My pal Jarett Kobek’s always saying that I should write more about myself. He’s the voice of my cognitive dissonance, like a little red angel in tights. He’s all, ‘Show them your human side, Arafat!’ while the white angel in tights – also Jarett, he’s gorgeous – tells me to stick to octuplet mom Nadya Suleman’s latest escapade. (Last I heard, Vivid offered her a million bucks to appear in a porno; Xerox offered her two million and a brand ambassadorship.)
So I’ll reconcile the two, give you the chance to picture a man in tights hugging himself – and I’ll tell you my story. So gather round, folks, and listen to the song of a man who lost his dream, his hopes and his VeggieTales DVDs – but not his cheeseburger.
The very first thing you gotta know about me is: I’m fat. I pop bacon-wrapped scallops like Maltesers. When I say I’m fat, I mean it in italics, capital letters, like a Citgo sign of fatness rising up over the horizon. Cut that: I AM the horizon. If I were in the Old Testament, I’d say ‘I Ham Who Ham.’ You know that Hank Williams song? It goes: He can eat an apple pie / And never even bat an eye / He likes everything from a soup to hay / Roly Poly, daddy’s little fatty / Bet he’s gonna be a man someday.
Really, words cannot even begin to describe the monumental glory of my mounds. Rome wasn’t built in a day, fellas, and this is the work of a lifetime. Years and years of friends telling me I should stop after the third burger, that butter isn’t a sauce, that lard isn’t a pizza topping – none of it heeded. I’d laugh, huff down a triple-stacked sub and wash it down with unsweetened iced tea for the righteousness that’s in it. Having my cake, eating it, touching someone else’s cake so they can’t eat it, then eating that.
But there comes a time in a man’s life when even the sweetest barbecue sauce can’t soothe the pangs in his heart, stain as it might his 5XL T-shirt. Six months ago, I decided to fix everything I’d done wrong in the past decade.
That’s a lot of mistakes. They base sitcoms and movies on similar crises. They’re given names like ‘Sideways,’ and they’re always overrated. For me, I changed a lifetime’s bad habits. My achievements thus far are: quit smoking, don’t be mean and a jerk, finish college, stop being so grandiloquently fat.
It’s tough. I’ve seen death and violence, I’ve been pistol-whipped in my time, but I can’t face down a quadratic equation. Especially without my buddy the Flavor Cowboy. And losing the fat has been almost impossible. So much so that the doctor slapped me on the tummy and said, ‘Hey, butterball, it’s time you got your stomach stapled.’ Coolio, Julio! Said and done.
In order to get a piece of metal sealing off your stomach forever, you need to go to weight counseling for six months. I had my first session last Wednesday. And I must say, while as an immigrant living in the land of biggie fries I celebrate every excess with abandon, this was the most depressing experience of my life. Not because I’m fat. I know that, I know how to lie to girls with low self-esteem, I have a Rube Goldberg compensation machine. But the wretchedness lay in watching people who would otherwise put on a brave face moan in complete defeat as they clutched cookies in the hallway before the conference started. I’m not making that bit up – cookies were clutched and crumbled away into gaping maws, leaving dough trails on purple sweatshirts. People wept when they talked about how others called them lazy, stinky, ugly, greedy. Martyred and mussed, feeble and fussed, heart and soul covered in adipose. I was horrified. Was this how everybody else saw me? Probably. Pass the Cheetos!
This is like a perversion of Oedipus’s riddle of the sphinx and the three stages of man. America gives us the means to become incredibly fat, America gives us a glorified body image standard that makes even normal people fall short, not to mention chubmongers like me, and America provides the means for us to fix our love of deep-fried cheese dogs. What happens when the fatty gets his stomach stapled and then tries to climb back up the heights of Flesh Mountain?
That one’s easy – he dies. But I’ll tell you what: it’s Barbie’s 50th anniversary soon and the hottest skinny blonde girl I’ve met recently was at the obesity surgeon’s office. She lost more than her current weight in six months. And if that won’t make Jarett Kobek touch me deeply, I don’t know what will.