Is My Phobia of Fat Men Normal?
I think everybody has a pet peeve, a hatred of something or other, something that revolts them, irks them, a horrific nightmare. You may not want to express it, to vocalise it, not even to your spouse or favourite lover. Your psychiatrist has trouble bringing it to the surface. And it may be embarrassing to admit. It may only inhabit the far recesses of the subconscious. It may even be hard to express in words, to make others empathise with your viewpoint.
So I should probably keep what I'm going to tell you now, a secret, not allow it to see the light of day. I am sure there are some racial slurs attached to what I am about to admit, and I'll probably lose half my readership as a result, but I have always advocated absolute honestly.
I cannot stand being in the company of a fat man — nor even looking at one. I want to get as far away as quickly as I can. (There, I said it! — anyone still reading?)
I have trouble carrying out a civil conversation with a fat man. Large women are cuddly, humorous, lots of fun — but certainly not their oversized male counterparts.
Randy Newman tells us he cannot handle short people. He wrote a humorous song* in the seventies about the uselesness of shorties. Do you remember it? It had a catchy tune and was reasonably popular at the time. It is still aired on occasion for its novelty, though many of the short statured amongst us are not always amused. But why — it was obviously written for a laugh, as a satire. We all know the vertically challenged have no choice in the matter. It was the hand they were dealt, the roll of their dice. And anyway, often short is an advantage. There are tasks only a short person can carry out effectively. We of extended length get tangled wheras the little people just glide under. Ever see a tall jockey racing in the Melbourne Cup or at the Kentucky Derby? Or a tall Irish leprechaun for that matter?
The song went like this:
Short People got no reason
Just replace "short" and "little" with (you can choose) fat, obese, corpulent, overblown, heavyset or blubbery (or all of the above) and you have a brand new hit song. Even add drooling for good measure. And as much I hate to admit it, even to my psychoanalyst, this well could be my theme song, the Kuchar anthem.
Large gentlemen, yes I know, there are a few people who have a disease, disorder or chemical condition, something in their brains that doesn't switch off their hunger pangs when they should be satiated, something in the endocrine system that fools the body's controls to encourage further food intake, an incorrectly set switch in their pituitary gland that keeps ingestion at a peak for an hour or more ... .
Growing up, I does not recall too many fat men in Sydney. They were certainly a rarity. Now they are ubiquitous. We all called my father's good friend, Erwin, fat. And he was rather rotund. But by today's standards, I believe he would be considered average, at most, portly, at the outside overweight. Today, all over the West, you see obesity in every direction you look. Much concern has been generated about this increasing incidence of obesity. Some studies have noted an increase from 12% to 18% occurring between 1991 and 1998 in America.
In the East well rounded men are still rare, but their numbers there too are on the increase. Eastern diets are now changing, westernising, fattening, nontraditional.
I remember my visits to Melbourne in the late seventies. I used to fly down there every couple of weeks. I was programming the Peter MacCallum Cancer Institute's patient management computer systems. I often attended morning prayers at the Adath Yisroel Synagogue. There I befriended Chudie [yes that really was what everbody called him], a good friend of my father and Erwin from back when they lived in the southern capital during the late forties.
When I came into the Adass (as the shule is affectionately called), Chudie would inevitably ask me if I am still in contact with Erwin. "Sure I am." "Is he still so fat? — I remember once we sat down to eat and he polished off six wiener schnitzels!" Each time the old Hungarian related the story, the number of schnitzels increased — you know, like the old fisherman's story. "Send him my regards", which I always did, but I never told Erwin how his old mate affectionately recalled him.
But other than my dad's buddy I does not recall fat men during my childhood, nor too many people with diabetes mellitus either. Did anyone have their stomachs stapled back then? Or their intestines shortened? Dr Atkins was still practising general medicine and South Beach was a holiday resort in Florida and on the south side of Yaquina Bay, near Newport, Oregon.
