Flying Your Flag

According to the Bible, Adam and Eve were naked in the Garden of Eden. To me this means two things – (1) they were attractive and (2) they lived somewhere warmer than Canada. But after they ate the apple, suddenly the fig leaf trend hit and everybody was wearing one. The Bible says Adam and Eve felt ashamed and that’s why they needed to cover themselves. So the original purpose of clothing was to hide our shame. Some of us need to remember that as fashion trends come and go, A velour leisure suit is every bit as shameful as a naked body.

But clothing has gone way beyond that original purpose. It’s been used to identify groups of people like cowboys and Indians or armies or the Amish. If armies were naked, the two sides would only be differentiated by the size of their weapons. Many people are more comfortable in a group so dressing the same is a comforting way to blend in and not have to defend any individual choices. But as confidence and ego came into fashion, clothing became an extension of ourselves. ‘Clothes make the man’ my relatives used to say. Except for my uncle who said ‘Man makes the clothes’. He was a tailor. But I know what they were getting at. They were saying people judge you by looking at your clothes. Are they the latest fashion? Do they look good on you? Are they clean? Do they have holes in them? Are they supposed to have holes in them?

I think it’s all a trap. The fashion industry wants you to rely on your clothes to make up for any of your other inadequacies. And they try to get you when you’re most vulnerable – while you’re a teenager. Teenagers are the easiest customers in the marketplace. Strange things are happening to their bodies and their voices and other things. They’re inbetween childhood and adulthood for six or seven years and that’s a lotta time to be in the ondeck circle. They wanna be up to bat. They want to be making their own choices and running their own lives. But they can’t. At least not in most things. They have to live at home and go to school and pretend to listen to Dad.

So whenever they can express their own identity, they do. Through their music. Or their haircuts. But the most dramatic way is through their clothing. They can look tough or slutty or both or neither. Mom has dressed them for 12 years, those days are over. Teenagers want to fit in and stand out all at the same time. They want to be seen as innovative as long as their friends are innovative too. Wearing the latest fashion trends is a way to do that. And once they do that, the fashion folks have them for life. The kinds of clothes they buy will change but the need to buy them will last forever.

Not me. I have a few reasonably nice clothes that I can wear on social occasions. They’re not new but they’re ambiguously semi-classic and most of the time I can get away with them. And if somebody calls me out for wearing a shirt I’ve had for five years, I’m not embarrassed, I’m proud. They call it being out of style. I call it being in charge. Open your closet and take inventory. Chances are you’ve got $5,000 worth of clothes in there, most of which you never wear. My closet is around the $750 mark – $700 for social clothes and the other $50 for the clothes I wear day to day.

I don’t want to wear even somewhat expensive clothes day to day and I’ll tell you why: BECAUSE I DO THINGS. I change tires or replace spark plugs or rebuild carburetors or install toilets. I don’t hang out at the mall all day sipping lattes and looking at what everyone’s wearing. At the end of the day, I want to feel like I’ve accomplished something. I don’t care if nobody complimented me on my jeans. If I got the lawnmower running, that’s a good day.

And good clothes are wasted on me. If I’m dressed up and the furnace goes dead, I’ll be down in the basement with my tools ruining a really nice shirt. I know my wife would prefer it if I dressed better but she also likes the fact that I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty. As long as I eventually wash ‘em.

So if you really like clothes and fashion and want to always look your best, that’s fine. I have no problem with that. But don’t criticize those of us who go another way. Remember clothes were created to hide shame not to spread it.

Your Royal Obeseness

There are 350 million people in the U.S. and about 340 million of ‘em are either on a diet or should be. The only reason I’m not in that category is because I’m Canadian. I know there’s a big push on these days to end ‘body shaming’. It’s seen as a form of bullying to demean people based on their physical imperfections. I’ve seen where lingerie companies are starting to use plus-sized models to advertise their frillies. These are larger, full-figured women who are confident and comfortable with their bodies. I still haven’t seen an ad featuring a really fat guy in a Speedo yet but I’ve been to a couple of Club Meds and believe me, it isn’t pretty. No matter how confident Fat Boy is.

