When you grow up overweight, there are two undeniable truths: That corduroy is not your friend. Not under any circumstance. Not ever. And that you will, without fail, be the last person picked from a lineup for all group sports – for all eternity or you lose weight and gain popularity – whichever comes first.
Adolescence, for me, was an emotional boot camp. I was broken several times over. It was fucking brutal. At 5’7” and 240 lbs., I didn’t fit where normal girls fit. I didn’t move through life like the other girls. Hell, I didn’t even move like one of the guys. I spent most of my time trying desperately to be as invisible as possible while occupying more physical space than any of my classmates; painfully aware of the disparity.
I wasn’t what one would have considered an academic, nor did I qualify as an athlete or a “jock” as we called them. I tried my hand at the whole “goth” craze that was happening, but all the desirable clothing was designed for someone who wore a size 0 or perhaps a 2 if she were bloated. I desperately wanted a homegroup; a place of residency within the social construct.
I found one.
We inhabited the carwash across the street from the high school. We were the miscreants. We were the smokers, the rejects, the misfits, and the have-nots. We were a sorry bunch of assholes. Cumulative GPA couldn’t have been higher than 3.0 and I attribute that to the hard work of, at best, 3 of us. This would be my family of choice.
Elementary, my dear
Kids are miserable pricks. In elementary school, I was teased, ridiculed, for the last name I carried. I took the last name of my step-father throughout elementary but ended up dropping it because the teasing was horrendous. I feel bad about it now. I didn’t have the fortitude at that age to just say “fuck off.” It seemed like the end of the world for me then. Relentless teasing all over my last name. I didn’t even have acne yet! I hadn’t even hit peak weight! Fucking assholes. My step-dad though, that guy is a fucking Saint. No one puts up with the amount of shit my mother and I put him through and continues to pick up the phone when we call – no one! They’re divorced now. Both re-married. It is what it is. They’re both healthier people now, blah-blah-blah.
I remember recess and dodgeball. Being the team captain was important. I don’t remember how the captain was chosen. I imagine it had something to do with influence; who had the most of it. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that it wasn’t randomized. The captains' would then (after deciding who chose first) begin selecting players to form their teams. You remember how this shit goes, right? Back and forth, selections based on favoritism, skill, and apparel. That’s right, clothing. If your threads were tired, you were about as likely to be picked as a three-legged dog with one eye and mange from the shelter. It could happen though, dreams come true for special doggies and kids just like you sometimes.
Such was the case for Jeff. I’ll leave his last name out of this. Jeff was exceptionally bright. He was a math genius and a minority. I’ll leave you to guess which one. Jeff’s intellect was a strike against him in this instance. No one likes a smart kid, especially when it comes to sports. Jeff had a meek nature about him too. He always seemed frightened of things. I think that he may have been ground zero for gluten allergies, probably grass too. Jeff’s second strike against him was his threads. He always wore royal blue pants (floods), and some type of plaid short-sleeved shirt, tucked in. We used to say that he only had one pair of pants that he wore daily. It was a shitty thing to say.
(dodgeball selection process nearly completed)
Jeff, one other bastard, and I are the only ones left to be “teamed up.” The bastard is picked. Motherfucker! Next up: the mathematician??!! Really?! I am last and by default. Fantastic. This is doing wonders for my self-esteem. I’m wearing my favorite burgundy corduroy pants. I hang my head and slowly walk to my place with my team. My thighs are sending signals, giving up my location, to anyone in the immediate area. Discretion is not an option in these pants. Swish, swish, swish. I am further shamed. I am the poster child for latent rage.
Normal play begins and one by one people are getting picked off. The strategy is to always go for the weakest individuals first. It’s just like in the animal kingdom, take down the weakest, the one with few defenses.
You’d think that Jeff and I would be first to go, but Jeff is quite apt to use others as a human shield and for as large and imposing as I was, people seemed unable to hit me. Is there some law in physics that states that the larger an object is, the harder it is to identify? Did I miss that class? The mechanics of the game seem straightforward: hit the big, mostly stationary object with a ball. Yet here I was, one of last standing team members. Jeff and I lock eyes. This motherfucker is not using me like a goddamn shield!
The ball is hurled across the court and in extremely slow motion, Jeff, having no other option at this point, catches it. He doubles over, presumably from the force. He stays in this position with the ball curled into his stomach for an unusually long time. Classmates are excited and shocked to see that our very own math fairy has triumphed over his fear of everything not decimal related, but Jeff still isn’t moving. Teachers begin to approach slowly.
We’re told to back away and continue playing elsewhere. Jeff has a death grip on the red ball. He lurches across the blacktop, like Quasimodo, sneering at the other children as he passes.
As it turns it out, Jeff shit his pants playing ball that day. Sure, he may have had a hero moment, but it ended abruptly when he unloaded his breakfast into his royal blue trousers. Given the amount of crap we gave him for wearing the same “uniform” every day, one would imagine that having this experience would prompt Jeff to switch up his routine. Not so much. Jeff showed up to school the very next day wearing royal blue pants and a plaid short-sleeved shirt, tucked in. Bold move, my nerdy friend.
I have no idea where Jeff is now or what he’s made of himself. I’m sure he’s doing well and has soft hands. He has probably never played another team sport just like I have never worn another pair of corduroy pants.
Kids are terrible little beasts. Growing up you will be wise to find someone sorrier than yourself and nurture that. It saved me; it could help you too. Thanks for taking one for the team, Jeff. You’re a real sport!