There were only thirty minutes of school left. I was sitting in Algebra class. The teacher was teaching us how to FOIL, but like any champion fourteen year old nerd, the only thing on my mind was what episode of Dragon Ball Z would be airing on Toonami when I got home.
I had an after school ritual that went a little something like this: crack open a bag of Andy Capps Hot Fries, pop open a can of Mountain Dew Code Red, and then plop in front of the TV. I'd watch Pokémon, ReBoot, Gundam Wing, Ronin Warriors — whatever was on, it didn't matter.
This ritual held me together.
But today it fell apart.
And so did I.
Two girls sitting to my right started giggling. I looked over at them. They looked back at me.
It was one of those awkward…
I’m pretty sure you’re looking at me because you want me to know that you’re laughing at me but I can’t say anything because if you aren’t laughing at me then it makes me look self-absorbed
I was a huge introvert. Errr, I guess “was” isn’t the best word to use because, umm, I still am rather introverted. And, as any good introvert knows: selective ignorance is an important survival tactic. But I (somehow) broke through my filter.
“What’s up? What’s so funny?” I asked.
What happened next is something I can’t forget.
(Trust me, I've tried.)
The girls looked at each other, holding back their laughter. One of them poked her head in my direction. Her face scrunched into one of those “well, yeah, of course the blueberries are blue” postures.
As if what she was about to say was absurdly obvious.
“You have girl boobs,” she said.
And then my ego was all
But you know what hurt even more than being told I had girl boobs (by someone with actual girl boobs)?
I knew I had girl boobs.
I had cheerio sized wrists. Chunky love handles. String bean arms. A sunken upper chest. And, uhhh, oh, yeah, them there moob thingies.
By the way…
I still have cheerio sized wrists. I can wrap my hand around my wrist and touch pinky finger to thumb.
I was a combination so unique that only Emeril Lagasse could have cooked up such a magnificent blend of lanky and muffin top.
I didn’t know what I was.
(Besides depressed, of course.)
But I knew I didn’t like my body. And I did everything I could to hide. I got pretty good at it, too.
I used to wear an undershirt to disguise the true shape of my body. And, as a bonus, I only had to change my over shirt on gym class days. So I didn’t have to show my soft and flabby stomach to everyone as I disrobed in the locker room.
Needless to say, I didn't play any sports. I've lied my way out of every pool party since I was eight years old, which was the age when I first remember feeling self-conscious about my body.
And I didn't really do anything about it until I was eighteen, meaning all of the fantastic feelings (SARCASM, FOLKS) I had for my body clumped up inside of me, sat down, and just…fermented.
Just one big bolus of beliefs in the pit of my stomach, bathing me in toxic fumes every single day. For ten years.
Can't you tell where my confidence comes from, guys?
And now you're probably wondering, “Oh great, how's he going to climb out of this awkward hole he's dug himself?”
I don't know.
I don't think I can.
Telling you those things is good for perspective, I think.
I'm second guessing myself. What else is new?
It might seem strange for an adult male to admit to such defeating body image problems. The cultural inkling (that even feminists share) goes like this: males wake up every day and are ready to conquer the world.
But I wasn't about conquering.
I was about cowering.
Into a corner. And shriveling up there until I died, as long as I was able to watch AKIRA. Or Vampire Hunter D. (Also viable options: playing Zelda or Mega Man.)
As I was wading through the thicket of the Internet in order to find out how to change my body (at age eighteen), I saw an article written on Kelly Baggett’s website (Higher Faster Sports) for skinny-fat ectomorphs.
I didn't know what a “skinny-fat ectomorph” was, but I immediately self-identified with the label.
“This is me. I just know it. I am skinny-fat.”
My arms were like toothpicks, hence skinny.
There was a spare tire around my waist, hence fat.
I was skinny.
I was fat.
It made sense to me.