My journey going 100% vegan for 6 months. November 1, 2009 - May 1, 2010 (And my new life now)
Thursday, June 17, 2010
I am generally a black or white guy, not too much nuance, and at times pretty rough around the edges. Not to mention, I am terrifically judgmental of people, places, and things. Some people have even thought me a jerk at times. Imagine?! I make snap judgments about people, and I think I was only wrong 14 times.
But when it comes to the obese, I feel a certain pain for them - been feeling it all my life too, whether I was in the best shape of my life, or the worse, or as a kid.
My first memory was in 1977. I was a 9 year-old kid playing Little League baseball. The coach was pitching to us and we lined up to take our turns at bat. The catcher was our teammate, Steve Carney. I was sort of in a trance standing in the queue to take my swings with an oversized helmet bobbling on my skinny neck. I could have been nervous about how fast Mr. Tanis was pitching, or maybe I was watching some lady walk her dog, either way I was not aware of the conversation others were having as they waited their turn to bat. Then I sort of became aware what was going on. Some of the kids were making fun of Steve. Back in the 70's (and 60's, 50's, 40's, etc) when you were a kid there was only one, maybe two fat kids in your entire class (unlike the atrociously high percentage today). Steve was one of them, but he was also a terrific athlete. And, true to stereotypical form (see: Engelberg, character, The Bad News Bears, 1976) he was our catcher. It was just a week or so into the season, and I really didn't know anyone. About 3 or 4 of the kids were joking about Steve's weight, "He doesn't even need a chest protector he's so fat!" I am quite sure I made a comment like, "Cut it out you guys," immediately scared that I would be disliked by my new teammates. But they kept it up, and when I stepped into the batter's box my heart melted. Steve, not saying a word to all the taunts was squatting behind the plate, and through the catcher's mask I saw silent tears streaming down his face. It absolutely killed me, and I made an effort to be friends with him on subsequent Little League teams through the years. That image is seared into my mind. I even remember what he was wearing. I wonder what ever happened to him?
Another time I was having lunch with my boss before a huge meeting with NASDAQ. We were there early, and decided to duck into a fast food joint in Northern Virginia. As my boss was going over our strategy for the meeting, I saw this terribly obese women walking towards us with her finished tray of food. Her little daughter was trailing behind. The tables and chairs were haphazardly strewn about and I saw her start to try to pass between two tables, thought better of it and backed off. She then motioned towards the other side of the table but that was too close to another table with people eating. She then started back towards her original route, stopped, and then looked back at the second route. She stood there looking at the two easiest ways out of the restaurant and they both looked too small for her to squeeze through (even at 300 lbs I could have passed either route easily). The look on her face was gut wrenching for me. She looked so sad, and depressed and resigned to her fate as an obese woman with a young active child asking, "What's taking so long?" She turned around and walked back the length of the restaurant so she could leave unhindered. That broke my heart, it really did. Of course, she has no one to blame - not genetics, not a glandular problem - but herself. But it is clear that it is a vicious cycle. Not happy with your life, eating food that tastes great makes you happy - unfortunately her body is conditioned so that the best tasting foods are hamburgers, pizza, and ice cream.
There have been many times I have felt terribly sorry for people who are obese (not always, since sometimes I am repulsed), and usually, it is the look of sadness in their faces.
Finally, today I saw two women crossing the street, both about 30, but one was heavy and one was not. Both had that early morning--going to work--trying to shut out the crazy noise--dodge slow moving tourists-- scowl you see everyday in the city. But what differentiated the two was the effort the heavy girl was using to scurry across the street. Both had that soft scowl, but the heavier woman had that extra look of unhappiness - forced to speed up her gate so as to not be run down by a taxi. The thin girl hopped across the street and the heavy girl lumbered, and her face appeared to redden. I really felt bad for her.
Extra physical weight adds extra emotional weight to your day, and your life. Trust me, I know! Now we all know the fat jolly person, I get it. But in the day in and day out of life's struggles, huffing and puffing up steps, or trying to squeeze into your favorite clothes adds that extra psychological sack of brinks on your back that makes you yearn for immediate happiness -- often found in drinking, or eating.
The look on that woman's face today made me think of many I have seen, and were touched by, in the past -- including the one in the mirror. That is why I felt like writing about this today.