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Beauty and the beast named Gary.

"Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart." ~Kahlil Gibran

I'm sitting across from, quite literally, one of the most beautiful women I have ever met. She is turned toward me, her legs crossed on a fake wicker divan, a glass of chardonay grasped by her delicate fingers. The moon, almost full, floats behind her in a swirling aurora of carnival colors cast by the lights of strip mall signs and cars parking and un-parking. The breeze is gently moving her hair at the fronteirs of her face. I'm looking at her from across the top of my pinot noir, and i am quite convinced that at that moment, and not for the reasons you may think, there is no man alive more lucky than me.

There is a man talking on his phone, he thinks i don't see him. He's staring at us while he talks. She's talking at the moment, i turn to glance at him, he looks away quickly. I know precisely what he's thinking. I know because the signs are unmistakeable.

He has no idea the nature of our gathering but he is quite sure i'm unworthy to be there, with her, especially. Possibly in general, given the probable trajectory of his train of thought, in general was a distinct possibility. I wince, and hope she doesn't see. She's in the middle of proving why that guy is an ass and rewriting my entire way of thinking about beauty.

I love women in every possible way but some women, most women, intimidate me. I just feel like i have to state that. Their presence make me nervous and feel inadequate. I don't think this is their plan, but it's just my response to their very presence. It's not all women. Lesbians don't elicit this response, in point of fact if i had to find a group of people who i have had the most positive relationships with, that group would be lesbians, followed by bikers and nerds, not clowns though...never clowns. Once i'm sure a woman just wants to be my friend that creeping nausea goes away too. One of my best friends is a woman, she lives with me, and we have done every platonic thing you can imagine, and there has never been a moment where that was ever in question. But if a woman is heterosexual, single, and has...vague...interests in me, i go into a bit of a panic. I'm not cool. I have never been cool, it's just not in me. Cool requires not caring what other people think of you, but i care. I care big. And in the Case of potential future mrs. bloggers i care in a kind of crazy way. I don't know the roots of this anxiety. Any answer i had would be afternoon tv psychobabble so i'll just spare you.

The first time she and I ever really interacted i knew, instinctively, there was something about her that needed to be puzzled out. She didn't give me that rolling stomach feeling, i suspect because i assumed she would never be interested in me in any kind of squishy way (sorry, afternoon tv psychobabble). So i was comfortable with her. The next time i realized that i wasn't rationalizing a way to be comfortable with her, it was her just being herself. She is so profoundly open and warm that it just kind of takes you in. I was unprepared for how selfless she is in conversation. There is no moment where you think she just wants you to pay attention to her or that she's looking for an opportunity to elevate herself instead of paying attention to what you're saying. She thinks and feels on a grand scale, and wants you there with her to share in the experience.

Thats why when she asked me to hang out i said, "Sure" instead of "Can't...have to...puke a little...right now". I was aglow with the idea of two deep thinkers discussing the universe and whats in it. And thats what found me, and she, drinking wine on the verandah of a restaurant being stared at by a judgemental douchebag on a cell phone. I was just planning on enjoying her company, drinking some wine (a rare treat given the diet i'm on) but she had other plans, i'm not sure she was aware of them, but over the course of the evening she straight up schooled me.

I have always believed in this idea that beauty (while only skin deep, eye of the beholder, yadda yadda) lies on a continuum. People like me on the one end...maybe not the dead end...perhaps like...1 or 2 orders of magnitude in, and people like her on the other. And frankly i have always assumed that in general we have different experiences as vastly separated as the space between us on the continuum. I saw it as arithmetic. someone was a 3 and another person was a 7 then that persons experiences were roughly 400 times more positive, life was roughly 400 times easier, etc etc. I think, to an extent, it can be, but i think there is also a great cost attached. See what i never really fully realized, I knew, but it hadn't been made real to me, is that being pretty brings with it a whole set of problems that are exactly the same as the problems i have.

When you're fat people expect things of you, have ideas about you, don't want to think things about you. Being fat is an obstacle course of peoples ideas about you. Obviously you're lazy. Obviously you drive your rascal up to the golden corral every night. When you use the bathroom you blow it up cuz you nasty. You don't have could you? Where are the thingies, and besides who would want to except other fat people. OHMYGODCANYOUIMAGINETWOFATTIESFUCKING!!!! Wheres my barf bag? These are things i've heard, words i've heard. Almost inevitably it's followed by a glance at me and a sheepish grin and a giggly little "oh i don't mean, overweight like you-" Don't euphamise me motherfucker, if you're going to be insulting have the ovaries to do it and not be a punk. Hell I'VE said this vile shit, and immediately felt like a heel afterward but sometimes the desire to carve out your space as "not as bad" as "that one" is really strong, and sometimes I am weak.

I don't go on Rides at 6 flags because i dont' want to experience that moment when the bar might not fit and the attendant has to look at me and say "huh huh, suck it in" I can't, it's as "in" as it gets. I know i have not gotten jobs because of my size. I've been told as much. When i'm working, and sweating, i take special care to hide and dry my forehead lest my fatness give someone the opportunity to say "look at that sweaty fat guy sweating...eeeeew". I avoid children because those little bastards (i mean angels) have no filter. I've been called, innocently, fat by a child while helping his dad find a book. His dad told him to appologize to which i said "why, it's true." I only said that to difuse the situation. I really wanted to say "kids learn from their parents, why would you teach your child to be cruel?". I don't go to the beach. I don't go to the gym (of all places!). Hell i avoided the doctor because i didn't want the inevitable lecture (three years and a High Blood Pressure presciption later that seemed profoundly foolish).

And heres the thing: i face that every day. Every blessed day i face that with a smile and a joke and a kind disposition and a hope that the people around me are worthy of me. While it makes me sad, i also know myself and know that i'm someone people seem to want around, so there must be something underneath this parka of pudge i wear. There must be a reason i have so many caring, loving people in my life. And if the world doesn't see that, you know...fuck'em.

As she described what life is like for her with an unashamed honesty i went through the list and saw myself in it. Like me, there are assumptions about her. There are things they don't want to think of her. People have ideas about what she will do, how she will respond, what they think their rights and entitlements are as it pertains to her. There is no objective difference, only subjective ones. I'm sure there are things she doesn't do, places she doesn't go, conversations she doesn't have. She faces it every day with a smile and a kind heart, and a desire to connect with people and learn about them. Her physical beauty, while striking, pales in comparison to this trait. I'd like to think thats true of me as well.

When you are what the world sees as beautiful, or fat, you at are the whims of other peoples definitions. You have to make your self definitions relevant.

Theres an angry little troll who lives in my heart and he hates people who have it easy. He hates the rich and he hates the beautiful and he hates the fit and he hates the truly intelligent. He really hates Jonathan Franzen. He spends his days writing a list of all the people and institutions he hates. He spends his nights sharpening his forked tounge and burning his forearm with spite filled cigarettes.

His name is Gary.

Gary is still there. But one night with her, one honest evening where it was just she and I talking without labels or expectations talking as two souls making the journey through lives and encountering each other, was enough to make Gary begin scratching things off of his list.

Gary still hates that guy on the phone though.


  1. Fat hate & the Impossible Beauty Standard. Different sides of the same coin. As I've matured, I accepted the sad reality that fat people do get worse shit from society, but I've also seen that those closer to our society's beauty standard get some shit, too. Going along with the status quo is the shit bargain many of us have made to sort of protect ourselves from this ridiculous & inaccurate measure of worth. But. I'm glad people like you are challenging it.

  2. I've had the same experiences. I could almost have written this. If I still lived in New Jersey I might suspect that we were the same person :-)


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