“Don’t Be An OxyMoron”

Greetings friends!

Folks have been asking me to “serve a little taste” of the memoir.  I’m not sure what sequence this chapter will end up in, but for now this is the beginning, and rough draft, of Chapter 2.

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I’m interested in your comments.  What do you think?

Enjoy (and please forgive the formatting and punctuation)!

Doug

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I don’t know about you, but I’ve never felt like I was the smartest person in the room. Not that I’ve ever felt dumb, it’s just that since I was a kid in grammar school no one’s ever accused me of being the brightest bulb on the tree, the sharpest knife in the drawer, or the one you want to copy off of in class if you know what I mean.  I suppose you could say that I was a bit of a slacker when it came to academics.

To me, I was just picking my spots in life and only paying attention to things I felt interested in.  Like picking a good restaurant or swinging at a good pitch.  You don’t pick a place that serves nasty food and you don’t swing your bat at a wild pitch.  So, why concentrate on things that you don’t like – like homework?  At least that’s how my young brain worked.

Most of the time I thought sitting in a classroom was like watching a soap opera: nothing said was relevant to my life and the conversations were as interesting as yarn.  In any given class in any given grade you could assume that I was daydreaming about anything but schoolwork, cracking jokes, talking in the back of the class, or ditching school altogether.  While other kids recited their times tables, I often looked around the room and thought about which kid I was going to peg in dodge ball during recess.  While teachers passed out assignments, I would often daydream about how cool it would be to go swimming at my friend’s house –especially if I could fly there on a magic carpet first.  If I missed an assignment, no problem!  I had no shame in asking a fellow kid for a hand up.  “Hey guy, you know what would be cool?  If you let me copy your homework!”

By the time I was in high-school, I learned how to forge absentee notes and get out of class without being a truant.  I remember one time driving to school when I was sixteen years old.  I had just gotten my license and I was proud while roll’n down the street in my ’72 Oldsmobile Cutlass.  It was made of steel and I a real chick magnet.  Actually, it only attracted crumbs from the food I spilled in it, but it was mine and it gave me freedom.  The bench seat was especially nice because my luscious love handles and bodacious buttocks could spread comfortably across it.  I also had installed 6”x9” speakers that I could crank Guns & Roses tapes (yes, tapes – I had a tape case too) when not listening to morning radio on the way to school.

The radio show that I listened to broke for a commercial.  I immediately started to scan for other music and a man’s voice filled the airwaves.  He had a New York accent and his voice was deep and sharp – like James Earl Jones.  Without expecting it, he shocked me awake as soon as I heard him say, “I’ll give you fifty bucks to show me your vagina right now!”

Yes, this voice belonged to the self proclaimed King of all Media, Howard Stern.  He had just debuted in L.A. and I was hooked the moment he said “…show me your vagina.”  If you’re a guy, you can’t blame me.  If you’re a teenage guy, you can’t help it.  None of the local disc jockey’s flirted with strippers, talked about boobs, or was even close to being this edgey.  Needless to say, I didn’t make it to school on time that day because I had to see if the woman Howard was harassing was going to do it.  Who was he?  Who was she?  What are they doing?  Sex, sex, sex!  That was the first of many times I drove past the campus and skipped class so that I could hear the rest of what Howard was going to do or say.

Perhaps my lack of academic prowess was because my parents never pressured me about my grades.  As I got older I always figured that my lack of interest was simply because I had an overactive and creative mind that just needed to be set free.  Ironically, though, I actually got decent grades so I never caught any heat.  Still, my dad only had three rules: “1.) don’t piss off your mother; 2.) don’t get brought home by the cops; and 3.) when you’re 18 you will cut your hair and get a job.”  That was it and in that order!  He taught my brother and me many valuable lessons growing up, but these were the core three that guided my day-to-day life – especially after age ten.  Moreover, his Viking-like six foot, two inch frame and his willingness to wield the three-foot long spanking stick he kept in the closet was the best incentive to follow the rules.  Ironically, though, I actually got decent grades and with working around the truancy problem I was golden when it came to Dad Rules #1 and #2.  Yes!

