Love Handles: Chapter Fourteen
By Bob Merrick
Out.com is proud to present the wacky and wild (and absolutely true�although some names have been changed to protect the guilty) adventures of a 30-year-old guy in Hollywood who just wants to lose a few (dozen) pounds. And find eternal happiness and fulfillment. Is that too much to ask?
Part Fourteen: Grin and Bear It
After taking my new bathroom scale out of the box, I breathed a heavy sigh as I began to undress. Life has been good to me this last month. I spent 10 beautiful days in Italy with one of my favorite friends, eating delicious fresh pastas, paninis, caprese salads, and thin crust margarita pizzas�often all within the same meal. Each feast included the wonderful house wine and was followed with a scoop of gelato, freshly churned from the unhomogenized milk fat that the Europeans are happy to indulge in. I worked at Baskin-Robbins for two years in high school and never enjoyed as much ice cream as I did in Rome. My first day back was my birthday. Birthdays mean dinners with friends and one of my knee-weakening weaknesses: birthday cake. As my underwear hit the floor, I exhaled every molecule of air I was holding and stepped on the scale: 257.
I had gained eight pounds. Once I started breathing again, the scale remained the same and I got dressed. Eight has always been my favorite number, and today it was betraying me. But I didn�t blame it and, surprisingly, I wasn�t even mad at myself. For the first time in months, I didn�t beat myself up over a gain. Then I immediately loaded up my mp3 player and headed to the gym. Maybe I am finally embracing my inner mantra: A setback doesn�t mean it is time to give up and throw in the towel. It is a reminder to keep moving forward. Finding my inner happiness and losing weight is not a race, it is the pavement of my journey. I am so Deepak lately.
The following weekend, my friend Tim from San Francisco came for a visit for the Fourth of July. He was eager to go to a show that was happening in downtown Los Angeles as part of �Bearquake,� a festival of bears and their admirers. I have often been labeled a bear, but have never really understood or immersed myself in the community. Bears are often defined as large, hairy men, whom I believe like to partner up and hibernate. I could be wrong about that last part, but it seems that some of the best gay relationships I�ve seen outside of lesbians are often found in the bear community. And I do love how they embrace their inner diversity by calling an Asian bear a panda bear, an older bear a polar bear, and a young bear a cub. Having always been curious about this gay subculture of which I am often thought to be a card-carrying member, I was eager for the �Bearquake� experience and even enlivened by the prospect of trapping myself a �husbear.�
The event took place over three days with activities ranging from a day at Disneyland and Bingo, to shopping and a concert at the Hollywood Bowl. Every few hours they stopped off at a fabulous themed restaurant to mingle and relax. There was no denying that between their ability to have tongue-in-cheek fun (every event had bear in the title like, DisneyBears) and punctuating each event with a meal, these sounded like my kind of people. It wasn�t until I actually made it to an event that I realized I didn�t fit in as well as I had hoped.
We attended The Mis-match Game, a live stage version of the �70s game show where celebs du jour create whacky answers to pop culture questions that hopefully match that of the contestants. Tim and I arrived wearing jeans and buttoned down shirts, nothing dressy, more like a Gap ad, but from the look of the room, we may as well have been in sequins.
There seems to be a very specific look in the bear community, or at least at the �Quake.� Most men have goatees, flat top haircuts, and are seen sporting khaki shorts, tank-tops and hiking sandals. Their formal wear seems to be a little more leather driven with jeans and a leather vest, often with no undershirt and usually unbuttoned to expose their bellies. There was a man there with his large hairy frame (he was at least 6�4� and the hair covered all surfaces) exposed for all to see, wearing nothing but a sarong, which anywhere else would�ve been so wrong, but there, no one seemed to bat an eye. In fact, it was almost encouraged.
�Girl, mama needs a cocktail in her hand. I�m going on a bear hunt!� Tim always has a colorful way with his words. �I finally feel comfortable enough to lift my shirt since no one in this room cares if I have a belly!� To which a bear who overheard yelled, �Take it off, baby!� Tim flashed him a smile and his chest and we immediately headed to the bar and ordered a round.
The crowd was rowdy and completely engaged and I was having a blast. But for as much fun as I was having with them, I was also just as uncomfortable. So I went in my head (as I often do) to try and get to the root of it. Then it dawned on me: These kind people were embracing the one thing about their selves that I hate the most about myself. They were proud of their robust bellies and had no shame in who they were. I couldn�t help but wonder then, Why do I?
I have found myself in a lot of dialogue with friends lately, straight, gay, in-shape, overweight, and I am learning something very shocking, even though it seems the most obvious thing in the world: We are all struggling. People I consider to have it all together because they have great bodies are just as miserable as some of my out of shape friends, because they can�t find meaningful relationships. It is their insecurities that push them harder at the gym. We treat being called single worse than if we were diagnosed with a disease. All of the abs in the world won�t make you love or even like yourself, and without that, you may never be able to find someone. As I looked around the room full of bears, not only were they loving themselves, they were able to love each other�as is�and their happiness was infectious.
To read part thirteen, �When in Rome,� click here.
To read part twelve, �Moving On Out,� click here.
To read part eleven, �I�m Getting Very Sleepy�,� click here.
To read part ten, �Who�s Got the Pain?� click here.
To read part nine, �Old Habits Die Hard,� click here.
To read part eight, �Taking a Fresh Dip in the Dating Pool,� click here.
To read part seven, �A Walk Down (Unpleasant) Memory Lane,� click here.
To read part six, �Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures,� click here.
To read part five, �Sex, Lies, and the Internet,� click here.
To read part four, �Sweatin� with an Oldie� But Goodie,� click here.
To read part three, �What Happens in Vegas, Doesn�t Always Stay in Vegas,� click here.
To read part two, �Let�s Get Physical,� click here.
To read part one, �Resolutions and Commitment,� click here.
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