One of the worst things one human being can ask another human being is: Did you gain weight?
Think about the subtext buried in this question for a second; in fact, it really isn’t a question at all. With few obvious exceptions, the person is not asking you if you gained weight because they’re genuinely interested in you or your body, or they think you look good with weight on you. The question, obviously, is rhetorical, and what it implies is pretty clear.
Here is what the other person is saying to you: Wow, you were once fit and attractive, but obviously, you’ve been sitting on your fat ass and munching out on pizza and Cheese Puffs since I last saw you. Because now, quite frankly, you look like a fucking pig. It’s amazing anyone will still sleep with you, Porky. I bet you had to buy new pants. I bet those old pants, the ones you wore way back in those halcyon days when you were dignified and healthy, are in a second-hand store right now and someone attractive is buying them. God, I am so happy that I am NOT you right now, a tub of lard having to greet the world. You must be disgusted with yourself.
Or something like that.
Recently, my best friend Cracker pulled the question on me, knowing that I would freak out, stop eating, and not want to face the world again without a bag over my head. You see, some pictures from my recent book tour were posted on Facebook in which I looked, according to Cracker, like I “gained some weight.”
Now, for a person as insecure, self-conscious, and emotionally brittle as myself, Facebook presents a bit of paradox. While I want to have friends and pad my numbers and have people leave comments on my wall as an affirmation that I’m loved and popular, it also involves a certain amount of exposure that can be downright terrifying. In my case, I was tagged in the photos, and admittedly, in many of them, I have FFS.
About eight years ago I diagnosed myself with Fat Face Syndrome, or FFS. FFS is identified by the following symptoms: an unnatural width in the face from cheekbone to cheekbone, a lack of a definable profile due excessive flab under the jawbone, additional chins, and the appearance of what I call “the jellyroll”, or a thin roll of fat that circumnavigates the entire neck (see picture and video below; exhibits A and B). For close to ten years, I’ve being growing facial hair as a means of diverting the attention away from my FFS; however, each time I trim my goatee, the true horror of my fat face presents itself.
In 2004, after a shocking set of pictures from a wedding my wife had developed, in which I looked like someone stuck eyes and hair on a ball of pizza dough, I started exercising, thinking this might help to assuage my disorder. But no.
Next I bought a digital camera and started erasing photos where I had FFS, keeping only the pictures where I sucked in my cheeks and craned my neck to make my face look thin, therefore believing my own lies and illusions, believing that I had defeated the disorder. Wrong again. Now, again, it has reared its ugly head (literally) and it seems I have a terminable case.
“So, Nate,” Cracker asks, “did you gain some weight?”
I sigh and try to laugh, but it’s not funny. And I answer with the only response with which I can answer the horrible question, summoning my last shred of dignity. “I’m still not as fat as you,” I say.