Friday, August 10, 2012

the ugly kid in class

Imagine you grew up being kinda on the homely side. Not hideous, where people would stand outside your house with pitchforks and torches, just definitely less than attractive, worse than mere 'plain' even. Had you been a homely kid, you probably would have been made fun of by the mean kids, and your homeliness would have been tolerated, or at least not pointed out, by nice kids. More than likely, as a homely kid you would have had at least one family member that teased you about your looks, because sometimes family members suck that way. As you grew older, homely, you would have been hearing less about your looks from others, but you'd have been hearing plenty from the voices inside that you had internalized from your mean classmates or mean family. Yep, those voices would still be loud and clear. Really, if you were homely, it would shape everything about  how you interacted with the world, every encounter with new people would be colored by their view of you, real or imagined by you, as homely.

Then imagine that one day you woke up and instead of being homely, you were rather nice looking. Not nice looking like people would want to put a poster of you up on their wall or cast you in their next movie or anything. Just nice looking enough that when you put on some decent clothes people would compliment you on your looks. That would really change how you interacted with the world around you, wouldn't it? No longer would you automatically feel like you stood out somehow in a negative way, you might start to feel like you could blend in to a crowd in a nice way. If you woke up nice looking like that, and stayed that way, when a stranger caught your eye for a moment, that might elicit a sincere smile instead of a quick look the other way.

You know where I'm going with this. I grew up being kinda on the big side. At certain stages growing up I was lean enough, but most of the time there was just this 'bigness' about me. That was reinforced for me by one family member that teased me about it, and also by other people that would just remark on how big I was. Not that it was always said in a mean way, just an observation, but, those voices stick. As I became an adult, I certainly didn't get any smaller. In the Army I was a healthy weight for the most part, but even then my image was that of a big guy. On long marches, who got to carry the big, crew fired machine gun AND all it's ammo AND all the gear that went with it? Me, the big guy. After the Army, I put some weight on and kept it on, though over the years my weight would veer sharply anywhere from around 210 to 245. It was common for strangers and store keepers to look alarmed when they saw me. More than once I was stopped by police and questioned about what I was doing, just while walking down the street. Yes, I know the tattoos and (at one time) long hair, and then later the shaved head, added to the imposing look, but still, the bigness was the main part of my image. Need something heavy lifted? Ask me, the big guy. Need someone for crowd control at an event of some kind? Yep, I gotcha covered. The fact that I'm a very pleasant and kind person, yet looked to many people like a big imposing threat, has been a long running joke among my family and friends for years.

At 181 pounds (plant based diet; results are typical) I'm just really not a big guy at all. When people say I look really thin now, it's not just them being nice, and their not just saying I'm thin in comparison to when I was around 230. I don't get the same nervous looks anymore, even with the shaved head and tattoos. In some ways I think I look a little older this way, because maybe my skin sags a little more now that it isn't plumped out with fat. Looking older I think takes away from the imposing look. Yes, it really changes how I interact with the world. I think I'll keep rockin' the veggies folks, this is good. This baby that my wife and I are going to welcome in a couple of weeks will be the first of our kids that won't ever know a big daddy.

When I went to Google to find a picture for this post, I was thinking, 'what's a good picture for transformation?' Well, I had my first big transformation when I was four years old, thanks to a kind family member (that 'thanks' is to you Paul), so of course the first thing that came to mind to represent transformation was the cross. Jesus loved me as the big kid, the fat man, the big scary guy, etc. He also loves the homely, the lame, the simple, and of course the beautiful and brightest as well. Even if I lost my mind and scarfed down cheeseburgers and BBQ until I was 400 pounds, I would have that transformation, from Jesus on the cross. Now THAT is some spectacular transformation; sinner to saint, poisoned to blessed - Jesus Christ; results are typical.