I recall a regular comic strip appearing on the second last page of the Australian Womens' Weekly. In the days before offshore printing in Hong Kong, this magazine really appeared each and every Wednesday and not monthly as it does today. I forget the name of the comic, but it was based on a meeting of two fleshy men, one rather pleasantly plump, the second exceptionally obese. In each episode the two fat men have a kind of conversation which only non-emaciated men could have. I didn't comprehend the humour but I remember the adults loving it — a really good belly-laugh with each incident. These two porcine men were always stationary — they appeared to be unable to move!
There's a guy like that at our prayer services. He's so enormous he has trouble sitting comfortably — his guts just get in the way, he needs most of two chairs (I ain't flying anywhere with that guy, not unless he buys me a first class seat) — but he also has difficulty standing up. His blubber, partially camouflaged by a half tucked shirt, vacillates heavily over his lower garment. The front of his trousers sits just over his crotch, well under the masses of oozing fat. He stands in the middle of the room, leaning heavily on the readers' desk for support. He waddles in, always a bit late, and basically stays put in this one location, forcing everyone else to circumnavigate his girth when crossing the prayer hall. He is engaged in a constant battle againt Sir Isaac Newton, or at least Isaac's physics.
Earlier today I saw a stranger across the way. The top of his trousers were around his waist, just below where I would guess his belly button was located, right where a thin man wears them. But his apparel must have been at least size XXXXXXL in order to encompass his girth. Suspenders would have been a better bet to hold them up than the belt he wore.
I think this chap is more honest than the others. Or the others live in a vain hope of (speedily) returning to a normal, slender body, and then their 6XL trousers won't fit, they will become useless overnight. It is nice to dream.
One time I was sitting in my usual seat at the back of the synagogue. Evening prayers had just commenced as the big bank bloke entered. He walked heavily and clumsily, with a pronounced sway, down the aisle, his stomach bumping chairs on either side. His pants sat just above his secret parts, well under his protuberance. And suddenly he was waddling with his trousers under his knees. It must have been a common occurrence because he continued moving forward, pulling his pants back up to under his abdomen as he went.
Tell me this build is normal — this is the way the Lord intended mankind to be. And my attitude to them is sick, the product of a warped brain? Tell me it is my responsibility to pay their medical bills via my taxes, to put them out of their misery when their feeble bodies succumb to their excesses.
In Church or in the street, this excessive body fat is covered, out of site. You know it's there — it hangs, it flops, it shakes, sways and wobbles. But at the swimming pool ... now that's a different story. Are they not embarrassed to remove their shirts in front of we lesser mortals? Raw, hairy flab dangling over their bathers.
We have a regular whose stomach reaches halfway down to his knees. When he falls into the Jacuzzi, half the contents gush out onto the floor. As he lowers his entire being into the warm water, it resembles a mini Niagara Falls, but here the cubic metres per second of water falling is far greater than that at the famous landmark. When he finally enters the larger body of water, he floats up and down the pool a couple times. Really exerts himself. Our lifeguards are sure glad that blubber floats. How would you scrap that thing off the bottom if it sank?
I know this condition is now considered a disease, the malady of the twentieth-first century. But this isn't an excuse. Disease here means a social problem, an attitude problem, a problem of self esteem. Sorry to preach.
Overblown man — do something! Exercise, stop eating white bread, cut out animal fat. Desist from consuming all those creamcakes! (or at least cut down from eight or nine with each cup of coffee — and skip the cream in the brew).
Inside every fat man, there should be a thin man trying to escape. Fat boy, help your own thin man come out!
* The song Short People In 1978, legislation was introduced in the state of Maryland to make it illegal to play "Short People" on the radio. Contrary to popular myth, the bill did not pass. Although Newman was often seen as mean-spirited, it is generally assumed by those who know about him that he wrote the song as a commentary on how some people treated others who did not live up to society's rigid standards
Menachem Kuchar, 6th May, 2010
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