Me and my brother are not skinny, but he was telling me how he feels okay about being this way when he reads about how you were chubby too. I am reading your writing now because of him, so thanks. I’m in tenth grade and he’s in seventh and he really likes you and now so do I. Chubby kids unite! LOL!
I am glad you wrote me. I was having a rough day when I got your letter. And you made me feel pretty good.
I am embarrassed to admit this, but when I was around your brother’s age, I hated my mirror. It all started in fifth grade. Something happened to my body. I ballooned up. My cheeks got puffy, and my mama often referred to me as her “precious little butter ball.”
Years later, I would learn that the primary reason for my weight gain was: Chili Cheese Fritos.
I’ve said it before, but Chili Cheese Fritos are one of my all-time favorite foods. All my friends know this. I once had a birthday party wherein a good friend filled a plastic kiddie pool full of these little babies. I literally went swimming in Fritos, and it brought me more internal happiness than a major religion.
But in fifth grade, I went a little overboard with Fritos. Or, it could have been my hormones. I don’t know. Either way, I became a chubby kid.
Here’s the really weird thing, Danica. I was only hefty for maybe four or five years max. But—and this is what I’m getting at—these were IMPRESSIONABLE YEARS. Years that stuck with me forever.
I tried losing weight when I was twelve. For exercise, I came up with the idea of mowing lawns. Things went pretty well. I push-mowed like crazy. Five bucks per yard. Whenever I took breaks, I would sit beneath a shade tree, listening to Arethra sing “Chain Chain Chain” on a transistor radio, and demolish two bags of Chili Cheese Fritos to maintain my stamina.
I gained six pounds that summer.
My cousin Ed Lee, who was also chubby, finally told me that I would never lose weight if I didn’t go on a “diet.” As it happened, my cousin had heard about a diet supposedly invented by—this is totally true—Goldie Hawn.
As he understood it, Goldie basically said that whenever she got hungry, she would consume only deviled eggs and tomato juice. Nothing else.
“But,” I pointed out to Ed Lee, “Why are we following a girl diet?”
“Duh,” he said. “Because I read about it in my mom’s Cosmopolitan Magazine, so it HAS TO work.”
“Sounds good to me.”
“Hey, isn’t Goldie Hawn married to Kirk Douglas?”
So we were taking no chances. Ed Lee and I followed this funeral-eggs-and-V8-diet to the tee. Which we also paired with a rigid exercise regime consisting of, (a) jumping on a trampoline, and (b) watching “Dukes of Hazzard.”
Whenever I got hungry, I ate handfuls of deviled eggs and chased them with V8, chugging from the tin can like an escaped refugee from a European land war. The diet didn’t work.
Next I tried being vegetarian. My friend’s mother turned me onto this. My friend came from a strange backwoods Pentecostal family who attended a church where everyone greeted each other with a holy kiss. Seriously. If anyone in their family knew you, they puckered up and kissed you right on the face. Even if you happened to be standing in line at, say, the DMV.
Normally, this would have turned me off. But then, my friend had a younger sister who was pretty. Boys would show up from all over the county just to knock on her door because, rumor had it, she HAD to give you a holy kiss if she answered the door.
Sadly, I discovered this was only a rumor. Becuase when I knocked on their door, all I got was a kiss by her older brother Butch.
Anyway, they were vegetarian health-nuts. For birthday parties their idea of a good time was shoving birthday candles in a watermelon wedge and singing, “Onward Christian Soldiers.”
My friend’s mother convinced me to give up meat. So I did. I ate only vegetables and I actually kept up with this diet plan for a long, long time. Almost two or three hours.
But I’m going to be honest with you. I wish I would have never dieted at all. Because when I turned sixteen, I lost all my baby fat without even trying. Fast-forward to today, I am sort of skinny and bird-legged.
My wife says I look sickly. My mother threatens to alter my jeans to only have one back pocket.
But do you know what, Danica? No matter how old I get, I still see that kid looking back at me in the mirror. A kid who genuinely didn’t like himself. And I’m sorry I ever felt that way.
I was a kid who knew girls did not think he was “cute.” A kid who would cry sometimes because he wanted to be slim like everyone else. A kid who once swore that if he were to ever become a writer, he would do his best to write things that make others feel good about who they are. No matter what their waist size.
You’re a beautiful person, Danica. I know you already know that. But it never hurts to hear it again.
Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a kiddie pool calling my name.