Still the Fat Kid — Part II
The summer before starting the 9th grade I grew taller, which spread out the fat on my body in a way that made me look slimmer. The reality was, I’d never been heavier. I had also been playing guitar for over a year and with dreams of becoming a rock star I started to grow my hair. Nearing two hundred pounds with hair that desperately wanted to be long, but just didn’t quite hit the threshold yet, I started my final years of public education looking and feeling in between things. I was in between completely fat and normal size. I was in between a guy who wanted to look like a rock star and one that did. And, I was in between thinking I knew who I wanted to be and absolutely knowing. That last one I’m not sure I’ve ever achieved.
There was a new school to adjust to, hundreds of new strange faces to size up, a new locker number to memorize and the peak stages of puberty to overcome. I became more self-conscious than ever about how I looked. For the first time I had an interest in fashion and style trends. I wanted to fit in, I wanted to dress better and even more so I wanted the girls that I was into to be into me back.
At the time the most popular jeans were made oddly enough by a Japanese denim manufacturer called Big John. For some mysterious reason the trend setters on Long Island embraced and used these overpriced blues as status symbols. They were insanely expensive for the late 1980s middle class and they created a social order of aristocrats and untouchables. Despite my guitar playing, heavy metal loving, long haired denim jacket with patches past life in junior high, I knew the girls I was attracted to were not attracted to what ever the hell I was looking like. I needed a pair of Big John jeans. I needed to be touchable. Big problem. These Japanese jeans were designed for small frame tiny Japanese people with no ass. They didn’t even come in sizes close to big enough to fit around my waist. In fact, I couldn’t even get a pair up past my thighs. I know this because I tried one day. It was supremely depressing and something had to be done.
With a bruised self-confidence I made it through this first year of high school feeling worse about myself than I ever had. Nothing terrible happend. This was all self-inflicted misery and I was convinced it was all tied to how much I weighed. The summer came and I had only one plan, lose a lot of weight. No matter what I had to do I was starting tenth grade as a skinny person. I had less than three months to do it so extreme measures would have to be taken. I didn’t know much about fitness, but my parents had an old beat up stationary bike in their bedroom, I knew what a pushup was even if I couldn’t do many and I understood the concept of calories in calories out. Every day I hit that bike for an hour and sweat my ass off.
I wasn’t allowed to run still because of my hip surgery two years earlier, so this uncomfortable bike and the metabolism of a 15 year old was all I had. Well, that and starving myself, a lethal combination for shedding pounds.
I definitely failed at getting proper nutrition the entire summer with such horrible eating habits like starving all day and eating three chocolate Entenmann’s donuts at night. There was always a box of them in my house growing up and they were irresistible even when I wasn’t pretending to be a prisoner at Auschwitz. The outside coating is more like wax than chocolate and the dough underneath has the consistency of Styrofoam, but damn are those donuts good.
I definitely lost weight faster than what doctors would say is safe. With only the summer to complete my transformation I had no other choice. It was obsessive exercise and obsessive calorie counting. If it went in I burned it off. I had no concept of base metabolic rates or the fact that starvation leads to a metabolism shut down making it harder to lose pounds. I suffered more than I needed to because I didn’t know the right way to do any of this. Calories were the enemy and I killed them mercilessly.
I lost forty pounds by the time school started again. I would never recommend losing weight the way I did, but it got the job done and I was healthy enough to handle whatever bad shit I was doing to my body. I hope.
The weeks before tenth grade started I felt the confidence growing. I still had some getting in shape to do, but that didn’t stop me from dressing in tighter close and wanting to show off what I’d done to myself. For the rest of the summer I lived in tight shorts and tank tops. I even wore skintight bicycle shorts to a birthday party one afternoon. Looking back, I know I didn’t look good in them, but for the first time I wasn’t scared of people seeing my body. Even if I wasn’t yet the physical specimen I hoped to be, I was a thousand times better than before in my mind. The bicycle shorts weren’t as much a fashion statement as a confidence statement. I hit a milestone and wanted to wear something I would never have dreamed of wearing at the beginning of that summer. I even turned sweatshirts into muscle shirts and went in pools without my t-shirt on. The compliments came flying in from friends. Even some of the girls I was interested in were wide-eyed at my transformation. Everyone could have easily been talking shit about me behind my back, but to my face they were all compliments and congratulations and I felt great. I knew in my heart this was the true beginning of my life. Everything was going to be different from this point forward. Girls, success, popularity, and all the other things that the secret society of skinny people benefits from I would now experience. They would welcome me with open arms as one of their own and life would be a dream.
I needed all new clothes for the new school year and my parents seemed happy to spend all that money to get my new skinny guy clothes. I even bought not one, but two pairs of Big John Jeans. On the first day of tenth grade I put on a pair of those jeans, a nice button down shirt and I walked into a world that would be forever changed. The thing is, nothing changed.