April 1998, age nine: I reach into a bureau plastered with doctor’s office stickers and pull out a Ninja Turtle-laden B.U.M. equipment sweatshirt. I giggle to myself quietly as I pull it over my head ‘- making the intellect’s leap from B.U.M. to ass ‘- and realize, as my pervasive mushroom cut erupts out of the top, that I have it on backwards.
‘ ‘ I grip the collar, tug the garment back over my giant bowling ball dome and suddenly stop in my tracks, face-to-face with the embodiment of my and my then-demographic’s shame.
‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ 100% Cotton. Made in Taiwan.
‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ H-U-S-K-Y.
‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ April 2008, age 19: Lance Armstrong has been home long enough to take up quilting and I am burning through the last little bit of my banana-and-string-cheese oil. Somehow, I manage to cross the Boston Marathon’s finish line, tend to a fountain of toe blood that would make Hitchock himself spill the groceries and am denied a celebratory handout of 50 Cent’s Vitamin Water because I am an unregistered participant and the Boston Athletic Association is totally trying to c-block me out of hydration.
??????????? Aversions to paying thousands of dollars to run aside, I sit here, mouth-to-Coke Zero (great taste without all the calories, a-wink!), so thankful to have tortured my body for the preceding year. Not merely because I’ve almost forgotten about my childhood wardrobe subtly hinting that my jet-black Lee’s Pipes would be better suited for giant sled dogs (well played, manufacturers), but because I am a survivor of former-fat-kid syndrome and would like to share with you the magic of the disorder’s collegiate cure-all: the Esplanade. It is the holy grail of average weight-and-build management, and I have elected myself its proud ambassador.
???????????Yes, that dirt-and-broken-gravel road might as well be gold-plated ‘- and the early days of fall boast the perfect temperature for us former swingset-uprooters to pound the memories of a second helping of Spaghettios with cut-up hot dogs out of our nightmares and into the pavement.
‘ ‘ ‘ No longer do you, freshman with an unyielding penchant for Doritos in the purple bag, have to run from the sharpened edge of an aggressive elementary school classmate’s stick, but you can choose to do so for your own satisfaction or leisure! Huzzah!
??????????? Now, in my fourth and final year of the concerted effort against manboob-dom, I have noticed an alarming increase in the egregious abuses against my movement’s efforts. A dark and ominous force hovers over the space between annoying scene-seeking photographers and the generation-unaware roller-bladers; those who boorishly defy the ‘always stay to the right rule’ and those whose grace and poise 10-miles deep borders on that of a gazelle.
‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ And you’ll know them when you see them: The neon pink Bose headphones, the off-torso-in-hand shirt clutchers and those who’ll brush your shoulder as they whiz by. My comrades, this is the always-been-thin crowd ‘- the dark side ‘- and they encroach with great hostility.
‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ Depending on the day and the length of my stride, I’ve managed to subdue our kind’s clumsiness and blend with the other side to get a better understanding of the peril it has planned. When I’m able to clear an outburst of jagged rocks around the Charles without tumbling over a fence and capsizing an unsuspecting kayaker ‘- thus blowing my cover ‘- the eternally thin appear at ease with my presence. If the day’s allotted me the chance to side-step a stroller instead of barreling into it and making an undeserving mother childless, the slicked-backed-high-ponytailed and useless-forearm-sweatbanded seem almost welcoming. And sometimes, for a moment, the former-Family-Size-Bag-of-Ruffles-ravager inside of me yearns to be a part of their tanned and well-groomed stampede.
‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ But I’ve come too far ‘- we’ve come too far ‘- to revert back to insecurity, and we can’t count on a temporarily slim and slender fa’ccedil;ade to sustain us; by fall break, the Huskies inside of us may resurface. A Cracker Barrel Chicken Tenderloin Dinner or a haphazard decision to watch a marathon of ‘Nash Bridges’ instead of hitting the gym might destroy our link to the sideways-invisible enemy. Our summertime efforts to camouflage spots of inexplicable kneecap fat ‘– successful as they may have been — will become futile. Even our most tenacious will falter. Inevitably, I’m afraid, our cover will be blown.
‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ So, fellow former fat kids, I come to you with this advice: Let us accept this probability and abandon the need-to-be-liked inside of us. Let us run to run, not to attract the almost-invisible-tanktopped from across the river.
‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ Come winter, the brown fat-deprived will have moved onto ellipticals and indoor track arenas to reserve the right to near-naked exercise. Then, we will reclaim what is rightfully ours. I beg of you, when it’s hard to keep up the fight, look to December — when the Esplanade will once more open its arms to the accidental ankle-kicks and misaligned arm pumps of the once-hefty. Keep up the mantra, and never lose the fight.
‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ Look to December.