It's the preface of my experience trying to gain weight after years of being way too skinny.
It's very long, but I just re-read it, thought it was sort of funny in places, and thought I may as well post it. It's quite dis-jointed however, and needs a re-write, some editing, and re-arranging, but I just don't have the time to do that right now.
Don't judge me, folks. Or pity me either. I don't mean to offend anyone by it's content, it's just something I wrote five years ago.
To suggest my girlfriend Melissa carries some light emotional baggage would be to suggest that perhaps Richard Simmons might seem a wee-bit on the “fruity” side.
While I found the events of 9/11 traumatizing and life-changing, on that same day she was more obsessed with a broken fingernail.
“Those fucking Chinese bastards will pay dearly for what they did to me!” she wailed, as I watched another innocent civilian fling themselves in desperation from the burning North Tower headfirst into a light pole.
To her, world famine, terrorist attacks and deadly tsunamis were glancing personal irritants; a broken nail or moderately chapped lips were a global crisis.
“Do you even realize what is going on here?” I asked her. “Does this mean anything to you?”
She answered as the North Tower fell.
“Oh, I realize what’s going on. Maybe if their fucking Chinese eyes weren’t so fucking slanted, they could see my cuticles weren’t pushed back properly. Do they think I’m a fucking plumber or something?”
To say she was insensitive would be to apply some type of human quality to her. I’ve seen two wild hyenas doing a playful over-the-head meat toss with the still-beating heart of a recently felled musk ox with more compassion than her. Her self-absorption was astounding to even the most hardened narcissist.
“I’m hungry,” she followed, “I want some fucking french toast. Are you done watching this dumb show yet?”
Another piece of luggage on her emotional baggage carousel was her need for control. So desperate was her passion for control, that for me to accomplish the most menial task with her, it would require a level of planning and execution comparable to the construction of the Great Wall of China. Even simply putting her in the passenger seat of a car was like trying to put a rat in a cage. Tired of her clawing, biting, and launching sheets of spittle in my direction, I oft considered purchasing a Drivers Ed car simply to provide her with the steering wheel and pedals she so desperately needed so she could simply pretend she was driving.
Her need for control extended beyond the boundaries of her own body. Not only did she aspire for control over everything in her surroundings, she also demanded control over everything in my physical surroundings whether she was present or not. I was living in a communist relationship, where I played the role of a grateful, ditch-digging serf. Decisions were made for me, money was rationed. I was simply an observer, helpless as I would be watching a bus full of children launch off a cliff.
As an example, I let her drive me to Sav-Mart drug store later that evening so I could purchase a bottle of shampoo. I have no more interest in reading the shampoo bottles than I would a urine-soaked issue of Socialist Worker magazine. I buy whatever is cheapest. If I can find Suave at 99 cents, or Pert for $1.49, I’ll buy it.
Melissa, however, spends more time on her hair each day than humans have spent evolving from monkeys. If I buy anything less than $15.99, or anything not containing the boiled spinal fluid of fruit bats, my girlfriend immediately throws a fit.
“I can’t believe you put that crap in your hair,” she says. “It will absolutely ruin your follicles. I am not standing in line with you to buy that shampoo.”
She confessed she was too embarrassed to be seen with me purchasing such an inferior hair care product. She insists other people will judge her because of my selection, never mind the fact that they are Sav-Mart cashiers high on spray paint working the graveyard shift. This is the same girl who will happily stand next to me in line at the sex store to purchase for her an enormous black anal vibrator, yet flees like someone threw a hive of stinging wasps at her when I try to buy cheap hair conditioner.
"He’s buying Pert. How embarrassing! What if people find out my boyfriend uses cheap shampoo?"
If Melissa’s problems were a sandwich, her control issues would comprise the meat, her insensitivity would be the cheese, and her acute inability to take responsibilty for her actions would be the bread that envelops all.
Nothing is her fault, ever. Did she rip her new dress running through the bushes drunk? It wasn’t her fault, it was obviously a manufacturing defect. She’s Nordstrom’s worst nightmare.
Bank account overdrawn $630.00? She didn’t know there wasn’t any money in her account. Why didn’t the bank call her?
She also always has control of the remote control, and therefore, I’m always watching talk shows. She gets all her information from talk shows.
