Do you want to be the skinny guy? It’s not all that great, warns writer Kevin Kelley.
“Your hips are pointy,” my friends say. They examine the curve of bone that rises above my swim trunks and declare this fact as if it had never occurred to me. I have also heard this from women while having sex. “Ouch! Are those your hips?” Yes, they are. If you turn the light on and examine me, you’d see that the skin where the hips point is whiter than the rest of my pale body. I’m guessing the lighter tone is from my skin stretching tight across the bone.
My current girlfriend tells me, “They’re not just pointy, they’re sharp. There’s no cushion there.” The first time she saw my body was in the middle of winter. Like normal people, I wear a few layers to keep myself warm. Winter is also an opportunity to look bulkier— the sweaters and scarfs and my trusted, thick pea-coat. Now that I think about it, I have always done better dating-wise in the winter. But once the clothes come off the reality of my skinniness appears along with the eventual comments. “You weigh less than me. The boyfriend should always weight more than his girlfriend.”
I have tried more than a few times to put on weight ever since I lost it through puberty. As a college student, I spent nights at the gym making genuine grunting noises while picking things up and putting them down. I upped my calories by gorging at the cafeteria on campus. Carbs, meats, and desserts were my three food groups, and it was always all you could eat until you get sick for me. I’d tell my friends that I was trying to bulk-up, and they’d approve, but after one such gorging, I became sick and threw-up in the dorm toilet. “I told you he was bulimic,” I heard someone say from the other side of the bathroom. At the end of a year of intensive eating and exercise, I put on a mere ten pounds. The next year I cut exercise while keeping the diet. I lost five pounds.
I know what some of you are thinking because I hear it all the time, especially from women: “I wish I could stay skinny like that,” and, “You make me feel bad for my weight.” But if you’re a man and someone says, “You have a girly figure,” would you feel good about your body?
I sifted through message boards where I ran into advice from drinking protein shakes to eating a carton of ice-cream a day to using steroids. Protein shakes did nothing and ice-cream just made me sluggish. Maybe steroids would work, but I decided my overall appearance takes a backseat to my health. I have known a handful of men pressured by pop culture and a history of the importance of physicality in male pride to dose until their arms ballooned to match size of their dreams and insecurities.
Two of my older brothers are skinnier than me, and most everyone in our genetic line are rod-shaped, except for those who have grown a beer belly, and unless everyone has had a thyroid disease, we just seem to be naturally skinny people. But being naturally skinny is not usually appealing. A woman at a party once told me “I’d rather have a man who is overweight than under.” Once a friend compared my body to her husband’s and concluded: “I like my man with a little meat on the bone.”
Before puberty, I had packed on weight. My older brothers called me fat. Sometimes my dad would try to make me feel better by saying, “You just have a body built for football,” but mostly I’d fight back with insults. “Look at that blubber,” Randy, my skinniest brother would say and poke me in the gut. “You look like a meth-head” I’d say, hoping to hurt him enough that he’d get too sad or upset to play the insult game. Later I would hear these insults from others after I lost my weight through puberty.
My brother (“The Stick” as people have referred to him), had his hip and femur crushed under the weight of a slow moving commercial truck. After the first of three surgeries, the doctor operating on Randy said, “His skinniness saved him.” “How is that possible?,” I asked. “Randy’s organs had moved from the area of impact into his torso. If he had been fatter or more muscular,” the doctor said, “his organs would have had nowhere to squeeze inside of his body, and they would have been crushed, likely killing him.” My first thought should have been, Thank the Universe, but it wasn’t. “Score 1 for the skinny guy, right bro?”
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Photo: Tony Alter/Flickr