This is the shape of my torso. Were someone to peer through my window right now, this is the outline of what they would see. Actually, I’m bigger than this. I didn’t mean to lie, I’m just bad at drawing. Most do not lust or fantasize about this shape. Though the mass media are not my friend, neither are Michelangelo or Rodin. I don’t fit into most clothes so I don’t bother to look “nice”.
I don’t say this with any sort of self-pity. If anything I feel rather defiant. The sharing of this photo is an act of defiance. The way I keep my blinds open is a form of rebellion (let this add to the myth of my strangeness in this oddly provincial apartment complex). For most of my life, showing my body to lovers has felt more like a confession than part of the erotic act. I have, at times, almost felt the need to apologize.
My identity as a lover is not too different from my identity as a friend or family member. I am celebrated for my ability to attune, listen and surmise the desires of another. “You’re like a lesbian down there” said one ex-partner with praise. “It’s like you know my body better than me” said another. These comments used to feed my ego. Just like it used to feed my ego when people said I was a good helper or listener. But right now they sort of make me sad. I have, apparently, taught people about their own bodies while distancing myself from mine. Just like, in friendships, I became so good at attuning to the needs of others that I sometimes couldn’t identify my own.
I’m working on this with regard to the friendship part–trying my best to say what I need and to set boundaries. It’s harder with the sexuality piece because even when I recall focusing on my own pleasure, I had to kind of block out the way the other avoided looking at my body. I could see and feel that they sometimes enjoyed my face and genitals, but that they avoided looking at the rest of me. I think with trusted lovers I learned to block this out enough to enjoy sex very much. But I can’t help but wonder what it might feel like to be with someone who didn’t need to skip my torso. Hmmm. I imagine that it would be emotionally overwhelming at first. Maybe even so unbearably wonderful that I wouldn’t allow it to nourish me initially.
My shape is a memoir about loneliness and food as a substitute for emotional connection. It is about the fear of abandonment and the inability to be nourished by what is around me. It is also a tale about things well beyond my control. It is as misleading as it is revealing.
The size of the stomach varies slightly from time to time, but the outline more or less remains the same. It was my shape when I could run 10 miles. It was my shape when I could bench-press just over 400lbs. And it is my shape when I lose my breath walking up a hill. Often people assume that I am grossly unhealthy because of my shape. They are usually wrong. I am in better physical condition than most my age and, when I start to stray, I bring myself back. I used to say: “I’m in amazing shape for a fat guy”–it was a form of pride and self-deprecation. I don’t say that anymore. It’s too mean.
The “medical term” for my breasts is Gynecomastia. Many people get surgery to correct this. I privately fantasized about getting that procedure done up until the last few years of my life when I realized I did not want to waste my time and money on something that doesn’t align with my values.
So here I sit with folds of stretched out skin hanging over the elastic waist-band of my briefs. If someone accidentally peers through my window I welcome their disgust. I have learned to relish being strange and different in so many ways that I’m surprised that I never thought to add this to the list. Consider it added. I’m off to my walk now. And then some pushups and crunches. But not because I want to change my shape–just because I want to live long enough to enjoy it (or at least enjoy the defiance).