to get to know the trim and fit Sean, the Sean that is more outgoing and energetic, the Sean that's been hiding inside me all these years.
As an adult the bullying has stopped and aside from the occasional friendly fun-loving jab here and there, the teasing has stopped. But the social effects and occasional discrimination that comes from being overweight never cease. The following is probably the worst example of fat discrimination I've ever been through. Back in 1994 I was sending out air-check tapes to stations around the region . First off let me say, in radio—a good air-check can trump anything on your resume. The bottom line: How do you sound on the air? I was very excited when a program director of a big station in a decent sized city called after listening to my tape. We talked for ten or fifteen minutes and right there on the phone, without ever meeting me face to face, I was hired. We loaded up the station wagon and a u-haul trailer and I was moving the family to Ft. Smith where a full time salaried position waited my arrival. I remember listening to the station as we got closer and getting so excited. It was a great sounding station and I was on my way to be a part of it. When we got to town we checked into a motel and immediately started looking for a place to live in the classifieds. The next day I left Irene and the girls in the motel room and drove to the studios. When I met the PD face to face I knew something was wrong. He acted very strange...certainly not the same guy I talked to on the phone. He didn't seem real excited to see me and I didn't understand why at first. Then he started introducing me to the air-staff. This was a big country station and everyone on the air had one thing in common: They looked good in Wranglers and boots. I couldn't believe it, everyone looked like they were aspiring country artist. Everyone played the part and I felt so out of place. I was a big fan of country music and could be a good country disc jockey, but I didn't own a pair of Wranglers, and if I did they weren't going to look good, I promise! I trained that night with my replacement knowing that the very next night I would be on my own. Everything went fine until the next day. When I showed up I was immediately approached by the PD, he said he needed to talk to me in his office. He told me that the guy that was leaving had changed his mind. I thought to myself, “Really? You mean the guy that told me last night that he couldn't be happier that he was leaving?”. Wow, I wonder what changed his mind? He went on to tell me that he was very sorry, but he would be more than happy to keep me on as a part-time weekend announcer for an hourly wage. I was horrified. My wife and kids were sitting in a motel room that we couldn't afford and we were searching for a place to live, that I suddenly wouldn't be able to pay for on a part time weekend announcer wage. I couldn't believe my ears. I sat outside in the car for a long time before I drove back to the motel in downtown Ft. Smith. I knew exactly what had happened. I didn't fit the image of the station. I was too fat. I certainly wasn't the Wranglers, boots, and cowboy hat wearin' type they wanted. I guess my tape must have sounded like I was a real cowboy. If I had been thin, I could've dressed the part, but I wasn't...it wasn't me. And I bet that PD has never hired anyone site un-seen since.
I tell these stories not because I want sympathy, I don't. In fact I've laughed about the Ft. Smith situation many times since. I remember and share these stories because it helps me “want it” even more. I want it now more than ever. I believe you have to want it really bad to make it through. Recalling these memories isn't really painful, they just add fuel to my desire to end my battle with obesity once and for all, and I'm doing that now one day at a time.
We had a fantastic meal tonight. Marinated and grilled lemon pepper chicken with garlic mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables. It had some amazing flavor with an entire plate calorie count of only 460. That's awesome! Now we're off to the walking trail for another mile. A very nice Day 13 in the books.