Things You Just Can't Get Away With When You're Built Like Shrek

The majority of the human race doesn't really know what it's like to be a gargantuan monster of an individual.

That's not to say they don't have their own situations that I can't relate to -- I have no idea what it's like to be black, short, female, pretty / handsome, skinny, handicapped or blind. I cannot relate to those particular situations. Which is why I find myself reading materials that talk about the difficulties, prejudices and sometimes benefits that come from being who those people are. I genuinely enjoy getting perspectives from others about what their perspective of the human condition is. But I haven't really found anyone who talks openly about being a large hulking mass of humanity.

Now, I HAVE read the "poor me, I'm obese" stuff, and having been obese at one point, I have absolutely no pity for those folks. Unlike the genetically-based features of skin color, height, musculature, beauty (or lack thereof); obesity is a choice. Don't want to deal with the ramifications of being obese? Choose not to be obese anymore. Simple. But I'm not obese. I'm just massive.

And there are things you simply can't do when you're my size. Note that this is not a poor-me list of things. I'm HAPPY with who I am. I love being me. This is simply an attempt to shine some light on what it is to BE me. I write this in the same spirit in which I enjoy reading other peoples' perspectives of their lives.

1) Buy clothes in a normal store.

The vast majority of the clothing I own is from athletic stores. XXL shirts, basketball shorts, and sneakers. It's more than just a comfort thing - it's the only clothing you can buy in your average, ordinary store that fits, and it won't cost you an arm and a leg. There is a certain reality to needing clothes to wear each day, and to fill out the closet without breaking the bank, I buy athletic crap from the sports stores. But when I go to get fitted for a suit or try to buy khakis or any other clothing, the Benjamins start hitting the counter.

I can't just walk into Men's Warehouse and say "fit me." Because, while they have a Big and Tall selection, they don't really have a "giant hulk of a person" section. The alterations they make to the pants and sport coats cause blousing and puffing in rather ugly places. With the jacket on, I look like a rectangle with a head and shoes; without the jacket I look like I'm trying to bring back Hammer Pants.

2) Threaten anyone, ever.

You can't even tease with threats when you're my size; not if you want to continue to have some semblance of a social life. I've been threatened with termination from jobs simply because, in a bout of anger at repeated incompetence, I've yelled at someone. Nothing violent, or even mildly threatening -- just the act of raising my voice to them was seen as a threat.

When you actually do get around to threatening people, security and police show up immediately, such as when someone confronts you in a department store or park or bar. And it sucks, because there's definitely a certain subsection of smaller, ego-driven bastards out there who always want to challenge the big guy over just about everything, knowing that either their friends or the security present will back them up. And God forbid you ever do anything approaching physical to these people... You're sunk. Anyone with any authority (especially a judge or jury) will look at you, then look at them, then sentence you with whatever they can as quickly as possible, all because you were supposed to be the bigger man.

My good friend Drew took note recently of my phrasing about how I feel about someone who was openly insulting us. I said "I'd love to box that guy," and he pointed out how much he loved the fact that "I'd love to box him" and "I'd love to beat the shit out of him" mean the exact same thing, but have completely different connotations. This is no accident - I can say "I'd like to meet someone in an organized contest with a referee and padded gloves and go toe-to-toe with them". And I can get away with it.

But to take the context out into the street or in any setting without some sort of rules or referee is, for whatever reason, scarier. My guess is that, when you look like you could run through a wall and not take a scratch, the idea of that person willingly following established rules in a contest brings some measure of comfort, since no one's able to stop you if you go off the reservation and just decide to wail the hell out of a guy. Who knows, I'm not a psychology major. I'm just Shrek.

3) Be clumsy.

I've tripped down the stairs at my house and slammed into the front doorframe. We had to replace the doorframe, while I took only a minor bruise.

You have to be especially mindful of your body and surroundings when you're three hundred pounds of meat, because the damage you do when you fall and hit things is far more dangerous than others -- both to the object and to yourself. Gravity is your constant enemy, and you can't give it any advantage in the eternal battle between you and it.

(Also, apparently we can't spell clumsy correctly, but thanks to Heather, I got that fixed)

4) Pat people on the back / nudge / tickle / etc

It's really, really, really difficult to be physically playful with people when you're a big dude, because getting into the spirit of, say, a slap fight - while permissible to the other player - is just asking for a lawsuit (or, at least, a pissed-off friend). You can't let the adrenaline kick in during a ticklefight with your wife, because when you flail around and try to get her away from your ribs, she could end up flying through a wall -- and don't even think about kicking her away if she's tickling your feet.

5) Eat at restaurants (cheaply).

