I Put the Stud in Study Hall

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I spent the first part of my 43rd birthday shopping at Abercrombie Kids, ripping T-shirts out of the arms of a boy who probably weighed, oh, maybe 60 pounds, if he happened to be carrying a sack of potatoes and a human head.

If I couldn’t recapture my youth, I could certainly buy it.

“Score!” I had screamed to my partner, Gary, while displaying an XL boy’s T-shirt that read, “I Put the Stud in Study Hall.”

“Jesus,” Gary laughed. “Just buy it before Chris Hansen gets here.”

Yes, my 43rd birthday had hit me hard. This meaningless day made me feel like I was in no-man’s land: 22 years from retirement, 22 years since the day I was able to drink legally.

I was smack dab in the middle of middle-aged.

Which is why I was holding up a boy’s T-shirt to my body, giddily imagining how it would hug my every curve. But when I turned to look in the mirror, all I saw was the fat kid who could once only wear Husky’s.

The cool clothes of my youth – the contoured Velour shirts, the Jordache jeans – made me look like Mindy Cohn whenever I tried them on in the mall, and that image of imperfection – the one I saw reflected back at me from the mirrors in Chess King – remained in my head.

That image still haunts me, like some sort of overweight, poorly dressed ghost, dooming endless courtships and continuing to float around during my relationship.

Even though I spent my 30’s transforming my body into a lean, muscled machine, my id and ego still wore Husky’s during sex, and that damn ghost always seemed to hover above me in bed, peppering me with questions and doubt like some supernatural Larry King:

Your body will never be good enough.

Are you sure you’re tan enough to hide those old stretch marks?

Gary was an optimist who believed that, one day, my ghost would simply vanish if I was only able to catch a glimpse of the man I had become. Even if that meant I had to spend loads of time looking for him in the mirrors at Pac-Sun and Abercrombie Kids.

When I turned to show Gary the T-shirt I had draped on my body, he exclaimed, “That looks H-O-T hot!”

Then a clerk approached and asked if I needed help picking something out for my son.

If I hadn’t been so mesmerized by his beauty – he looked just like an Abercrombie model – I would have bitch-slapped him to Aldo.

“What size is your son?” he asked me again.

“I’m shopping for myself,” I said indignantly. “It’s my birthday.”

“There’s, like, a Brooks Brothers across from us,” he said.

“Brooks Brothers?” I hissed.

“Umm, yeah, you know, for, like, guys … your age.”

I left, on the verge of tears.

We got home – my shopping bags filled – yet I was decidedly empty. The truth was I’d never been an Abercrombie kid, and I’d never be an Abercrombie man.

As I licked the icing off my cake, Gary suddenly snapped a photo of me.

I asked to see the camera, and when I looked I saw a middle-aged man wearing a T-shirt that read, “I Put the Stud in Study Hall.”

“Hot, huh?” Gary asked.

His voice made me remember what he had been telling me all day – without any prodding: “You are H-O-T!”

It was then I knew. I had everything I dreamed after all those years of stuffing Hostess pies down my throat: Somebody who believes I am picture-perfect.

I hugged Gary, whispered how much I loved him and how sorry I was he had to stoop to such stupidity to make me feel worthwhile.

“I just want you to like yourself,” he said.

I was 43.

I would never be a kid again.

I could never recapture my lost youth.

But I still had time to act like an adult.

So I took off my Abercrombie shirt, standing in front of Gary for the first time in my life without trying to position my body in the most flattering way possible.

And then I reached deep into my psychological closet and hung up my Husky’s for good.

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Blogger M.E. said...

I was once a husky kid too, and I had completely blocked it out of my memory... That was, until, I read America's Boy. I could relate w/ SOOOOOOOOO much of that book it is insane. After reading this, you are my idol, becasue i am the same exact way w my boyfriend as well, and although i am now a size 32 waist, i still see that fat kid with the floppy granny boobs in the mirror.

thank you thank you thank you!!!

March 5, 2009 at 10:47 AM  
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