When I finished my ride last Wednesday, my neighbor took notice of my new cycling jersey, a brand new Fatcyclist.com jersey that I got for Christmas. In big, bold letters on the front and the back is the name "FATCYCLIST". My neighbor chuckled and said, " I like your shirt, but it doesn't suit you anymore." I was touched by this simple statement, and it was very uplifting to me. As much as I espouse that I think I look thin, I more often than not look at myself in pictures and in the mirror and see a chubby person looking back.
Since the beginning I have always been able to admit that I was a fat kid. If one only knew me in junior high and high school, they may not think that, but from first to fifth grade I was a fat kid. And it has always been the events in my life that took place during those few short years that have shape how I look at myself ever since. Many times when I look in the mirror, I see that sad, chubby little kid looking back at me.
I remember my parents had bought me a nice yellow hoodie and had my last name and the number 7 (my favorite at the time) printed on the back. I liked the sweatshirt and I wore it a lot. Then one day in 3rd grade art class one of the girls pointed to the back of my shirt and said as she giggled, "Hehe, Ful-ton. You're a full ton!" Then another kid chimed in, "No, he's seven full tons! Ha Ha Ha!" I don't think I cried, but I wanted to, and I am sure that I wore the sweatshirt again, but I never liked it as much.
When we were picking teams on the basketball court at recess, to other big guys and myself got lumped together and the others kids called us the "Hillbillies" because I guess they thought hillbillies were fat. Again, I never cried but I also never forgot being excluded and labeled because of my weight.
But the worst was something that is still uncomfortable to talk about. I was riding to my aunt and uncle's house across country by car with my mom, sister, and a family friend. We were somewhere in the middle of Nowhere, Kansas or Nebraska. I had been listening to my Walkman and staring out the window for what seemed like days. When suddenly on the horizon I saw those golden arches and with joy in my heart said, "Can we go to McDonald's?" I realize that it had only been a few hours since we had last eaten, by I was young, growing, fat, and fucking bored! McDonald's sounded like a great idea to me. My request was met with a response that I did not expect from a person that I did not expect. But the family friend, driving the car at the time said, "God, does that kid ever stop eating?" I am sure that she never meant anything by it the statement and was probably just as frustrated and bored with the trip as I was, but that statement crushed me. It was bad enough getting harassed by the kids at school, but here was an adult bagging on the fat kid! I immediately put on my sunglasses and began to weep behind the lenses. I remember turning to look at my sister and while she had sympathy in her eyes, she shook her head as if to say, "Don't cry. It's gonna make it worse." But I couldn't help it and soon my tears were audible as I sniffled. My mom turned to ask me what was wrong, and I blurted out "I'm sorry that I'm hungry!" And unfortunately, my mom was in an unfortunate situation of being stuck between her son and a friend. We eventually pulled off at McDonald's and got a cheeseburger for me. While we waited my mom asked me to stop crying because our friend felt really bad. And I am sure that she did, and so did everyone else, and so did I. I attempted to stop crying, but there I was a fat kid stuffing his face with McDonald's as he wept behind sunglasses. I felt terrible that I was hungry, but when I feel terrible I want to stuff my face. I remember the cheeseburger tasted a lot like shame with dash of salt from my tears.
I hate still feeling like that fat kid. I hate seeing fat kids get picked on in movies. It took me years to finish Lord of the Flies because of the way the other kids treated Piggy. I was taking a look a the upcoming Ebertfest line-up and I noticed a review of one of the movies, "Terri". It is the story of a fat kid that gets bullied in school. I sounds like it has some heart-warming parts, but I don't think I will ever watch it.
I want to look at myself the way my neighbor looks at me, not fat. But sometimes I wonder if I will ever get rid of that kid in the mirror.