There's a certain ratio of protein / carbohydrates / fat you have to maintain if you're going to be a healthy hunk of meat, and the food that is served in restaurants tends to be portioned for either a) regular size fit people, or b) fat fucks who don't care what they're putting in their bodies.

Those places that serve good portions are serving fat and carb laden dishes, usually with the word "fried" in the name. Those that serve healthy food are portioning things out on the assumption that you're an average human being. To get enough steak to make it worth ordering steak in most restaurants means you're spending minimum 25 bucks - it's the porterhouse at Outback, or heading to Morton's and coughing up the 60 or so bucks for a plate of meat. Don't bother being a foodie if you want to eat your fill - if you head to any Michelin-rated restaurant, you know you're buying hotdogs after dinner to feel satiated.

6) Appear smart

No one has ever - not once - said as I walked in a room "that guy looks smart."

This sucks for soooooo many reasons, the biggest of which is that, during a lot of my consulting, I've had to be the expert in at least some part of my field. And the fact that I walk in and look like I just came from either the corn fields or the football field makes it difficult to initially establish my expertise on any field whatsoever.

This is personified at any computer, sci-fi or comic-related gathering. It doesn't really matter how much you know about anything that's being talked about. You're a jock. You can't possibly know shit about shit. Even after you pwn someone on a topic (go ahead, try to argue anything about silver or modern age comic storylines with me), you're then ostracized from the group for being too aggressive.

You can't just fit in in almost any intellectual social group, whether in the enterprise or at your average gathering. It's hard work, and most of the time, it all goes for naught, because no matter how passive you try to be, you remind the geeks of the guys who beat them up when they were kids. And in the business world, you played too much D&D and are too geeky to fit in with the fratboy marketing types who continually want to dominate the conversation. And the second you raise your voice to talk over the din of nonsense being discussed and bring some sort of sense to the conversation, item #2 kicks in.

7) Ride most rollercoasters.

I went to King's Dominion in Virginia once. I couldn't ride seven out of the ten rides I tried to get on, because the chest harness wouldn't fit over my chest. Same at Six Flags - there are only two coasters I can ride, the Mind Bender and the Scream Machine, because they have lap bars. To try to ride any stand-up coaster is to have your balls squished as you exhale every ounce of breath you have, just to get the over-the-shoulder and crotch-rising harnesses to fix in place... You have to REALLY want to ride that ride to go through it.

8) See a regular doctor.

I go to a general practitioner who has her basis in sports medicine. I do this because I got very, very, very, very, very, very sick of hearing about how much weight I needed to lose or how obese I was based on height/weight charts. Body Mass Index is a joke. It isn't accurate at all. It's nonsense, especially for big bodybuilder types.

I also can't hear things like "your joints hurt because you weigh a lot." This isn't true, my joints hurt because I work out every single day and I need you to tell me how to deal with tendonitis, thanks. I don't have torn cartilage in my knee due to being heavy, I have it due to training. I can't deal with your churn-rate, masses-of-asses doctor's office - I need a doctor who will actually pay attention to the physiology of the person in front of her instead of just referring back to charts and numbers.

9) Buy a brace / wrap / cuff for any body part except the ankle in a pharmacy.

Good luck getting even an XL knee wrap over my leg, or an XL elbow cuff around my elbow. It doesn't work.

10) Make a list of difficulties about being the size you are.

No one wants to hear any of this. I possess a size and strength that most guys at any gym would kill another man for (and have said so themselves). I cannot tell you how many times a day at the gym I hear some guy talk about how he wishes he was my size (not because I'm overly muscular, but because my frame allows for larger weights to be lifted, and that's perceived as strength to them). No guy who got their ass kicked in school wants to hear the "I'm too big" list either, because all they've ever wished for was the ability to slam a hammer-fist into a bully's face. Everyone always wonders why you're writing software or drawing pictures for a living when you could be playing in the NFL.

Again, this isn't a pity list. But it will probably be seen as one, because these things sound like complaints. In some way, they are - I do wish that nice clothing that fit me didn't cost half a paycheck, and I do wish I could eat out at a restaurant for less than 30 bucks. Those things would be nice.

I don't think that I like being my size, specifically for the qualities of being my size. But I do like who I am as a result of being my size all my life. I like the perspectives I've been able to have on things. I like that I have had to force myself to be more educated on topics because I know I won't be taken seriously when I talk about them. I enjoy that, even though I couldn't ever get away with just fighting some loudmouth prick, if that guy ever threatened my wife, I could defend her (of course, I'd have to act quickly, because she's pretty much a badass who can, and has, beat up guys on her own).

But there it is, a small glimpse into the world of a 6' 3" monster of a guy. Up next: How much it costs to tattoo a canvas that size, and ten ways to whine about it.