Oprah Winfrey, Dr. Phil McGraw, Montell Williams, corner the market on showcasing the “victimization” of America. I’m learning that everybody’s a fucking victim of something. We’re riding the crest of a growing wave of complete absolution of responsibility for anything that happens to us in our society. Our new national slogan should be “America. It’s not my fault.”
For example, Montell Williams recently did a showcase on domestic violence.
Montell leaned in, holding an overweight white woman’s engorged hand. “And then,” he said softly to her, “your husband struck you with a used clarinet, is that correct?” The woman, Kleenex in hand, wipes her tears away as she nods. “Am I to understand,” Montell continues, “that this is the thirteenth time your husband has been jailed for beating you?” The whole crowd gasps in mock shock. I do too, because I don’t know how anyone can find any sympathy for a woman who stays with a man that has beaten her 14 times.
As an example, if I walked out my door, and a piano fell on me, I’d likely make a mental note. If I walked out the same door the next day and another piano fell on me in the same spot, I’d probably observe a pattern going on. This woman had a piano fall on her 14 days in a row, and every time it happens she screams, “Oh my God! A piano fell on me!” At this point, I could have sold bleacher seats to people to watch the fucking piano fall on her. She’s not a victim, she’s an idiot.
Rather than use the word “victim”, TV talk shows now like to use the term “survivor.” I”ve noticed it’s very rewarding for the attention-starved talk show guests. It started with women and breast cancer, which I find legitimate, but then suddenly expanded to apply to any train-wreck of a person desperately trying to distance themselves from taking responsibility for the mess they’ve created in their lives. “I’m a gambling survivor,” a tearful woman would babble to Dr. Phil. Or my personal favorite, “I’m a fat survivor,” as seen on Oprah. Had you tried to rescue all these responsibility-dodging survivors from a desert island, you’d need to send a container ship full of pity. I’ll consider you a survivor only if you successfully fought off a family of polar bears with a noodle strainer and lived to tell about it.
The problem with telling people you’re a “fat survivor” is that you’re not owning up to your part in it. It’s as if all the sudden you woke up one day and “fat” just happened to you. But the reality is you spent 16 years of your life consuming Ho-Ho’s and siphoning the plankton out of your 40 oz. Strawberry Quik. You likely expend any and all calories during the day complaining about about the injustice of showcasing skinny models in Redbook magazine while you trot between the saggy cushioned couch and the fridge for mayonnaise soaked roast beef sandwiches. I’m not going to feel sorry for you because you look like a walrus.
It would be pretty simple for me to do the same thing in order to lavish sympathy on myself at parties. I’ll go stand on a busy street downtown and jump in front of a bus. Then at parties, I’ll introduce myself to you, “Hi. I’m Mike. I’m a bus survivor.” Then I’ll bore you to death about my inane “story”, which is a glorification of my idiocy, and watch you flee faster than if I had scratched my arms and told you I had a contagious sub-Saharan skin affliction.
Sometimes I reflect on my own life when I see these idiots on daytime talk shows. I spent my entire adult life completely obliterated out of my mind in alcohol and narcotic abuse. But I never look at myself in the mirror today and weep uncontrollably. “I’m so proud,” I could say to myself, holding my own hand, “because I’m a cocaine survivor. Oh, and a alcohol survivor. And a crystal and ecstasy survivor....someone give me a hug.”
I was an idiot. I never needed sympathy. I needed a punch in the face. Rehab willingly complied.
I realized the minute I walked into rehab that my life was never going to be the same. I was so used to watching people smoking crack and mainlining crystal that, to me, it was no more surprising than seeing someone baking cookies or ironing a shirt. But inside rehab, everyone was awake at 7 in the morning. People were happy and smiling, and other people were sweeping the floors or doing their laundry. The only thing I could muster was “What the fuck is wrong with these people?”
Rehab was an eye-opening, life-saving experience, but that’s not to say everything about it was perfect. In particular, I found rehabilitation, and Alcoholics Anonymous in general, extremely mantra-intensive. Part of going through Alcoholics Anonymous is being force fed hundreds of mantras, intended to cause you to look at every situation differently than you would before. You hear them constantly throughout the day. “Remember,” they’d say, followed by........
“An identical action over and over again will never produce different results.”
“One day at a time.”
“Complete control equals loss of control.”
“You can’t change others, only yourself.”