All in all I think this new approach is a good thing but it only goes so far. It’s a lot easier to change what people say and even what they do but it’s almost impossible to change what they think. When they compliment you on your beach cover-up, it’s their way of begging you not to take it off. This latest wave of implied acceptance is part of a pattern that’s been evolving over a long period of time. Many years ago when you met a grossly overweight person you would say ‘Man, you’re a fat bastard.’ That era ended abruptly when it was discovered that a lot of fat guys can really throw a punch. In the next phase, when you met that same person you would say ‘Hello. How nice to meet you.’ and then you would turn to your friend and whisper ‘Man, he’s a fat bastard,’ That didn’t last long either due to one of the mysteries of Nature which is that most fat people are sensitive. And have excellent hearing. And now we’re in the final phase where we meet the person and say ‘It’s an honour to meet you. You’re looking well,’ And then whisper nothing to your friend. Or anyone else. Ever. But in your mind you’re still thinking . ‘Man, that is one fat bastard.’

I’m okay with almost all of this. I think it’s wrong to be mean to fat people. I don’t think their weight is any of my business. And I’m happy for them that they feel good about their largeness. Where it falls apart for me is when I’m supposed to revere them for having the courage to be fat. I can accept but I can’t revere. I save revere for heroes and moral leaders and good people who work hard to make the world a better place. Not for fat guys who have no shame. I don’t believe that anybody who had the choice between being a fat guy and being a normal guy would choose to be a fat guy. They would never consciously choose that route. Yet subconsciously they choose it all the time.

That’s because of one of the sad truths about human existence – most of the enjoyable things in life aren’t good for you. skydiving, eating a four pound cheeseburger, having sex with your secretary, having sex with your secretary while skydiving. Our challenge is to deny ourselves those kinds of pleasures. Many of us do not rise to that challenge. Especially when it comes to eating. The original concept is to ‘eat whenever you’re hungry’ but that has expanded to ‘eat whenever you’re awake’.

When humans are doing something destructive, like slowly killing themselves with a knife and a fork, they often come up with excuses as to why it’s not their fault. We’ve all heard about slow metabolism and water retention and genetic predisposition but in my opinion, there’s a simple scientific explanation. As our old pal Al Einstein proved, energy can neither be created nor destroyed. It can only be transformed. Think of a potato as energy.

When you eat it, you take that energy in. Your job now is to transform that energy into something else. You could use it to do some activity. Breathing and yawning don’t count. Take a walk. Ride a bike. Climb some stairs. Do anything other than eat another potato. If you don’t use that energy. It will go somewhere. But not here:

The only way to get all the unused energy to go down the toilet is to throw the potato directly in there. Instead your body will store the energy. As fat. That’s because your body is hoping that you will come to your senses one day. That you will do something that requires energy. Your body is ready for that day, hoping and praying that it comes. If all that comes is more potato energy, your body will continue to store it as fat because your body still believes in you. No matter how cruel you are to it.

One final troubling spin-off from this new idea that fat is beautiful, is the attitude that the world feels obligated to the new reality. Restaurant portions need to be larger, we need alternatives to stairs and even walking itself. People don’t need to be smaller, airplane seats need to be bigger. Well okay but all of these changes raise the cost of living for everybody. A normal-sized guy is now paying more for a dinner that’s way too big for him to finish. Escalators and elevators are expensive. Do we need them everywhere? I lived in a community where the residents complained because there was no elevator to the fitness room. And sure the airlines could make airplane seats big enough to accommodate Mr. Jumbo but there’d only be 20 seats on the plane instead of 300 and the airfare would be $10,000 one way instead of $199 return.

I know I’m coming across as a hard-ass here but I can’t seem to find a way around it. I’ve been overweight most of my life. Not to the point of a health risk and I can buy clothes at normal stores but I’m not proud of how I look and it’s got nothing to do with body shaming. The ideal is to be fit – mentally and physically. When you see the Greek and Roman statues from thousands of years ago, you don’t see a guy with a massive beer gut and 200 pounds of back fat. Nobody wants to see a statue of a fat guy. No offence, Buddha.