Tonight was like most Wednesday nights for the past 30-odd weeks. At six o’clock, I start walk down Market Street toward the Castro, arrive at the Metropolitan Community Church thirty minutes later, and weigh-in. This is my weekly Weight Watchers meeting. It starts at seven, but there’s always a line at the scales, so I get there early and hang out until the meeting begins. This series of events, followed by dinner at Nirvana on Castro Street, is just what I do every week.
At seven, the meeting begins and people get awards for losing increments of five pounds, "Bravo" stickers for sharing useful advice with the group, and then we break into groups briefly to do meal-planning exercises. Our group had to figure out what to pack in a healthy brown bag lunch for work. Others determined how to have breakfast on-the-go, lunch home alone, and such.
It’s actually an amazing group of people with an energetic, inspiring leader, which is why I go. That, and the fact that I stopped going last time when I hit around 219, because I figured I knew the system well enough to not pay them to rent a scale once a week. This time, I’m finishing the program.
Tonight was different because for the first time in as long as I can remember, my weight began with a one. At my worst a few years back, my weight began with a three. That time, it was clear that might be the case, so there was some dieting and weight loss in advance of signing up, hoping at least for a weight of 299.9, but it didn’t happen. But today, I weighed in 198.0 pounds, or at least I did before I went to Nirvana afterwards.
Normally, people can get one of two numbers out of me: what I weigh currently, or how much weight I’ve lost. Very few people get both numbers, as it lends itself to easy math I prefer people not do. That will likely change when I finish all of this up and hit my goal weight. At present, the goal is to hit 180, although my body-mass index calculator I use says I will not be considered overweight once I drop down to 193. So, I may only have another two or three weeks of being overweight ahead of me here.
The truth is, I don’t know what my ideal weight is. I passed it so long ago on my way up that any attempt to pin it down now is just speculation.
But there is a very strange confluence of events happening in my life at present. First, I weigh less than 200 pounds as of today. Second, my novel exists in draft form as of this past Sunday. Third, my unemployment runs out in a month and a half (although savings isn’t awful yet). Fourth, the company that fired me in November just got acquired this week, so my unemployment would have happened soon enough anyway, as I’m not optimistic I would have made the transition over to Adobe. The last point is more important to people who can’t believe I gave up that job or, more appropriately that salary, to write a novel with no publisher attached, no contract, and no idea if it will ever matter or "pay off." At least now, my prodding them to fire me is somewhat of a moot point, the job probably won’t exist by this fall. So, worst case, I avoided a few more months of misery and could have gotten a nice buyout package, but NOT have a novel written. I made the right choice. No question.
It’s been strange being in this new body. The clothes I buy now seem ridiculously small to my mind, but fit my body. There is still a disconnect between my mental weight and my physical weight, some catching up to do if you will. That will happen over time. For now, it is good energy to bring to losing weight. No need getting cocky just yet.
This past week, walking through the Castro, some guy gave me a hard stare up and down as we passed on the sidewalk. My natural instinct kicked in.
What was wrong? Is something on my face? Is there a stain on my shirt?
A block later, it happened again, and this time it hit me: I was being cruised. So, this is what the fuss is about. I mean, living here, it is not uncommon to see someone get cruised, or cruising someone yourself. But, being a spectator or the cruiser had not prepared me to be the cruisee.
There is a whole world of stuff like that on the horizon. Many heterosexual people my age are going into their second marriage, and my gay peers seem to be hitting the point where they are "tired of the club scene" that I scarcely know how to navigate yet. Not sure why it would have taken them this long to get tired of it, but if Craigslist is any guide, mid-to-late thirties does seem to be when that happens. It also seems to be when people have their kink nailed down. If you are someone who wants to be considered a "daddy" who mainly wants to spank "bad boys," you will typically be my age and older. I still maintain that kink is sexual boredom, but I will revise that belief over time (or not). That is clearly my view of it now, though.
