I’ve discovered in the last few years that I’m something of an exhibitionist. I haven’t done anything (too) crazy, but I probably should have realized this all along. After all, I write about myself at least as often as I write about about other subjects, and there’s a certain level of exhibitionism in that. I keep my blinds open at all times, and I’m the guy who does low-key exhibitionist stuff like take out the garbage with no shirt on.
So I was cleaning out my closet today. Thanks to the odd location of my apartment (the sun seems to beat down on it at all times of the day) and the lack of proper air conditioning, it was approximately 630 degrees, and that was before I turned on the oven to make some pizza rolls. Sweat was -running down my back in rivers, so I took my shirt off while I worked. I was filling myself up with pizza rolls while I was filling up bags with garbage. Eventually I had to make a run to the dumpster. I grabbed the garbage bags and walked towards the back door, ready to make the women swoon and the men envious with my chest-nakedness, until I noticed by distended belly protruding out over my belt. Had twenty pizza rolls caused me to become this bloated? I dropped the bags and ran into my bedroom to cover myself with the faces of Barack Obama and Joe Biden on a ratty old T-shirt.
It was the first time I’d covered myself due to embarrassment about my weight. I’ve been lucky to be thin for most of my life. Behold my glorious beach body from six years ago:
…and then there’s the picture I took today:
Friends and family have remarked that I’ve gained weight, especially in the last year. I visited my old coworkers at Trinity College last fall, and when they saw me they said,”Wesleyan must be paying you better than Trinity did, cause it looks like you’re eating better!” I went to see my grandfather last week, and he told me that I looked bigger. He wasn’t talking about my height (especially since I discovered last summer that I’m about 1.5 inches shorter than I thought I was). Their comments didn’t really bother me. I took them as jokes or mere observations, not judgments or derision. It wasn’t until today that I’ve really felt self-conscious about my weight, and it wasn’t caused by someone else.
Today, I was confronted with the reality that my body does not look the way it did six years ago, and I was ashamed. It didn’t matter that I haven’t gained that much weight, or that a little bit more exercise and a little bit less pizza rolls will fix that belly relatively quickly. The problem is that a fair amount of my self worth is attached to how I perceive myself physically- as a moderately attractive, moderately fit guy. I’m not scoring modeling contracts or running marathons, but I value my appearance and think others value it as well. That sense of worth is tied to the self-image I have of myself as that 25 year old on the beach. When I looked down at myself and saw the clear beginnings of Dad Bod, I realized that I’m not that person anymore. I wanted to make sure that no one else saw that.
I suppose we’re all self-conscious about something. Feeling weird about my weight, while new to me, is nothing that’s going to stop the world from spinning. And honestly, I don’t care enough about it yet to actually do anything to change it. That’s why I’m sitting here, writing this post with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich right next to my keyboard. With my shirt off.