“Live through today, don’t live through tomorrow.”
These mantras are pounded into your skull before you’ve even had the chance to discover that rehab utilized the same cheap toilet paper as the National Park Service. Like a baby being force fed reconstituted lima beans, you can resist at first, but they’ll find a way to get them into you, even if they have to tie your arms to a chair. The end result, interestingly, is you could frequently witness various patients roaming the hallways of rehab, muttering mantras to themselves like crazy people. On the street, muttering to yourself made you insane. In rehab, muttering to yourself made you an exemplary patient. Rehab encouraged the same behaviors that got you into rehab in the first place.
If I ever did anything in rehab as hapless as walk into a wall or stub my toe, I’d start swearing in anger, and a squad of mantra police and behaviorists would immediately surround me, hurling applicable mantras at me like softballs at a celebrity dunk tank. “Don’t get mad about something you cannot change,” they’d say. “Why do you think you can control God’s will?” My only problem was that I’d stubbed my fucking toe. But now apparently it was always “God’s will” that my toe was stubbed, which upset me even more. Apparently God was bored during halftime and looking for some entertainment.
I ensconsed myself in the recovery community for about a year after rehab. But the dreary, depressing AA meetings in smoky church basements made me realize these people lived their lives in the past. They carried their history of addictions around with them like a dead hamster in their pocket. And the hamster was really beginning to smell.
Recovery was a daytime talk show on a grander stage, with particpants shouting back and forth their survival stories of so many years ago. Stories of addiction were no longer stories, but rather they became a means of competition of who had been more addicted. People fabricated ridiculous stories to garner more sympathy from the crowd, and I noticed people even changed their stories over time.
“I lost everything,” a particpant would say. “I went from being a litigation attorney to sharing iceberg lettuce out of a dumpster with a dog.”
Not to be outdone, the next person would offer something like “I sold my daughter to a porn company for two fifths of Jim Beam and a packet of sherm. I got on a moped and crashed into a tree, knocking my girlfriends two front teeth out. Now every time she talks, dogs flock to her.”
With pity filling the room like vodka into a bowl of prom punch, the stories would escalate. “I abandoned my children with a molestor in the Target appliance department, prostituted my own grandmother, and killed a family of migrant workers having a picnic.” It wasn’t sharing, it was gloating.
I confided in a friend that I was leaving the recovery community. He looked at me like I was something he had just picked out of this teeth, but kindly offered a final mantra as I skipped out the door.
“Just remember, you only have to change one thing. Everything.”
That was the only mantra I ever took to heart.
“If you were any skinnier, I wouldn’t sleep with you.”
Melissa was upset with me, as she always was. I was standing on a dock, dripping wet from a recent swim. That’s a good thing about being skinny. You dry faster. I repel water like a duck.
In her anger, she obviously decided to attack my most obvious and glaring physical shortcoming. Standing there on the dock in front of her, my surf shorts desperately clung to my wasted hips like a person flung over a cliff only to grab a small exposed root. “Must...hold...on...or.. I...will...fall,” I envisioned my shorts saying. It was an easy mark. Had you painted me pink and stuck me in a line-up full of flamingos, I wouldn’t necessarily stand out. My legs were nothing but colored bones leading up to a bulbous thorax, followed by a long thin neck similar to the ones many mammals use to graze foliage from treetops.
“If you were any skinnier, I wouldn’t sleep with you.”
The fact that she said this to me didn’t bother me a bit. First of all, she already had slept with me. I had already won that battle. She couldn’t un-sleep with me anymore than she could un-eat a Whopper with cheese. Second of all, my skinniness was just one of my many extreme genetic flaws I’ve obsessed about since I was a child. My nose contains a hollow ball on the end of it, courtesy of my mother’s nose. It would look more appropiate spray painted orange and affixed to a car antennae than it does lying off-center on my face. My cheeks hang low off of my face, like a pair of 90 year-old breasts ran into my head and just decided to stay there. In addition, the skin on my face is flush red nearly all the time. If you mention it to me, it will immediately turn redder, until I look like a human body with a deflated foursquare ball bolted to my neck.
