Friday, October 8, 2010

Troubles with Man-titties

I first noticed the existence of my man-titties seven years ago. My wife and I had just taken her new IUD for a test spin, and I was completely nude, which was strange for me, seeing nakedness, especially my own, terrifies me to the point where I try to stay clothed at all times. In school, when we were told to read 1984, I was the only one in my class who didn’t find the idea of The Party uniforms, to always be worn, horrifying and offensive. I rather liked it.

With my back to my wife, she draped her arm around my chest and cupped my breast.

I shrieked. “What did you just do?”

“What do you mean? I was just touching you,” she said, nestling her face into my neck.

“You grabbed something.”

“What are you talking about?”

“What did you grab?” I sat up and flicked on the light. Feeling filthy and violated, I quickly reached for a t-shirt on the floor and covered my chest.

My wife pulled a pillow over her eyes. “What’s wrong with you now?”

“You just grabbed my boob.”

“Turn off the light and go to sleep,” she said. “I promise I won’t touch you again.”

“No,” I wailed, “you don’t understand. I’ve grown man-titties! Oh God! Not man-titties!” I snapped off the light and flung myself dramatically onto my back. I began to sob.

“It isn’t that bad,” my wife said.

I knew it was lie by the way her voice hiccupped on the word bad. While it was a kind and noble attempt to soothe me, she couldn’t quite conceal her disappointment at the pile of weeping neuroses that had manacled her “till death do us part.”

“This is worse than bad,” I said sharply, curling into a fetal position in the corner of the bed. “This is devastating.”


I admit to having an unhealthy aversion to fat. While I’m consumed by vanity, it’s a conditional vanity. Although the concept of fat terrified me at the time, and still does, this terror was complicated—more accurately, contradicted—by the fact that I used to do nothing to prevent fatness. In fact, I did the opposite: I drank excessively, ate fattening processed foods, and slept after large meals like a plump nursing child. I was, and still am, what one might label “clinically lazy.”

Since the first discover my male mammary glands, however, I have been jogging regularly and have adopted my wife’s hippy bird-food cuisine—she’s a rail so I figure it must work. In the past five years, my cup-size has reduced from a solid-B to a small-A. Progress.

Still, this does nothing to mollify the mortification I experience daily when I look in the mirror, suck in my beer gut, and see a body that looks like it was lab-tested at Dunkin’ Donuts.

Recently, at a routine doctor’s visit (as a hypochondriac all my visits are “routine” seeing, with the help WebMD, I self-diagnose a new fatal disease weekly), the nurse asked me to step on the scale. Mortified by the suggestion, I balked.

“Why do I have to be weighed?” I asked. “I’m here to see if I have Lupus. What does my weight have to do with anything?”

“It’s for our records,” she said.

So I stripped off my shoes and sweatshirt---which, if you don't know, can add up to five pounds in clothing weight---and gingerly stepped on the scale. I watched as the nurse continued to slide the lever to the right, then heaved the next lever over as well. When she finally stopped, the whole horrible truth was revealed.


Fatness has not always been a problem for me. A little over decade and an half ago, I wrestled at a lean one-hundred and sixty pounds. I was a trim, fit profile of the human form—plucked from a fucking Whitman poem.

Then something happened: college.

Somehow, I ended up joining a fraternity and ballooned my way toward the Mendoza Line (for those who aren’t up on baseball terminology that’s two-hundred, named after Mario Mendoza, a journeyman ballplayer whose career batting average hovered around .200). While flirting around The Mendoza Line, I never actually got there.

That was until this recent debacle at the doctor’s office (I don’t have Lupus, by the way). But I did find out that for almost fifteen years, I have been lounging like a beached whale on the aforementioned Mendoza Line.


Long before The Mendoza Line, and well before my budding man-breasts appeared, I was a sufferer of FFS, or Fat Face Syndrome. As far as I know, I am the first to identify FFS as a disease. I coined the term following an unfortunate incident with a wedding photo. The remarkable thing about getting fat is that most people have no idea how fat they’ve become until confronted with a photograph, until the empirical evidence is there and incontrovertible, and you see yourself in a photograph and say, “Holy crap, I’m fat fuck!”

