Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Does this make me look fat?

After decades of portliness, it is sometimes difficult to believe I am no longer so. Even with a waistline of 33, I approach grocery store turnstiles sideways, lifting my belly to pass over what appears too-narrow access. I instinctively gravitate to "large men's" clothing. "Does this make me look fat?" leaves my lips with such regularity; I should tattoo it on my forehead.

In pursuit of an accurate self-image, I contrast how clothes fit me with other men I observe. Nothing is wrong with women's fashions; it is merely that such apparel would fit poorly on a person of my proportions and I might look heftier. However, if lacy, frilly, and pink, should look slimming, I wouldn't necessarily rule it out.

The cultural norms of the American male however, require discretion. My gender rarely approaches one another with observations such as, "Those pants look quite flattering on you. Can I feel the fabric?" Fabric fondling is a major masculine faux pas.

Adjacent to me in line at the coffee house is a well-appointed gentleman of similar stature and age. Noticing his reflection in the window, I wonder, "Do I look that thin?" To unravel such a mystery, I make use of all the poise, grace, and discretion of a clumsy, middle-age guy with a befuddled body image, and attempt to discreetly put side by side our reflections. Unaware he is observing me, I compare waist sizes, posture, and accessories (such as men have).

Now is where it gets strange.

Because my arms are crossed over my chest, I notice I can feel my ribs. To heavy people, bones are theoretical. Actually proof of existence is an infrequent indulgence worth savoring, so forgetting where I am, my fingers begin caressing my side, counting bones - an explorer in a new land.

The man's eyes and mine meet for a moment - one extremely long, awkward, laboriously painful embarrassing moment; I am slammed back into reality. Attempting to force a nonchalant smile, my expression instead resembles one of a cat releasing a hairball.

Disappearing through the hardwood floor flashes across my consciousness. Finding that impossible, I quickly opt to leave via the front door, deciding, "who needs coffee anyway?" Yet, as I exit, I can't help but wonder if he's thinking I look thin from behind.

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