Archive for October, 2011


Death Is Overrated

A 100 year old named Fauja Singh completed his eighth marathon and walked his way into the record books.  He first ran a marathon at 89, and hasn’t stopped since.  Perhaps he feels death is overrated, and he doesn’t want to use his age as a reason to stop running.  He carried a torch in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, and hopes to be part of the torch relay for the 2012 London Games.

Is it really all a kind of mind over matter?  Allegedly, Moses lived to be over 600 so Fauja Singh may be headed for a different kind of record.  In the modern era, the oldest living person was French woman Jeanne Calment who lived to be 122 years, 164 days.  There’s even a name for anyone over 110 years:  supercentenarians.  Must be a reason for believing that everything in moderation is the way to live. 

My grandmother lived to be 99, so I’m hoping the rest of my family is similarly blessed.  As long as I am able to reason and steer clear of dementia, I’m game for living as long as possible.  I think the thing I will miss most about life on earth is the simple pleasure of reading.  With any luck there are libraries in heaven.  I’m pretty sure that there won’t be treadmills in the hereafter so I’ll just have to take care of my body and well-being as long as I’m graced to live, much like the 100 year old marathoner Fauja Singh.

My mother’s cousin once had an brain aneurism, and when doctors told her, “We don’t know why you’re still alive,” she responded that she “had things to do.”  Remind me to keep the same motto, and always have “things to do.”

 

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Two and a half years ago I weighed 318 lbs.  I went to the Midwest Literary festival to hear Joyce Carol Oates speak about writing and the writing process.  During the question and answer period, I stood up and went to the front microphone to ask her a question about what emerging fiction writers should do to become published  authors and she recommended that I take up running as a way to sort out ideas in my head.

Afterwards, I went to leave and a man in the back row stopped me, saying, “Nobody wants to see your plummer butt.”  I told him, “Pardon my front, pardon my back,” but I was embarrassed because I was so overweight that none of my clothes fit me.

Since then, I’ve lost almost a 100 lbs, but still, my clothes don’t fit because I’ve shedded all the excess weight.  I was at church today and overheard the elderly ladies commenting that I keep pulling my pants up, but my butt is still visible.  I went to the bathroom and tucked my sweater in.  What people don’t realize when they are “grossed out” by someone’s backside is that the person with his butt showing is equally mortified.

My waistline is longer than the average person, and I continue to have trouble finding clothes that really fit.  Obviously I am now going to have to sort through my closet, ruthlessly getting rid of clothes that don’t fit, but a word to the wise.  A little tact goes a long way.

Prejudice lurks in the most unlikely places.  I was at the Department of Motor Vehicles the other day, waiting in line to renew my driver’s license when a black woman audibly coached her three kids to stay away from the fag in line.  I’m not sure how she figured out that I’m gay.  At the time I was talking with my friend Ryan who needed to apply to have his license reinstated after a DUI.  We had gone to the DMV together.  I can only assume she heard my voice, and decided I have a “gay accent.”  I myself tend to look around wherever I am to determine who else might be gay, but that is more an issue of wanting to fit in and not feel like the only gay person in the room.

My cousin assures me that I’m not at all obvious and don’t have a discernable accent, but I often wonder what sort of things give me away–who knows, maybe my sense of style.  We all know that gay men are fashion-forward.  It’s one of those little markers that gay men tend to err on the side of being more fashionable than the average man, even as we age.

Earlier in life, however, many gay kids go through experimental periods, pushing the boundaries of fashion.  In some ways, gay kids go through a sort of delayed adolescence since we are generally not encouraged to come out of the closet, or practice dating during high school, unlike our fellow students.  I remember when I first announced that I am gay, I went through a period where I frosted my hair blond, and had my left ear pierced (hey, it was the 90’s).  Since then I’ve grown more conservative. 

You would think that since the woman at the DMV is African-American, she would understand about prejudice and people making all sorts of racist judgments about her, based on her skin color.  I’ve discovered that right-wing conservatives and fundamentalist religious persons feel free to treat gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered people as second-class citizens.  I don’t know how many fundamentalists you know, but from my experience, whether the fundamentalist is Baptist, Mormon, or a Tea Party Republican, they can be extremely prejudice against people who don’t fit the mold.  It would be nice if religious people followed Christ’s example, “Love they neighbor as thyself,” and recognized that love is the ultimate commandment.

My friend Ryan, who is straight, overheard the woman’s comments about me, grabbed my hand as we left, singing, “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, who saved a wretch like me.”  She scowled and turned away, but we walked right by her, swinging our arms.  In truth, all I wanted was to stand up and be counted.  Ryan made that possible.  I’m reminded of the little known adage:  as children of God, we do not grovel.  Bravo to all who take the road less travelled.