Yes, there will be people in your life who will offer hollow solace—like my rail-thin wife—by saying things like “Oh, it’s just a bad picture” or “The camera adds ten pounds.”

Bullshit! That’s skinny-talk.

According to my own definition, 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’ve labeled “the jellyroll,” or a thin roll of fat that circumnavigates the neck. In the offending wedding photo, my face was wider than an industrial skillet, and with my head turned at a slight angle, my profile looked like a bullfrog’s.

Since early-adulthood, I’ve being growing facial hair as a means of diverting attention from my FFS; however, each time I trim my goatee, the true Kurtzian “horror” rears its ugly head.

But this is not about my FFS—how easily I’m derailed when I get worked up—this is about the abominable growth of my man-titties in Winter of 2003.


The day after my wife’s inadvertent fondling and the subsequent discovery of man-titties, I moped around work like I’d been told I actually had a terminal disease. But my wife, a bloodless woman, didn’t want to hear me bitch. There was not an ounce of human compassion running through her icy veins. She did not believe I suffered from any of the aforementioned disorders. On the contrary, she seemed to think that they were manifestations of deeper and more troubling neuroses, perhaps stemming from my penchant for prescription drugs. Because tranquilizers made Elvis fat, she argues, I have created a distorted image of "fat" in myself.

Do I see myself on par with the King of Rock and Roll?

Doesn’t that stand in stark contrast with my self-loathing?

Knowing I wasn’t going to get any compassion or consolation from my wife, I popped an Ativan, poured myself a glass of wine, and picked up the phone to call Cracker.

“Cracker, it’s Natty. I have a serious problem.”


“I’ve grown man-titties,” I said. I took off my shirt and stared at them in the mirror. I squeezed my left tit and whimpered.

“Oh, Jesus,” Cracker said, his voice vibrating with alarm. “Are you serious?”

“Yes,” I said. “Eliza fondled them last night. Oh, Cracker, what am I going to do? I can’t stand to look at myself anymore. This is a nightmare where I never wake up. I’m looking at them right now. I hate them, Cracker! I hate my man-titties!”

“Calm down. It’s all right,” Cracker said. “We can work on this. Don’t do anything drastic. What are you doing right now?”

“I told you! I’m looking at them! They’re disgusting!” I started twisting them, hoping they would magically fall off, hoping it was all just a cruel gag and I’d wake up tomorrow, tit-less.

“Have you stopped eating?” Cracker asked.

“Of course.”

“Good. Are you drinking?”


“Very good. Are you drinking beer or wine?”


“Good. Beer is fattening. Most man-titties belong to beer drinkers.” I could hear Cracker cracking open a beer on the other line. “Now, I want you to listen to me. Put down the glass of wine.” He spoke in a calm, methodical voice, like he was talking me down from a ledge. It pleased me to be helped.

“Okay,” I said, practicing some deep breathing I learned from a yoga class I took in college, a class I’d always attended too stoned to blink.

“Now,” Cracker continued, “you need to start doing push-ups. You need to tighten your chest muscles. Do five push-ups right now and count ‘em off.” His voice was firm and fastidious. I followed his instructions. I couldn’t live with my man-titties and couldn’t afford not to follow Cracker's advice. Desperation will make a man do curious things.

I laid down flat on my chest and began thinking of Rocky Balboa. Anytime I'm involved in an activity that requires physical exertion, I think of Rocky. Due to our shared Italian heritage, thinking of him usually provides the necessary burst of adrenalin. Other times, it backfires, and I’ll become weepy thinking about his speech at the end of Rocky II where he holds up the belt and tells Adrian he “did it.” It’s really a toss up.

Luckily, this time, it psyched me up, and I began doing push-ups. Little had I realized that the muscles in my arms had begun a slow atrophy since the last time I did a push-up, which was during wrestling season my senior year in high school, when I was a strapping buck.

“Count ‘em out, you fat-titted bitch!” Cracker yelled over the phone.

“One. Two. Three…this hurts. Foooo…”

“One more!” Cracker screamed.


I fell on my stomach.

“Repeat as necessary,” said Cracker.

“Thanks, Cracker.”

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