I am also 36, putting me one year past the desired age range for the people I have found desirable, who seem to use 35 as the magic cut-off for their upper age limit. Their range, of course, skews only a few years older than their age and many years under, but that is the way things work, so no use complaining. I’m the same way.
This week, I created a new e-mail account so that when I respond to personal ads, they don’t get an easy path to this site. So, a little more mystery, as opposed to three years of history, seems to be a good decision. No one needs to have access to this much information about me before we even meet. I also need to take some photos at this weight, since that is also the currency of the online personal. They will only be face pics, though.
Which is a point I should clarify… when I say Craigslist, I should be more specific that I am cruising "miscellaneous romance" and not "men for men," which is basically a clearinghouse for people looking to have very-specific sex within the hour. Miscellaneous Romance is more about finding people to date, meeting for coffee, seeing what happens. Which doesn’t mean you won’t get laid out of the deal, just that there is a desire for something more, and any sex you have is more likely to be on subsequent dates, not two minutes after meeting in person.
So, this is the first in what will be a series of essays, collected under the category of "Finding Myself." The title is a reference to the title of what I believe will be my second book called, "Losing Myself," or "Losing My Self," I keep going back and forth as to which I like better. I actually think I am settling on making it ambiguous, seeing if I can get it in a font and typeset so that there is just a little extra space, but not a full space, between the y and the s, so that people can make up their own minds as to its correct title.
The second book basically starts with a character further down the line than I am at present. He went through a massive weight loss, but the crux of the book is putting the last remaining pieces of his former self behind him, and how that process is largely about actually defining who he is from scratch, as being overweight was such a huge part of his identity that a lot of gaps existed in his identity once he lost the weight.
This has been the theme of the book for more than a year now, so it is interesting to note how well my own life is lining up along that path. Spooky! That said, "Losing Myself" is largely a fictional story based on some autobiographical details and a hell of a lot of stuff that is entirely made up, just like the first book. If I thought this stuff would make an interesting memoir, I would write it that way. I don’t, so I won’t.
These "Finding Myself" essays are the missing autobiographical links between where the fictional main character’s journey in the first book ends, and where the fictional lead character in the second book’s tale begins. It isn’t as complicated as it sounds, but one other thing to note is that the books themselves are not related. No characters overlap between books. They are self-contained books with beginnings, middles, and ends. However, if you chart the first, second, and third books, there will be an emotional flow line the main character follows, along the lines of body image and weight loss. But that’s a long way off before anyone, including me, can see how it pans out.
Although this essay is introducing the series, I don’t consider it the first official essay. I want them to be more polished. So, a few of the personal examples mentioned above will probably re-appear in subsequent essays, fleshed out and sculpted with more detail.
In a touch of arrogance, these essays were also offered to Salon.com as a running feature. They never replied, so they will just be posted here for free. Obviously, if the first book does well, they could be published on their own in book form at some point, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. I only mention Salon on the off-chance that my first book does do well, and they will see that they could have had a piece of the action for more than a year leading up to that happening. So, it’s mainly a dice roll, either these essays will matter for something and I win and Salon made the wrong call, or in two years’ time I am back in the corporate world with a dozen boxes of my remaindered books in my garage and Salon made the right call. Only time will tell. Place your bets now.
Needless to say, this is an exciting time for me. And, despite how this reads, I am not really treating my life like a science experiment. Like, nothing I do will occur specifically because I am writing these essays. I just know enough crazy shit will be happening anyway, so I may as well document it as it does.
There is no expected frequency for these essays, although I would hesitate to think it will go longer than a month before another one arrives. While I do go through a lot of trouble to make my autobiographically-themed fiction fictional, these will be unvarnished and as close to reality as my ego will allow (although I have a very high tolerance for letting myself look stupid, so there is little reason to worry it will be polished to make me look better).
Anyway, I hope you enjoy these essays as they begin to appear on the site. The first should be here by the end of the month/early May.
This is the first of the Finding Myself entries on jeffwalsh.com. In the future, you will be able to find these essays easily by clicking "Finding Myself" under the category link.