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Monthly Archives: November 2009

I met a friend of mine last week. She is a very enthusiastic person, to the point that you can’t help but be in a good mood around her. It’s almost as if her enthusiasm is contagious. We met at an “ultra lounge” in an upscale part of Portland called the Pearl District. A place that up until recently, I would have been uncomfortable going into. It was great catching up with her after an almost 10 years of not having any contact.

The thing that struck me was her enthusiasm. During the conversation, she was very animated. Like myself, she talks with bold hand gestures. Unlike me, she has a habit of touching you when she speaks to you. I liked the fact that she felt comfortable enough with me to do so. We had a great reunion. I think she shows she is comfortable in her own skin and with me. I wish I had that ability. I don’t know if she even realized that she was doing it. I don’t remember having this reaction and experience with her in the past. I don’t think she actively avoided it, it was more that I put out the vibe that I was receptive to it. In fact, I don’t remember people in general doing this to me when I was heavier. I am not sure it has anything to do with my weight or not. At the size I was, you put out a general “unhealthy” look. I didn’t look like I had just gotten out of doing time in a Turkish prison, but I am sure I didn’t look like the picture of health either. People read all sorts of things in how you look. I know I am guilty of this as well. People want to associate with a healthy looking person. This is why Marlboro uses the cowboy to sell its smokes. Good looking, capable, boot wearing, 6’4” healthy guy riding the range and sucking on a cancer stick. No one wants to see a guy speaking through a voice box hacking up a lung pitching cigarettes. As humans, we want to be around healthy people.

It always meant so much to me that people would make that connection, and it always made me feel like one of the “normal” people. I spent a lot of time just trying to fit in which wasn’t easy, considering my size. It seems to happen more and more as I have lost weight.

I have never been an overly affectionate with my friends. I really wish I was. I always wanted to be able to be comfortable with that, but I never wanted to put someone off. I was never a guy to hug or just touch people during a conversation. One of my biggest fears would be to go to touch someone and have them recoil.

I used to work with a guy that would walk up behind women we worked with and massage their shoulders. He was so unaware of body language, it made me uncomfortable to watch him. These ladies would do everything but pull away from him. They would cringe, and I would watch as they went out of their way to avoid him. I don’t think I have his creepy factor. (At least, I hope I don’t, but that’s something that you wouldn’t really know about yourself.) This guy wasn’t a real deep thinking Socrates anyway. He gave the impression that at any minute he would reach down and cop a feel. I think he felt like he was god’s gift to the ladies. He was a guy that I would diagnose as suffering from high self esteem.

Eventually, he lost his job and I lost track of him…not that keeping track of this tool was high on my list to begin with. After he left, people commented on how glad they were that he was gone. I am not sure what happened to him, but I’m guessing he spends his day at home dressed as a clown, cleaning his guns.

I have known people that are able to make you feel very important when they are speaking to you. I think that’s a rare skill. The human touch can play a big part in this and it can be such an amazing way to connect. I would like to make that connection, but I don’t want to risk acquiring the creepy reputation.

I can vividly remember people moving to avoid me when I was lumbering along. You could see it in their eyes, it was a look with a scrunched up face like they just smelled the cat box. Then, they would move aside in an obvious way. I am still very aware of the people around me, and am very careful to be vigilant when I move.

I have noticed that in general, people are now more open. I get a quick smile from most people when I am in public, and people don’t move away. So far, I think that’s one of the best changes I have encountered.

Paul

About 3 years ago, I walked into the elevator (possibly the world’s slowest moving elevator) and noticed a woman I work with and what she was wearing. I looked over at her, trying to get my brain to absorb what she had on. She noticed me staring at her “slacks”. She said, “It’s Barney, you know, the big purple dinosaur.” She was wearing (I swear to god) a pair of Barney pajama bottoms and a mismatched crew neck sweatshirt. I must have looked a bit shocked but I had to ask, “Where would one find Barney slacks?” She told me they were pjs and it was, after all, casual Friday. I just mentally noted that as long as she was dressed (and, thankfully, completely covered) it was probably all that could be expected of this person. I suppose she didn’t have enough brain cells to really consider that this was not proper attire for the work place. I am just glad she didn’t show up for work wrapped in only clear plastic kitchen wrap, looking like a moldy leftover from the back of the fridge.

I personally am not a real fashion plate. My employer does not have a formal dress code, thanks to the tireless work of the union. However, where I work, any effort to get dressed up is noticed for several reasons. The first being that more people than not share the “Barney pjs” sense of self expression.

Being part of the management team, I have made an effort to hold myself to a higher standard. I figure that if you are part of the labor crew, one of the perks is not having to deal with a dress code. For the first year or so, I always wore ties to work. It was a habit from my previous job in sales. As time went on, I lost the tie but continued to try and dress up a bit with nice shoes, Dockers and nice button down shirts.

The biggest reason for my dress style was that I just wanted to blend in with the rest of the staff. As an extra large guy living in a medium world, this was not really working. But, I did what I could to not stand out in the crowd any more that I already did. I never wore plaids or bold colors. I always wore black Dockers and solid color shirts. I also had several vests that I wore to dress up my look but they were all navy, dark gray or black. My plan was to just fit in and not call attention to myself, or at least, not because of how I was dressed.

One of the crazy things I used to do was cut the tags out of my shirts. I told myself this was due to the scratchy nature of the tags (which is true to some extent. I am not sure, but think they sew some of them in with 40lb test fishing line as an F.U. from the third world sweatshops to the rich Americans). The truth of it was, I didn’t want to face the fact I was wearing a 9XL shirt. It was just a way of hiding the fact I was fat from myself.

As I have lost weight, my sense of fashion has changed. I am wearing bold colors and shirts with big prints. My current favorites have “aggressive embroidery” on them. They do tend to remind me of something that a big time wrestler would be wearing while doing interviews. I draw the line at the printed MMA tee shirts. I don’t think I need anything with a Viking sword on it. Maybe I just don’t feel the need to advertise that I am having a midlife crisis. The next thing you know, I will be one of those 50 year old douche bags from the weight room that cut their tee shirts up to show off the “guns”. Maybe I should just give in, buy the corvette, get my hair permed to cover up my growing bald spot and acquire the asshole attitude. No, not really my style.

I do kind of like the fact I am getting a bit bolder in my style. I have been enjoying the ability to wear what I want and not really worry about fitting in. The good news is, I don’t have to worry about looking going too far; my friends have no problem asking me, what the fuck were you thinking?