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The Weight

he just grinned and shook my hand
and “no” was all he said

– Robertson/Dylan

So that Seth Rogen kid lost a ton of weight, which may not bode well for his comedic persona. While the formerly fat may register close to the naturally thin at weigh-ins, the resemblance often stops there. If you put them side by side, you can almost always spot the fat person trying to get out. There is no actual science behind my opinions, but I think it takes at least ten years of inhabiting a different body before it becomes one’s own. Even then, ownership is precarious. This is why fat people seem so uncomfortable with all the praise they get if they drop a lot of weight. It can feel like folks are rushing to get all of their compliments in before you happen upon a stray pallet of fudge pop tarts. If they truly wanted to encourage your keeping this new body, they’d act like it was the one you had all along. Despite popular consensus, it’s actually fine to tell a guy who’s been three hundred pounds for the last fifteen years that he’s “really let himself go.” It gives him hope that he need only get things back on track, and that a more legitimate form of self remains underneath.

I’ve never cared for the easily thin who take it upon themselves to pass judgment on the fat. The way I figure it, we’re all carrying some form of extra weight – it’s just easier to spot if it manifests itself in pounds. I’ve known some excessively lean folks who were dragging psychological loads capable of breaking a truck scale. Popular opinion aside, weight is not an effective predictor of character. And yet it inevitably creeps in, when – no pun intended – we’re sizing somebody up. I made the observation about Obama. Would he have been elected if he more resembled Nathan Bookman, the portly superintendent from Good Times ? The man has been a smoker at different points in his life – a habit proven to negate the benefits of an otherwise healthy lifestyle, and one that affects the health of those around you. But it’s also something that’s more easily disguised – just invest in breath mints and a tooth whitener. It isn’t so much our flaws that the culture at large is concerned with, but how well we keep them hidden. The guy down the street who harbors an unusual fondness for automatic weapons isn’t judged until he brings one to the community college and opens fire. But his portly neighbor is the recipient of critical opinion as soon as he steps out the door.

All of this isn’t to say that I don’t appreciate a good fat joke now and then. One of my favorite television moments came on the old Siskel and Ebert show when Roger and Gene were swapping bald and fat barbs. After being ridiculed for having a forehead that showed up on satellite weather photos, Gene retorted “at least when I wear a brown sweater, people don’t report a mudslide.” It’s a cruel world out there, and don’t let anybody tell you differently.

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