My fixation on being too skinny tormented me through high school, and into college. My girlfriends during these years never felt I was too skinny, but I knew, I knew they were conspiring to leave me for the next burly soccer player with chiseled triceps that stopped to help her change a tire. “No,” they’d say to me, “it doesn’t bother me that you’re skinny.” I never accepted this statement as truth, however, and I would fabricate minute inflections of their voice in my mind as I replayed their assertions. “I love you skinny,” my girlfriend would say. But to me, she said it in the same manner she would during Christmas at grandma’s house. “No, grandma, I love the porcelain purple bullfrog jewelry holder you got me for Christmas. I just love it.”
After developing a healthy cocaine habit in my late twenties, my bicycle tire body deflated further until my appendages resembled a loosely stacked amalgamation of rigid Christmas ribbons. Luckily, in the late 1990’s, baggy clothing had become somewhat chic, and I was able to hide my weight loss from suspicious onlookers, my mother in particular. “Why don’t you buy some clothes that fit you?” my mother would ask. Sure, why don’t you pass me some drinking straws and I’ll put them over my legs as pants. For the first time in my life, even I had become concerned about my dwindling weight. I avoided the scale to avoid the truth that the drugs were ravaging my body mass. I was wasting away like a sand dune. My cratered cheeks had become so hollowed that if I’d been laying on my side, you could fill up my cheeks with milk and feed a kitten. When I checked into rehab in September of 2002 at 5’9 and just under 120 lbs.
“You only have to change one thing. Everything.”
It seemed impossible the day I left rehab. I had set a list of goals for my new life. They were scribbled on a shaggy leaf of moist notebook paper stuffed into my back pocket. The most impossible was the first. “Never drink alcohol or use drugs again.” Second was “Become a writer again.” Third was “Weigh 170 lbs.” Looking at the list, it seemed as though I had forgotten a few things. Namely “Become President of the United States in two weeks” and “Give live birth to a sprightly field deer.” Impossible yes, but at the time they didn’t seem any more implausible than the first three. But I did stay sober. And I began writing TV shows again.
But I was still skinny, and I hated it. I still smoked. If I wasn’t working or writing, I was sitting on my ass. My ragged sheet of promises still lay on my dresser, a constant reminder I had one more task to work on, but I just couldn’t find the motivation. I had all the excuses, just like the fat women on Oprah, who always came up with the infamous yet mysterious “gland problem”. I told myself it was “genetic”, and no matter how much I worked out, I’d always be skinny. I didn’t have time. I didn’t want to join a gym. I didn’t want to quit smoking. Of course it was all bullshit, I was just too lazy. Something needed to kick me in the ass. And something did. I met a girl who really liked to express what was on her mind.
“If you were any skinnier, I wouldn’t sleep with you.”
I was assigned to live on the bottom floor of the sober living facility. The day I arrived I found Robbie sitting in the living room watching “Golden Girls” and chain smoking Chesterfields. The ashtray on the coffee table next to his head was so full of cigarette butts, it took him about a full minute to extinguish a cigarette and find a resting place for the butt that didn’t cause the whole pile to topple over like a poorly constructed Chinese tourist mall.
Robbie stood up and introduced himself. “Hi. I’m Robbie.” Right away, I knew Robbie was gay. It couldn’t have been any more obvious had he worn a hat with a glaring neon sign and blaring tornado siren atop it, flashing “This man, directly underneath this hat, is really gay,” with an arrow pointing towards his forehead.
Robbie was an ex-crystal meth addict from a remote fishing town on the Strait of Juan de Fuca called Port Angeles. To give you an idea of how remote Port Angeles was, in Port Angeles you only cross the street for two reasons: black people and bears.
“How did you first figure out I was gay?” he once asked.
This guy hadn’t been in the city long.
Robbie was 6’2, sensitive and skinny, and very effeminate. His bitter and sarcastic sense of humor coalesced perfectly with mine, and we would become good friends. But I knew looking at his clothes Robbie hadn’t gotten himself involved in the Seattle gay community yet, because he dressed like he had robbed a Chess King Outlet store in 1986 and had simply forgotten to go shopping since. His closet was the Gay Style Court’s equivalent of the death sentence, and most his outfits screamed “mid 80’s Slayer concert after-party outfit.” Robbie was paranoid everybody hated gay people, including all the people living in the house. “Just because I’m looking at you doesn’t mean I want to fuck you,” he said to me, completely unprovoked.
“Why not?,” I replied. Not that I wanted him to fuck me, but I was more curious as to which heinous physical aspects of my physique made me particularly unfuckable.
