On Our Admiration for Those Who Would Now Be Obese


At the opera last week, we ran into a friend who we were surprised to note had gained at least 500 pounds since we had last seen him.

“You’ve gained weight,” we said, not wanting to ignore the obvious. “Are you in good health?”

More than good,” he nodded enthusiastically, and then began to explain. “As you know, in my 3,452 years on this earth, I have been a Cynic and a Stoic and a Skeptic, all pursuits that came with much derision from the ancients, but which hardly prepared me for the torment I later suffered as a Christian — remind me what that means again? — when I was drawn and quartered, immersed into vats of boiling oil and made to bleed through a thousand pinpricks inserted into every inch of my body. Nevertheless, this was inconsequential in comparison to the life I led as one of India’s untouchables, when I ate rat tails and cockroaches for three centuries, but at last I moved to Africa, where I was captured by a neighboring tribe and sold to slave traders, who brought me to America in chains. Here, of course, I was beaten and whipped and made to suffer every indignity known to man, all of which became a fond memory during the decades I spent back in Europe, first as a communist in Paris during the Franco-Prussian War and then as a Jew in the decades leading up to the Holocaust. I don’t have to describe the unending torrent of verbal and physical abuse I have suffered more recently as a transgendered gay man, other than to note the ten or fifteen times I have been abducted, assaulted and left to die on a barren, windswept field or vacant lot thousands of miles from anywhere I have ever called home.” At this point he extended his arms, palms up, as if to make a bow.

“You are a virtual catalog of scorn and suffering,” we offered by way of response, and not without admiration.

“Yes, I suppose I am,” he sighed, “but alas, in the modern world, so many of the old hatreds have been cheapened and dulled; cities are again on the rise and unfortunately for me this means ambiguity and — dare I say it — tolerance.” His eyes brightened. “But let’s not be maudlin! Life is so much better now that I’m obese! Even here you can see all the people staring and gawking as we stand here harmlessly conversing! Look, here comes Dick Cavett! You see how offended he is? Yes, it’s so beautiful to once again revel in the purest vein of antagonism society has to offer! And what unadulterated joy to spit it back in their faces!”

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