Yesterday, a four-year-old girl called out to me, after I brought her and her brother a drink. “Thank you, old, fat Frappuccino maker!” she said. It’s rare you have your qualities listed in such a precise fashion. In fact, I doubt anyone is more honest than a four year old in their assessments of people. They tell it like they see it.
Last February, I answered the phone at work and someone asked, “Is this the store where the ‘tall old white guy employee’ works?” As soon as they realized that they were speaking to the tall old white guy employee, they hung up.
I’m more amused than alarmed. I’m not hurt at all. Hell, I’m pushin’ 50 here, folks. And a person might liberally describe me as fat, although most people don’t usually get to stare at me without my having put on a heavy layer of clothing. I don’t even swim without at least having a tee shirt to protect me from staring eyes of strangers. Strangers love the sport of open-mouthed staring at fatties like me.
The fact of the thing is, first impressions matter. So, I’m old, and tall, and fat, and white? Yeah. Customers at my store pretty much nailed it. Most of those things aren’t something I can do much about. Fat? Maybe a little bit, but it’s a long, slow process, weight loss, and I’ve spent decades scarfing pizza to attain this svelte, waiflike figure.
By the time I was in second grade, I was always the tallest kid in my class. By the time I reached 5th grade, I was the tallest person in the school, including any teachers. This continued into my college years, and at that point, I was only shorter than the basketball team, and they had to be paid in tuition to lend the campus their freakish tallness. My freakish tallness paid its own tuition.
Believe it or not, I used to be skinny. You could see my ribs. This might have been the a physical manifestation of the constant nervousness my five-year-old frame was being subjected to, what with a divorce in my family, and occasional other upheavals (like moving halfway up the North American continent). I eventually started gaining weight, because Granny Spurgeon praised me with “cleaning up your plate” and Grandma Myrt with the reactionary depression attitude of “eat anything and everything you want.” Food is happiness. Good boys eat their food. These were driven into my head until, at around the age of 18, my calorie intake exceeded my output of energy. I gained about 60 pounds my first year in college.
And white? Did I ever mention Cal’s? A fantastically wonderful greasy spoon in Scotts Valley, California. Cal’s a pancakes were cheap, and the waitress would come sit with you while she took your order. She called us sweetie and she meant it. We would go every Saturday, we of the Fat Pasty White Guys’ Club. It was Ben, Craig, Vic, Marco and an infrequent host of others, all of whom were fat, and pasty, and white. Later, when folks disappeared from our little cadre, we recruited women too. Judi was the first honorary Fat Pasty White Guy. Folks adore my mushroomy complexion. I’ve slaved for years to attain such a pallid hue.
Old? Meh. That just comes with the territory. It can’t be helped. At least I’ve grown prettier with age. Some people reach their peak at 20. I figure the silver at my temples have only increased any looks I’ve had. Even from my unerring and critical glare, I tend to believe myself as (finally) starting to be good looking.
Took me long enough.
So this is my self-assessment, as seen through the eyes of others:
- I am indeed old. At least the oldest one in the store I work at.
- I am fat. Words must not be minced. A four-year-old told me so, and I can’t argue with kids. They are uncanny in their perceptive abilities.
- I am white. I’m utterly freaking pasty. When I walk out in the sun, the children all scream in protest and put on protective eye coverings.
- I am tall. Always have been, always will be.
Now that we’ve put that all to rest? That’s just the physical stuff.
- I’m also kind of compassionate. At least on paper. I like to think, when it comes to it, I can be kind to my fellow humans. Even animals. And a few trees and boulders.
- I am empathetic. I usually see the feelings of others, and when I can’t, I try to see what brings folks to feel how they do.
- I expound too much. I get excited about facts ideas, and my words run loose. Then my mouth runs ahead of me, like an unleashed greyhound, and I catch myself saying something stupid.
- I’m naturally introverted. I have to work really, really hard to interact with my fellow humans, at least live. On the Internet (with blogs, and texts, and emails and whatnot) and in print, I’m usually more apt to open up.
And a slough of other things.
Ever crack open what appears to be a delicious walnut and find nothing but a dried husk, a spiderwebby cocoon, and perhaps, a body of a dead bug, inside the shell?
Yeah. I hope I’m the exact opposite of that. Tall, fat, old, white Frappuccino makers need love too.