Day 164: I Could’ve Used A Fat Role Model

I’ve told the story a million times and it seems like I’m going to have to tell it a million more. After spending my first 7 years of life innocuously as a normal child, I got fat overnight. I didn’t think it was going to be a big deal, but reality crashed on me like a perfect storm. Suddenly, I was losing friends. I lost my 20/20 vision. My choice of football team sucked. I realized that it was no longer normal for boys to cry, but I did it anyways. I did it a lot. Basically every opportunity I had. Suddenly, I had no idea who I was or who I wanted to be. Kids were merciless, as they always were and always will be. I knew I had to do something different to overcome the incessant bullying and self-loathing.

This is why Chris Farley was such a revelation. He picked up where John Candy left off and instantly became the token bumbling fat guy. Except he took what John Candy did and amplified it by a million. He was a great big ball of energy that couldn’t be stopped and I was mystified. This was it. This was who I had to be. And I tried it out, in sloppy spurts. It didn’t work. It just made me look like a psycho. When you’re trying to do comedy, context is everything and I had none. But I felt that if I just kept at it, I could become something like him and make it my own. Then, and only then, would I be happy.

And then, of course, he died.

Even though I was only 10, I understood the circumstances that killed him. He overdosed on drugs. And he did it because he was miserable. Just like John Candy. Just like me. His death sent me into a deep, dark trench that took over a year to get out of. If the guy that I wanted to be was so unhappy that he ended his life, what does that say about me? What does that say about fat people in general? I didn’t want to be depressed like Farley and I didn’t want to be dumb like Homer Simpson. The Pillsbury Doughboy had no real substance. What else was there? The Michelin Man? Louie Anderson? Pfft. There were no body-positive role models to look up to back then. To strive to be. I had nothing. I was left to my own devices and I had to build myself from scratch.

It took years to figure myself out. There was a lot of trial, error and Hawaiian shirts. Eventually, I met Andy: a fellow fat guy that didn’t seem to let it bother him. We became fast friends as we used each other to riff off of and become the funny guys that we wanted to be. We became unstoppable. We did what we wanted, said what we wanted and our classmates ate it up. The bullying stopped as I was finally able to embrace who I was and I’m sure Andy could say the same thing. Neither of us had a model that we were following or a person we were trying to become. We learned that it was easier to be ourselves. And it’s something that’s made me the content fat guy that I am today.

But I know other kids weren’t so lucky. Right now, there are millions of fat kids out there just as lost as I was. The times haven’t changed much. Body shaming is just as prevalent as it was before. It might actually be worse, considering how transparent all of our lives have become. Which is why Jonah Hill’s Instagram post warmed my heart. Last week, a UK Tabloid published some pictures of him shirtless after surfing. He had this to say about it:

This was exactly what I needed to hear when I was a kid. And I really hope that kids now are listening to this advice. Just be yourself and have fun, damnit. At the end of the day, the shape of your body doesn’t matter. It’s what goes on inside that matters most. And I know that 10 year old Troy would’ve scoffed at this notion. It sounds hokey and cliché. But if I was hearing it from a fat celebrity that I looked up to, I’d probably listen. Which makes me wonder how much lost time I could’ve made up, how many miserable days I could’ve avoided, if I just had a fat role model.