Let’s Get Physical

Conversations with myself.

Lance Arthur
Lance’s “Conversations With Myself”

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“You’re a fat guy.”

“I am a fat man. I think that’s undeniable.”

“How much do you weigh?”

“I don’t weigh myself. I just look in the mirror when I get out of the shower and one cannot help but note the extra padding everywhere, and a general lack of muscular definition. Plus: man-boobs.”

“Well, take a guess.”

“240? Maybe? 245?”

“I’m not sure that five pounds makes much difference on either side of that.”

“Probably.”

“And you’ve always been fat.”

“I was a fat kid, or what was called ‘husky’ when I was buying pants. Sears and Montgomery Wards had a separate section for fat boys called the husky section, where special larger waist sizes could be found.”

“You’re shitting me.”

“I shit you not.”

“Why?”

“One does not ask these sorts of questions when one is a young fat boy. One just unquestioningly accepts that merely by being a fat boy, one cannot go to the regular boy section and one must try on pants from the fat boy section.”

“So you kind of felt that being fat was bad.”

“Well…I mean, not until I had to go into the store myself with my mom and she would, sort of…she kind of made it clear to me that I wasn’t allowed to have regular pants like everyone else. It was more implied than overt, as I recall. But there was definitely shame attached to my weight from an early age.”

“And you never lost weight?”

“When I moved to San Francisco and I decided that I wanted to have a relationship and sex and those kinds of things — things I had been actively denying myself for one reason and another, some of which we’ve already discussed — and I was in a bookstore and I had knelt down to look at a book and found I couldn’t regain my feet without leaning against a table and pushing myself up. My legs could no longer support my weight.”

“So it was more about health than about how you looked.”

“It was both. I probably told myself it was about my health because if I admitted there was ego involved, I would’ve overruled the impulse because I wasn’t worthy of feeling good about myself.”

“That’s…sad.”

“It’s just how I felt. Probably wasn’t even cognizant of that. But anyway, so, I started going out early in the mornings, when it was still dark….”

“So no one could see you.”

“And I started jogging. Jogging makes the weight come off pretty fast, but I hated it. Absolutely hated it.”

“So you lost weight.”

“Then I joined a gym, because any even casual glance at the online gay dating sites pretty much reinforced that unless you were good-looking and in-shape, you had no chance to get anyone to click on your profile.”

“Did you ever click on anyone else’s profile?”

“Oh, god, no. No, no, no. Putting myself out there and just get rejected over and over?”

“Maybe someone wouldn’t reject you. Maybe, I mean, the odds are with you if you ask enough men to….”

“The rejection was foremost in my head, because I agreed with them. And it wasn’t even rejection, really, it was just silence. No one would reply.”

“Well, what did you want them to say, really? ‘Hi, thanks for your interest, but you’re fat and unattractive and some of us have standards, and I’m afraid you don’t meet them’?”

“I don’t know. Honestly I don’t. Like I said, up to that point I hadn’t been on a single date. I hadn’t even kissed another man.”

“Not in high school?”

“No. No, no, no.”

“Or college?”

“No.”

“After you moved away from home, to a city where no one even knew you?”

“Okay, so…I thought I was homophobic. I thought for a long time that I had all this self-hatred based solely on that one part of me, and that if I wasn’t gay everything would be different. If I only liked women instead of men that life would be easier…simpler. I used that as the, what, gatepost? The…signifier for all my unhappiness and loneliness.”

“Well, you know, gay people are more apt to kill themselves.”

“That’s not because we’re gay, you asshole. That’s because we’re constantly told we’re unworthy of love and we see representations of ourselves as evil and hateful, and we start to believe it. It’s the real homophobes foisting their hatred onto us, and we accept it and digest it.”

“Like you did.”

“Oh. Oh! So, you were only…”

“Of course I don’t believe gay people commit suicide because they’re gay. Don’t be an idiot, because you’re not.”

“You like these mind fucks, don’t you?”

“You were talking about the time you lost weight.”

“Oh! Right, so, I started jogging and then I joined a gym, which was about the scariest thing I ever did.”

“Why?”

“Partially because I related it to all my nightmare high school gym experiences, when I was awkward and scared shitless I’d spring a boner in the shower looking at another guy and my secret would be out.”

“But pretty much every guy at your gym was gay.”

“Right, but pretty much every guy at my gym was also pretty. Imagine walking into an environment basically designs to pump up your hunger and place all these dishes in front of you but you can’t touch any of them.”

“Did you flirt with any guys?”

“The first thing I did was hire a trainer.”

“I asked about flirting, though.”

“I knew I was too threatened and overwhelmed and intimidated to keep going. I hated my body, I hated myself, and I was going to be exposed in the most literal way imaginable.”

“It’s just the gym.”

“My trainer was a nice guy and, well, kind of a slut. He was gay and had a long-term partner but they were in an open relationship and being with him was very eye-opening. We shared our stories and I told him of my discomfort and inexperience and he was always very kind and supportive, and he was kicking my ass at the same time. So after a year of that, I considered myself pretty good-looking and in-shape. I’d dropped a ton of weight, I was getting muscles where no muscles had been before, and getting healthy meant my libido was taking off, too, so I was…pretty horny.”

“Okay, now can I ask about the flirting?”

“I never flirted. I still don’t flirt. It’s embarrassing, and I don’t know how to do it. I watched my trainer flirt, and I didn’t even recognize it. Guys started to flirt with me but I ignored them, because they couldn’t actually be doing that, could they? It literally didn’t occur to me that they were interested in me.”

“You are really fucked up.”

“We’re nearly done with a month-long conversation and you’re only getting that now?”

“No, I mean…you are fucked up.”

“I…”

“You have a gym membership right now, don’t you?”

“Yes.”

“And you’ve had it for months.”

“Years.”

“And how many times have you been to that gym?”

“Twice. Once to sign up, and once to change the credit card number they charge every month.”

“For you not to go to it.”

“I…”

“Did you feel better about yourself when you were going to the gym in that small, weird, good-looking, muscular period of your life?”

“Yes.”

“I rest my case.”

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