On Being Fat (and Life’s Other Unavoidable Criteria)

I have always been fat. From earliest memory, my mother took me to De Pinna’s […]

Duo Dickinson / 6.7.17

I have always been fat.

From earliest memory, my mother took me to De Pinna’s “husky section” to buy fat kids’ clothing. When I was playing at 189 and 10% body fat, my BMI was close to “morbid” — and I have not been below 200 in 37 years. When I lost a third of myself 10 years ago, I was, and am, still fat.

Weight is the most obvious criterion of my life. It was once grades. It’s also money — not the love of family, God, or being “saved.” No, I prefer numbers — especially the hard ones — but my weight is always a sigh. Just like money — or the C in German in 1969.

The calendar criteria is ever with me, too. I wrote this after I woke up at 4:10am, caught the 5:27 to NYC, caught the 9:35 back to New Haven, then made a noon call, went to a 1pm meeting, then a 3pm meeting, then a 7:30 zoning hearing.

Our bodies yield other criteria: sports, sex, health — and, yes, fat. As of last week I am at the acceptable blood pressure of 138/70 — but with 20 pounds to go to meet a better criterion, without drugs. This recent degassing/depressurizing slog was not about a devotee’s insight; it was about being in the hospital two months ago, which proved I needed to drop weight (surprise) and my systolic blood pressure.

So many ways to fail.

There are the endless criteria of choice: I opt to be thinner. I wanted the B in German. Being an architect was the right mission. But choice, good or bad, stops when you stop. Our failures are harder to take in the Social Media Age: standards become brags. Failure becomes far more meaningful than just falling short.

The present extreme political cacophony is all about missed criteria: “he cannot be our President.” “America must stop ignoring those outside of DC.” The anger and effort to rectify deep wrongs can be as deafening as any weight loss regimen. There are always marks to miss.

Despite all this, we will inevitably face the only criterion we can measure: death. We have so many years, heartbeats, moments of sentience. Of course, we can improve our “quality of life” — that can be a seductive focus. But “quality of life” criteria can mean being thin, or eating chocolate. What is unfudgable is that we will all come to be room temperature — it’s just a question of when.

I can make all those meetings today, pay some bills, even get to 130/68 and 215 pounds — but I will still die — here. In any of those events, I know God is with me. And he will be there when I die, too. God is present in every life. The presence of Grace may provide comfort, even acceptance, in our failings — but still, it’s pretty easy, even essential for many, to push God and Death away to get that BMI down.

Of course the comforting clichés of finding solace in “being present,” “celebrating the moment,” or even saying “it’s all good” can mantra-out doubt, and other criteria, for a while. The depth of inability can be provocative. I am delightfully flaunting my inordinate mass with every Triscuit I eat, or exalted if I get my blood pressure down. Either way, leaving this life is in front of me.

“Life saving” is an oxymoron. Life is never “saved” — it is prolonged. Billionaire Peter Thiel is desperate to defeat death: he will fail. Meeting the criteria of an infinite life is just not possible, here. If you are in Full Belief, if you have been in that Tunnel of White Light, good for you. But for the rest of us, we are still fat — and we think we should have a perfect BMI.

Part of us knows we will, eventually, sink out of sight. Amid our morbidity most of us fail to leap into an opioid celebration of the here and now. We are loved enough to know our failings — each of our individual versions of being fat — and we try to get better. I know I will always be fat. I know I will always revel in modest gluttony and insufficient asceticism. I know I fail every day.

But I am loved. I don’t intellectually justify it, and I cannot believe it (I also think I weigh 189 most days) — but being loved is just a part of me — whether I like it or not — like my fat — whether I “win” at the zoning hearing tonight, or not.

But I want to win.