“Good. We’ll just keep it to handjobs then.”
As I unpacked, Robbie obviously took note of my hat rack physique, and mentioned he was planning to start working out soon. He had brought some weights with him and stored them in the room. I told him what my girlfriend had said just a week earlier, and we made a pact. “You better not ever let me see that bitch!” Robbie said in his best angry inner-city head-cocking black woman impression. “You know, I’ve never turned down a cock. Human or chicken.”
Robbie suggested I go into the garage and introduce myself to Andrew, our other downstairs roommate. “He could help you on your workout. That’s all he ever fucking does. Just throw him a stew bone to gnaw on in the yard and he’ll do anything you want.”
I walked into the garage and introduced myself to Andrew, who was lying on a workout bench, bench pressing what appeared to be 4 tons of iron weights. He muscles were cut like he’d been sentenced to hammering heavy rocks in a prison yard for the past ten years. Which was partially true, at least the ten years in prison part. “I used to be a meth-head. That’s all I did, smoke crystal and work out. And steal people’s shit. Gotta stay healthy, you know?” Which I thought was interesting, because I’d hung out with many meth-heads, and “staying healthy” ranked somewhere around “knitting a scarf” and “taking trombone lessons”on their list of things to do. Most meth-heads I knew were completely out of their minds 90% of the time, and preoccupied themselves by trying to find hidden ninja warriors in the shower drain, checking the closets for evil elves, and looking for microphones that spies had hidden in their dishwashers.
We talked for a bit, until it became very clear to me that Andrew wasn’t quite all there. He lived in a constant state of glassy surrealism that I had once attempted to find through 16 ounces of cocaine. He lived up to the stereotype that muscleheads perceived their lives as a constant struggle for perfect pectoral quality and definition, rather than maintaining any level of normal human intellectual capacity. Andrew re-affirmed my observation when he pointed to the ping-pong table and noted how Robbie liked to play that “gay-ass volleyball game.” Yet I didn’t want to discuss quantitative statistical analysis with him, I wanted him to make me gain 50 lbs.
“Will you help me work out? I want to weigh around 175 lbs., no steroids.” Andrew contemplated, then walked over to a ping pong table and grabbed a stick and tried to break it in his hands. “I really wish I could break this stick,” he said, the dull thud of his inarticulate banter bouncing off the walls of the garage like a flattened tennis ball. At least he set high goals for himself, I thought. The stick broke in two after a couple seconds, and he jumped in air shaking the broken stick above his head. “Who’s the pussy now, stick?” He looked at the splinters sticking out from each end, and realized the stick was incapable of replying. He picked his head back up and looked at me. “Yeah, I’ll help you and the gay boy as long he long as he doesn’t wear his sweaty dance leotard.”
“I heard that,” Robbie yelled from the next room. “Good,” Andrew answered, “It’s not like you’re doing anything for me, Francis.”
“If you want, I’ll teach you how to spell ‘steroids’, you fucking monkey,” Robbie yelled back.
“Don’t make me come in there and break your Celine Dion albums.”
“I won’t be in here. I’ll be in the bathroom jerking off onto your muscle magazines. That way we’d have something in common.” Robbie countered.
Apparently these two didn’t get along.
Andrew approached me and gave me a quick once-over. He lifted up my sleeves and felt my shrivelled Cantonese noodle arms. He grunted a little. He walked over to a 7.5 pound weight and picked it up with three of his fingers and handed it to me. I took it from him and dropped it to my side, and it felt like it was going to pull my shoulder out of it’s socket. “Lift that straight out from your side. Like you’re a bird.” I didn’t get the analogy, but I complied. I could only lift the weight to about a 45 degree angle, until sharp, shooting pains seared through my shoulder. “Oh my God,” Andrew laughed, “Dude, my girlfriend has a bunny that could kick your ass.”
“Is that the same bunny that explains the newspaper comics to you?” asked Robbie, peering into the garage. Andrew brushed past Robbie and turned around to face me. “I’m going to the supplement store in 30 minutes. We can start tonight.” He faced Robbie “Shouldn’t you be practicing Lord of the Dance?” He sped into the house as Robbie shot back.
“Shouldn’t you be lowering a cable bridge over a moat? Troglodyte.”
We were already a big, happy family.