“Shame, Shame Go Away”
Written March 2014
Posted on: July 16, 2014
By Ryan Kerr
Growing up, I was a little tubster. And let’s be clear: being cute and cherubic wears off. Fast. Being so roly-poly made me incredibly self-conscious.
I remember comparing myself to the other boys in my class: Jimmy was so lithe; Tommy was so strong. And it seemed so effortless for them. These gaffers lacked the heavy burden of self-awareness I kept in my belly, on the daily.
I sought special permission from home to wear a t-shirt in the pool. It wasn’t as though I was targeted for being overweight - my budding flamboyance got most of the attention. (“Fucking faggot Ryan her” was a personal favourite.) But I still tried to minimize being seen, taking up space or taking any physical risks. I was safer on the sidelines, eating Oreos like potato chips.
As I matured, I focused my attention on my personality. My confidence in social situations increased, but my physical body lagged behind. Despite becoming the champion hitter in my softball league one summer - thanks for signing me up for that, Dad! - Where my body was confirmed, I still felt invisible and inadequate.
When I went to my musical theatre high school (yes, yes I did) I was taking intensive dance classes as much as 5 days a week. But when I looked in the mirror, all I saw staring back at me was the t-shirt wearing fatty in grade 2. So, I worked even harder. And ate even less.
Puberty (and the subsequent flooding of hormones and confusion it brought) confirmed that I was, indeed, a gay. The walks home through the Gaybourhood also confirmed that I was desirable. The licked lips of strangers indicated that I was as fresh and tasty as a rotisserie chicken at the market. But for the life of me, I couldn’t’t understand why. I certainly wouldn’t have picked me out of a crowd.
I had no realistic marker by which to measure myself or self-worth. All I could see was how far I was from Brad Pitt in A River Runs Through It. So, I continued to avoid my own reflection in the mirror and worked instead to be as flashy, fashionable and engaging - personality-wise - as I could be.
It wasn’t’t until almost a decade later (very recently) that a friend posted a picture of me from that time on social media. I couldn’t’t believe what I was seeing! I was a hot piece of ass. Too bad everyone could see it but me.
Out of the piranha-tank of high school and into my daily life, I continue to be at odds with what Grindr/porno/supermodel bodies are in relation to my own. I am still in the convenient habit of not actually looking at my own body. I seem to see myself in side-glances, in fuzzy peripheral vision. What I glean from the insincere perspective is the erratic growth pattern of my body hair, the mole that has always bugged me. The fact that one chin-up has been my personal best for as long as I can remember.
Rather than obsess over the minutia, I am now trying to step back and imagine what an unbiased viewer might see. I also take into consideration all the shit bouncing around in my world before I get snippy about aesthetic things. If a friend or family member is in crisis, or I’m struggling to make ends meet, it helps to remind me that there are bigger issues in the world than some unwanted lumps of flesh.
On days when the mirror is particularly critical, I make a list of all the fantastic things I’ve done - and only the fantastic things make the list - as a reminder that I am active and engaged in lots of ways. I remind myself that how I spend my time is based on what makes me feel good and that success is when I am a physical embodiment of my desires.
Even though I can be more self-conscious changing in an empty locker room at the gym than I am on a stage, singing in front of 2000 people, I’m open to starting each day with a more honest assessment of what makes me who I am. Silly body hairs be damned.
Ryan Kerr is an artist, actor and self-published author whose involvement in the queer community began in when he was 17 years old. Now, Ryan writes for Vancouver's ION Magazine, Canada's XTRA! Magazine and is a series regular on the hit web series GAY NERDS.
Follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanseeker
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