Another thing my parents never pressured me about was my weight.  God bless them, too, because there was plenty of pressure growing up as a fat kid in the 1980’s and ‘90’s.  Why can’t you run as fast as the other kids?  Who are you going to take to the dance?  Why don’t you shower in the locker room?  Why do you swim with your shirt on?  Why do your nipples look like pepperonis?  Can you see your own penis?  Why are you so fat?

To me, growing up obese was like being buried alive.  It was a prison sentence for being insecure.  And at times, with normal parents and a skinny brother, it felt like a wrongful conviction that I couldn’t appeal.  It sucked and it was one big confusing contradiction to “put on a happy face” and then have to confront the realities and ironies that came with being obese.

I remember being in English class one day.  Mrs. Magnolia was listing our vocabulary words for the week while everybody but me took notes.  I was too busy wondering if the rumor I had heard about her was true.  Word on the street was Magnolia liked a good bammy; she fired up, you know; she hit the pipe and packed it with fresh cut grass.  I also heard that she hung out with students when tasting the herb known as the Assassin of Youth.  Yes, Mrs. Magnolia smoked marijuana – at least that was the word on the street.

Mrs. Magnolia wore a lot of denim (jeans and jackets).  She was in her mid forties and somewhat mousy – like a librarian.  She was shorter, too, and couldn’t help but get chalk dust on the back of her wrists and forearms while reaching up to write on the blackboard.  With her soft and hypnotic voice, I thought of her more as a cult leader than an English teacher.  As she listed our vocabulary words on the board I pictured her in a tie die t-shirt and jeans with a roach clip in her chalky hand.  I wasn’t a pot smoker at all, but I wondered if she would rather sit in a circle, spin a Hendrix record and smoke a bowl while reading vocabulary words.  How could anyone concentrate after getting news like that?

Mrs. Magnolia broke my trance when she said “Class, who knows what an ‘oxymoron’ is?”

“What!  What did you just call me?” I thought.  “Oxy what?  Are you high right now?  Is that the name of your weird cult?  Is that what you call the smart ones?”  Without thinking too hard and always looking for the laugh I shot my hand in the air and said out loud, “It’s a zit cream for stupid kids, Mrs. M.!”

I got a few laughs from the class but she didn’t think I was too clever.  “Nooooo,” she said.  “Actually, an ‘oxymoron’ is a noun and I want you to memorize it for next week’s spelling test.  I also want you to use one in a sentence.  It’s a figure of speech where two words that contradict each other are used together – like ‘deafening silence.’  Does everyone understand?”

“Oh, Mrs. M, Mrs. M…” I chirped as my hand shot up and down in the air like a piston.  “Or like my ‘zit cream comment’ was seriously funny, right?”  “Right, Doug. I think you get it,” she said with a twisted smile and a few brisk claps of her chalk dusted hands.

I spent the rest of the day thinking of an oxymoron I could use in a sentence.  For some reason I thought this was the coolest thing I had learned all year.  With Mrs. Magnolia reminding me more of a cult leader than a teacher I wondered if she liked “free love.”  Had she ever been told to “act naturally?” If we made a bet would she appreciate “even odds” – and if I ditched her spelling test would she call my parents and create a “minor crisis?”

As my mind raced I couldn’t help but feel like this oxymoron game was a little “bittersweet.”  I realized that growing up fat was like an oxymoron.  Maybe it was my “male sensitivity” or maybe it was because I had always tried to be thehappy fat guy.”  But I found that there was no joy in being “pleasantly plump.”  In fact, being overweight as a kid, being obese, was “pretty ugly.”  It was like being part of the “living dead.”  And when I would think too long and too hard about how I hated being different, being obese, I often felt like a “big baby.”

I remember the first time I was outwardly upset about being overweight.  I was in 5th grade and I already had a beautiful set of plump man boobs.  Walking home after school one day I was obsessing about my set of boobs and matching belly.  I had been sitting at my desk minutes before tugging my shirt away from stomach every thirty seconds, or so, trying to hide the fact that my belly showed through my shirt.  Instead of paying attention to the teacher, I was too self conscious about my gut.  I couldn’t stand how my dry t-shirt clung to my skin like it was wet – like in a wet t-shirt contest but in my case there was no water.  “Hey buddy, nice tits!” is all I could think the other kids thought of me.  I couldn’t help but feel embarrassed.

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