TITLE: Heavenly Bodies
DATE: 3/21/2005 11:25:00 AM
I'm sick wit dis, straight gangsta mack
but sometimes I get ridiculous
I'll eat up all your crackers and your licorice
hey yo fat girl, c'mere--are ya ticklish?
Yeah, I called ya fat.
Look at me, I'm skinny
It never stopped me from gettin' busy
I'm a freak
I like the girls with the boom
I once got busy in a Burger King bathroom
"I don't know about this," Michele says, via cell phone between our two cars. "I feel like an asshole."
"Come on, whatever."
"I just don't know--I feel like I'm bringing spectators."
"Well, that's not what it's supposed to be like."
"Come on, dude. It's not a big deal. We're just going to go sit in the parking lot and then we'll leave."
"Allright. Okay. I guess. Okay."
Truth is, I am morbidly curious. Michele and Beana say that people usually hang out outside, smoking butts or just seeing and being seen on the way in, that we'll get a glimpse of what they've described. It was Kellie's idea to follow them when they said they had to get going. You know, just to see.
We get there, pull around the back of the Radisson, and there's nothing. Some cars. We're looking for fat girls, but we're the only ones.
Michele and Beana have told us about these dances, about the way 500-lb. women will show up in sports bras, miniskirts and sandals--"That their cankles hang over!" Beana shrieks, ducking into Michele's arm. They've been trying to get us to go with them for months.
"We're the skinny girls there," they say. "You would not believe it."
Suddenly, tonight, as they took their leave of us in the Borders cafe, Kellie decided she wanted to follow them, just to go into the parking lot, just to see, and I, being the utter dweeb that I am, thought, "Blogfodder!" and decided we were going too, goddamnit, because you only live once.
So here we are. Waiting for Kellie, who had to stop off and get gas. Michele's SUV idling next to me, our windows rolled down, negotiating. "Let's go, I'm burning gas here."
"How many gallons a minute does that thing burn?" I snark. Michele makes a face. Kellie arrives several minutes later.
In the meantime, the excursion has become uncomfortably like a failed zoological expedition. No two-ton cuties are hanging out outside the hotel for passerby to observe; no specimens to collect on the periphery. We're going to have to venture deeper into the rain forest.
I forget how it is we decide we're going to go inside, but in retrospect it was probably inevitable. I squeak protests about how I'm just in a T-Shirt and jeans, to no avail. "Come onnnn," Michele wheedles. "Ten bucks for first-timers."
Oh, hell, I think. I'm always going to wonder.
We venture toward the hotel. The first person we see is actually a skinny guy. He walks up to Beana and hugs her. "Girl...mm! You lookin' gooooooood."
"You too!" he shouts to Michele, wrapping her up in turn. Then Kellie. Then me. He goes to hug Steve and then stops, "Nah, just playin'." He laughs, loudly, giving Steve a vigorous handshake, all the while looking Beana up and down.
"Who is that guy?" I hiss at Beana as we walk in the door.
"I forget," she laughs.
There are some people in the hallway, big, but not too big. A tall black guy on a cell phone. Some girls smoking in the foyer. You can hear the music pumping now.
Finally we're at the door. I grudgingly leave my coat on the rack in the hallway, with a feeling like I'm getting on a roller coaster or an airplane--no turning back, butterflies in my stomach. Suddenly I'm feeling less light and spontaneous, irreverent. Suddenly I'm wondering if I really want to see what there is to see in that room.
Inside the door, sitting behind a table, dressed in diaphonous tank tops, are two of the biggest girls I've ever seen in my life. We're not talking fat like me. We're not talking fat like shops at Lane Bryant fat. We're talking Jerry Springer fat. We're talking, Spencer's novelty greeting cards fat. We're talking, Richard Simmons weeping fat.
To my right, at a small cocktail table with a lit candle in the middle is the single biggest woman I've ever encountered. She is easily 6 feet tall, blond, and looks to be roughly the same size as a small car.
