I went to the gym today. It is a routine I have taken up again since I was sunbathing on the beach a while back and a team of college students and marine biologists tried to drag me back into the ocean to be with my kind. But as the sun came out from behind the clouds, not even their Oakley’s could keep the glare from my excessively white skin from forcing them to give up the struggle.
When I got to the gym, there were four plus-sized women, obviously there together, all on the treadmills facing a wall of tv’s. I got the only one left – treadmill, not plus-sized woman. As they glanced over at me, they began to smile. I think they were grateful that someone even larger and with much more weight to lose was working out next to them. By comparison, I made them look quite svelte.
This reminded me of another beach experience I had one year in Galveston with about seven other friends for Spring Break. I have been and always will be melanin challenged. I don’t tan. My skin, as it turns out, is good at one thing – producing skin cancers. So I stay pretty white all year long in attempt to shut down such production. Now at the beach, on Spring Break, in the days before tanning salons, this was not all that bad. All of the girls who worried that they would look too pasty in their swimsuits for the first time out all season just loved walking down the beach with me. My white skin made them look as though they had been tanning in South America all winter.
But back to the gym. After I left the treadmill (the women who were there before me were still going, by the way), I went to the weights where two high school boys were working out. They did all of the exercises I did, but with considerably more weight, and with considerably greater ease, with one exception. I could still pull a heavier weighted bar down than they could, but I did outweigh them by a good 80 – 100 lbs at least. When they saw how much (or little) I was lifting, they smiled. I was a much bigger guy, but they could work out with far more weight than my much older frame and muscle structure could bear.
So I have found a new spiritual gift. Decrepitude. I can bring joy and encouragement to people by showing up where their images are at risk of being exposed, or where they might feel vulnerable, and just be a less attractive image than the one they see in themselves. Not many people can pull that off.