Stepping Out

October 26, 2004 at 9:50 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

People who have not seen me in a while have only one thing to say to me: “You’ve lost weight!”

And every time they say that, my reply has been equally standard: “Thanks. I really am trying to lose weight.”

I can say that my greatest achievement in the past year has been the way I was able to lose all the flabs I used to have on my waist, my arms and my thighs. I wasn’t that huge, but I was chubby. I had a waistline of 35!

I had been toying with the idea of going to the gym but always hinged my motivation on the availability of a gym buddy. For months I kept bugging Eileen to transfer her Powerflex membership from Morato to the one I had in mind. When she told me they wouldn’t let her, I gave up on the idea.

But last year I was standing naked in front of the mirror, soaking wet. While wiping myself off before dressing up for work, I began to count back to the last time I actually had sex with someone. It had been a long time and I got depressed. I didn’t find myself desirable enough because I was out of shape. I wasn’t looking after myself, so how could anyone like me if I didn’t like what I saw in the mirror?

A few weeks later I was watching a re-run of Will and Grace and saw the storyline involving Will and Karen’s cousin Barry. Barry had just gotten a divorce with his wife, recently came out of the closet, was overweight, sported a scruffy beard, geeky eyeglasses and was socially inept.

When Karen set him up with Will, the latter was immediately taken aback, as if almost repulsed by the idea of going out with someone like Barry. (To Will’s credit, though, Barry gave him a lousy gift, a rainbow-colored towel, on their first date.)

In many ways I feel like I’m an unraveling Barry myself. My outing had been gradual and selective, and I am yet to make a full disclosure with any member of my family.

Will and Jack took it upon themselves to help Barry with his process, even though at times he got so exasperated with Will and Jack’s shallowness that he said “You guys have had fifteen years of a head start, but how come you’re both alone?”

At that point I could relate to Barry even more. Just like him, I came out to people because I wanted to find love. To assert my feelings without a cloak of fear and secrecy obfuscating them. The only way I believed I could do that was by opening up. When I did, it became easier for me to deal with the feelings I used to have for a comrade. (If the Eyes Don’t Have It).

When THAT didn’t work out, I figured I should start with the basics, just like Barry, so I kicked myself in the butt, and signed up for gym classes, partner or no partner. No pecs, no sex, as Jack puts it.

It’s a pretty shallow way of looking at things, I know. And I make no judgments on people who are on the heavy side. But I speak for myself, and I really felt like my weight was doing a lot of damage to my self-esteem, so I decided to take control of that problem.

So for months I rushed off from work, braved the traffic to get to the gym by 7 pm because they closed at 9:30. I stuck to a 2-hour, thrice a week regimen of excruciating crunches and exercise machines, until I sweat off all the calories and all the fats that have accumulated in body parts where they didn’t belong.

After six months, my regimen began to show results. And after the May elections, I had little time to go to the gym so decided to adopt a regimen at home, minus the machines. At the same time I cut down on my carbo intake, gave up on sodas, chocolates and cakes.

By August this year, I noticed how all my pants, with waistlines all above 32 had become loose and how my belly seemed to thin until all the fats disappeared. And then people began to notice.

“You’ve shrinked!”
“Were you sick?”
“What happened to your love handles?”

It made me feel good, and I came to enjoy my newfound confidence. I’m far from the perfect six-pack I keep obsessing about, but I could safely see myself lying down in bed, naked next to another guy and not feel worried about how I look.

But a few nights ago, I realized something. I was at Seattle’s Best with Nina and I was staring at a very, very, very cute guy at a nearby table. Nina is typing away on her laptop but I tell her every now and then how cute the guy really is, and she agrees.
The guy, a left-handed loner I decided to call Southpaw, was counting out loud and smiled when he realized I was looking at him. He was fair-skinned, had a geeky wide-eyed charm about him that just tickled me blue all night. I smiled back and that was just about it.

When Nina and I left SBC, he was right behind us. “Hurry, get a cab,” I tell Nina and sent her off while I stood on the parking lot outside SBC, puffing my cig. He was walking around, not sure of where to go. Southpaw had a cig in hand and approached me and asked for a light. I obliged and handed him my lighter. He said his thanks, took a puff, and for a few seconds stood beside me. I didn’t know what to say.

Actually I wanted to ask him what his name was, but I just couldn’t. I couldn’t tell if he was expressing interest of was really just out of light. Southpaw takes a few steps away, paces around, looks at me again before walking away.

I watched him go, hoping he’d turn around and look back at me. But if he did, I don’t know if I would have followed him.

So there I was, ten, fifteen pounds lighter in a span of nine months, but still didn’t feel comfortable enough in my own skin.

I realized I may have lost all those unwanted fats on me, but I was still carrying some unseen baggage around, this thing called ‘inferiority complex’, and was just as heavy as ever, although not literally.

Quite simply, I may be confident about my body, but I still had a lot cut out for me when it comes to reaching out.

I mean sex is sex, and for sure, feeling good about my body makes that easy, but I haven’t lost sight of my overreaching goal, which is to find someone. And I guess that requires more than just a slim body. It requires screwing up the courage to talk to someone, open up and get to know them better, with no fear of being told off.

So the following night, I went back to SBC and treated myself to a cold serving of late-night Javanilla. I was hoping Southpaw would be there, but wasn’t surprised when he wasn’t. I was, as I’ve said before, “finding empowerment in my solitude”.

Just like Barry when he said goodbye to Will, I told myself that I need to see for myself what might be out there for me. I want to put myself out there and see the world, untainted by the point of view of friends and loved ones.

Thus I resolved to take more time out by myself. Not necessarily to get laid, but just be able to hang out and enhance my capacity to relate and make myself more interesting.

I have to look for myself out there. One step at a time, steady but surely. Make some progress as a person who’s not afraid to engage the world on his own terms. And that in itself is a goal more worthy of pursuit than a flat, six-pack abs.

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