SHAME

The crowd gathered in a small circle after the announcement was made by someone that the meeting was about to begin. In the well-lit dingy auditorium of a nearby high school, each one of the group’s participants took a seat and the one in charge began by laying out some housekeeping rules.

“Alright people, I recognize most of you, but there are some new faces so I’ll go through the preliminaries. Sharing is optional so don’t feel like you have to say anything if you’re not ready. For those of us that know each other and have been here longer than a few months, we may push and prod in order to get something, but just know that it’s because we know each other well and we’re used to that. We won’t go after the newbies. The only other rule is that you not bring any junk food of any kind to the meeting. We’d prefer no food at all; however, if you feel like a snack, carrots and celery sticks, as well as apples and rice cakes, are provided. You can also bring food items of a similar nature if you’re so inclined but any other type of food will be confiscated and discarded upon sight. We mean that. Any questions? No…Great. So who wants to share first?”

There was a woman dressed in skin tight black dress with perfectly manicured nails and expertly applied make up. She was wearing five inch heels and fishnet stockings and was doused heavily in perfume. She looked more eager to be there than the rest of them. She raised her hand before the moderator had finished.

“Alright Alice… go ahead.”

“I almost ate a piece of chocolate cake today. But I didn’t. I fought the urge and it went away. I kept thinking about how fantastic I look now after the two years in hell it took to get here. I won’t go back dammit. That chocolate cake can kiss my skinny ass.”

Everyone started clapping and the people in Alice’s immediate proximity patted her on the back and offered hugs. A couple of the guys offered long lingering uncomfortable hugs.

“Anyone else?”

“Hey everyone, Fred here. Yeah, I had a rough one yesterday. I was doing well until I got home and then I couldn’t sleep. I took out my emergency stash of fruits and veggies like we talked about, but I made my way through it in a blink. I tried to go back to bed but instead I ordered a pizza. The whole time I was waiting for the delivery I was thinking about what a looser I am. This sucks. I’ve only lost 3 pounds since I started. I don’t know what to do to keep from getting discouraged.”

“Hey Fred, did you call Steven?”

“Yeah — he didn’t pick up. Fat fuck isn’t her today either. So much for a sponsor huh? I left him a message and he still hasn’t responded. I’m assuming at this point he’s at a buffet somewhere.”

“These things happen.” A short pudgy man with a smile on his face chimed in, “It’s best to remember that we are all here because we care and we’re trying to do something about it. Let’s stay positive. I’m sure Steven has a good reason for going MIA but even if he doesn’t, that’s OK too. We’re not supposed to judge.”

“Fuck you Luigi.”

A voice from the other side of the room startled the man. He looked over in shock and then recognized who it was, “Dammit Allan, that’s not my fucking name and you know it. You know what, if you can’t be nice I’m going to petition the group to have you removed.”

“Samuel is right Allan, I don’t want to hear that kind of abusive talk in here. We are all on the same team. Is something bothering you? Do you want to share?” The moderator added.

Allan sat there for a second stewing. His pudgy arms crossed on top of his belly. He was wearing blue sweat pants with brown work boots and a baseball cap. He kept tapping his foot on the ground and had a scowl on his face. He was shooting daggers at both the moderator and Samuel. He looked over at Alice and softened up a bit, but when she refused to meet his gaze for longer than a second, he continued with his sour disposition.

He took a deep breath and opened his mouth. No words came out. He was about to say something vitriolic but then changed his mind at the last minute. He sighed and his shoulders slumped, signaling some sort of defeat. He uncrossed his arms and let them lay at his side. Whatever was going on in his mind had gotten the better of him. Instead of fighting the urge to keep berating everyone else, he turned inward. All of this was revealed through the change in both his posture and body language.

“I lie a lot… I do. I don’t like to. I only started doing it after I joined this little club of ours. I lie to my friends. I lie to my wife. I lie to my kids. It’s this damned thing that we’re all involved in. I can’t tell people that I’m going to overeaters anonymous. It’s fucking embarrassing.”

“Allan, there’s nothing to be ashamed of…”

“Hey Samuel, please don’t interrupt me. That’s not what I’m saying. Well… it is what I’m saying, but that’s not entirely everything. Don’t you guys wish that you had a sexier addiction? Alcoholics and drug addicts have movies made about them and they got stories, boy do they have stories. Trust me, my brother in law is a coke head. He told me a few weeks ago about how he ended up at a strip club with an eight ball and walked out of there with two strippers and a hell of a Friday night memory. Sure, he’s broke and might have to start blowing guys to feed the beast, but it still beats sitting around flogging yourself over having some fucking banana cake at midnight.

“I never had a problem telling people I was fat — well, acknowledging it that is. I’m not one of those fat guys that pretends to be skinny. I also never pretended that I was happy like this, because I’m not. I guess I can sit around making society wrong for all of these body image misconceptions shoved down our throats all the time, but that doesn’t change a damn thing. I’m still going to feel the way I do. I can’t go to the beach the way normal people go to the beach. That’s the truth.

“I’m tired of bitching about carbs too. They’re everywhere and I can’t have them. That’s fucking infuriating.

“My life sucks because I’d rather sit at home with a cheesesteak, binge-watching Lost, than go out and mingle with others. I don’t really drink and the thought of doing drugs scares me. The simple truth of my existence, of what I am, my personal irreducible primary, is that I’m happier eating alone than I am when in the presence of others doing almost anything else. But I have to change. My wife won’t touch me, my kids are embarrassed of me, and my doctor is scared shitless for me.

“So why do I feel like shit when I come here? I’m doing the right thing. Why do I have to lie about this fucking group? I can tell everyone I’m on a diet, I can tell them I’ve started working out, hell, I can even brag about getting my stomach stapled, but this little thing, it’s like a fetish or taboo of some kind.

“Every time I get dressed to come out here and meet you guys I feel like I did in grade school when the bullies would just point and laugh at me for being fat. I knew I was fat, they knew I was fat… but saying it made it different. That’s what made it shameful. That’s why I lie about coming here. And I bet I’m not the only one.”

Everyone fell silent. Allan continued…

“Oh and fuck you Alice. It’s been what…five years since you were fat. Give it a fucking rest. Have the damn cake already.”