Love Handles: Chapter Fourteen

7.17.2005

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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