On the floor, numerous other women and men like them are dancing. Not everyone there is gargantuan. Some have figures like mine--large, but within the spectrum of average. Some are downright skinny, including numerous men who line the dance floor, perusing the dancers as if at a cattle auction.
It blows my mind. I can't understand it. I can't understand a thin man wanting a woman with more rolls than a bakery. Hell, I can't understand my boyfriend wanting me, and these women make me look like Paris Hilton.
And yet there they are. In various shades of undress, no less. Tiny tank tops. Stretch pants. Plunging necklines. Halters. Off-the-shoulder knit tops. In white. Tiny skirts. See-through garments. High-heeled "fuck me" shoes on girls that have got to be 6' 2" barefoot. Two men in polo shirts that look as though they'd probably fit over my refrigerator, getting their groove on.
"See that enormous black guy over there?" Michele points to a man by himself at one of the tables. "He licked Beana once."
"And you!" Beana shouts over the music. Michele and Kellie go to dance. After a while, Beana drifts off with a skinny kid who had been checking her out since we got in there. Steve and I stand and watch the dancing, eventually talking to said enormous black guy Beana pointed out, whose name we never get. We go out for a smoke a few times. Come back in a few times. Michele and Kellie spend most of the night dancing, and trying to get me to dance. I won't. I can't. I'm glued to the sidelines.
Finally, Steve and I go over to the table with EBG, where he is sitting alone letting people come to him, holding court, if you will. We talk about music. We talk about jobs and where we're from. I've seen EBG bust some moves tonight but he's never gone out on the floor. I ask him why. "I get provocative," he grins.
Eventually we find ourselves talking about things you don't normally get in casual conversation. EBG asks if Michele and Beana are lovers. "No," we laugh.
Gazing at Michele, EBG licks his lips and says, "I've always wanted to see her and her friend get it on."
"Well," Steve says back, deadpan. "That can be arranged."
After a while, I think, as I watch a redheaded girl who has to weigh 500 lbs. easily bite into a chicken finger from an order of Chinese food, the arrival of which had been announced by the DJ earlier in the night, I'm not seeing fat. I'm seeing people. Just people. I start thinking "Girl in black shirt" when I see a new person instead of "Girl the size of Godzilla."
And yet, I'm even more uncomfortable by the end of the night than I was at the beginning. My sense that I'm enacting Gonzo journalism has given way to a deep and all-too-personal unease. As Michele and Kellie coax, then beg, then implore me to go out and dance, just for one song, I keep refusing, finally yelling "No!" when Michele grabs me by the hand and tries to pull me onto the floor.
My essential thought, ridiculously, is: I don't want people to see me.
Now, this is my standard MO in most social situations. I do the best I can to blend into the furniture in any room in which there are people I don't know. If we'd been at Man Ray or Avalon, that thought: I don't want people to see me, would have been par for the course. And its corollary would have been ...because I'm so fucking fat.
Here? The idea is a joke. I am one of the thinnest women in this room--a condition to which probably all American women aspire at one time or another. And now, here it is. Somewhat artificially created, but here it is. I am thinner and more adequately dressed than the vast majority of people in the room. All the reasons I normally have to sell myself short are absolutely gone.
And yet here I am, still on the sidelines. Still unable, unwilling, to have people see me. Still cringing at the thought of all the people in this room being able to look at me while I attempt to dance--even though there's a man dancing with an absolutely stunning plump woman in the middle of the floor who looks like he's attempting to put her in a half-Nelson rather than any kind of recognizeable dance maneuver. Even the slightest excuse I've ever scrounged up to hang back, to shrink, to hide myself, is null and void in this environment.
And yet, here I am. In that one moment after Michele shrugs and heads off with Kellie to dance, I feel how profoundly sad a creature I am--how "I'm fat" was just a smokescreen, an excuse, that my self-hatred would still exist if I weighed 95 pounds. That it still exists--in fact, is roaring with bloodlust, in this room full of the very images of imperfection.
Even though I'm a big woman myself, I'd gone to this dance expecting a sideshow. Expecting some outlandish image or turn of events to entertain with in this space. What I realized--and probably I deserve it--was that the most hideous spectacle on display was still me.