Adonis Boys

Image“I only date really think guys.”

Those words fell out of my crush’s mouth like a prison sentence falls upon a convicted felon. I sat across from him at the Barnes and Nobel’s café in north Wichita, eating a blueberry-chocolate muffin. Instead of enjoying the sensation of sweet fruit colliding with milk chocolate, I began to notice the impression of my own muffin-top underneath my shirt. I knew he would never find me attractive, at least not in my current state. I excused myself to the bathroom, where a familiar ritual unfolded.

Find a mirror. Life your shirt. Gaze at the reflection in total and complete disgust. Curse your existence. Close your eyes. Wish you were thin. Get depressed when your sockets open to the same sight.

Call it a Narcissus séance.

That was the ceremony I had been accustomed to practicing since I became aware of the meaning  of the word “weight”. While I wasn’t hideously obese, I’d always been a pudgy kid. A large part of that probably had to do with my distain for athletics and sports. It wasn’t that I despised physical activity. It’s just that from a young age it was very obvious that I was “different”. Every time I tried to be athletic, my masculinity was measured against the testosterone of my male pears.  To avoid their name calling, cackling, and physical abuse, I decided at a young age to be as anti-athletic as possible. That muffin shape that cowered beneath my chest was a constant reminder that this wasn’t exactly a fool-proof escape plan.

I decided in that B&N bathroom that I wanted a trapdoor! I had come out of the closet at 16 and had yet to have a boyfriend—hell, I had barely had sex at that point. I was tired of the sense of rejection I felt every time I read a Gay.com profile that stated “no fats”. I was fed up with being digitally dismissed every time I went onto a dating sight where most of the guys wanted “only slim/athletic builds”. More pertinent, though, I was willing to do whatever it took to get my crush to heart me back. If he only dated “really thin” guys, I would figure out how to become one of them!

I had a mentor to help me out, too. Blade and I went to high school together. Like me, Blade had always been overweight. In the years since graduation, he had magically transformed himself from a size XXL to a small. I wanted in on the secret. He promised to teach me the ways.

I had loathed going to the gym. Blade told me, though, that this magical contraption called an “elliptical machine” existed that could drastically trim my odious reflection. The first time I straddled the bulky machine, I was exhausted after 10 minutes. I wanted to quit. Blade reminded me of an unspoken axiom: as an out gay man, you’re already ostracized; to fit into the gay community, you best fit into the image of what a gay man is…and muffins be damned, gay men are supposed to be thin! I wanted to fit in, so I figured out how to make working out fit into my life.

The pounds began to roll off, too! Within a month, I was able to do an hour of cardio a day and I had lost 10 whole pounds. I wasn’t even altering my diet much. Within three months, I was down to 200. I felt great, and rightfully so. There was no reason for someone my height to weigh as much as I did. I should have started to work out. However, I should have wanted to lose weight for health’s sake, not boy’s sake.  About six months in, somewhere around the 180 mark, losing weight became an obsession.

I always hated math, but ironically numbers began to define my life. My self-worth was based entirely on the number I weighed in on the scale. I was working out 2-3 hours a day and re-arranging my schedule so that I could weight in as low as possible. Often this meant getting up at 5am for my first daily working out and not eating until 10pm so that I could get a second work out in, with yet another positive affirmation from the scale. In addition to excessive workouts, meals were being skipped. Sometimes I would go 2-3 days without eating more than 1,000 calories. I kept my eye on the prize, though—converting crush into boyfriend!

Along the way, I had lots of encouragement. I didn’t have a boyfriend, but I did have lots of attention from boys. Once invisible at the clubs, my body was suddenly a hot commodity. Guys who had turned me down for dates in years past were lining up. Go-go dancers who I once had to fling dollar bills at to get attention were now dialing my number. The reaction to my reduction was collective encouragement from everyone around me. It was gay men, though, whose words mattered most.  Constant accolades greeted my every public appearance. Lauds of “Wow, where did you go?”, “You are thin as a rail” and “You’re practically invisible” only fueled my obsession.  The grueling workouts and constant stomach rumbling were the cost of admission to Adonis and Narcissus’s exclusive dance club of acceptance—or so I reasoned.

Though companionship had been my original intention, I found that all the time I spent at the gym left little time for socializing. Most men—including my aforementioned crush—got annoyed and bored by my incessant ramblings about my diet and weight. When you starve yourself, your hunger signals eventually start to turn off. Unfortunately, I discovered that when one signal gets turned off, others follow. I had thinned myself out to faun the attention of men, but over time my sex drive had dried up…or maybe it got burned off on the elliptical machine, too!

The one consistent contact I did have, though, was Blade. Several of our friends had warned us that we had turned weight loss into an unhealthy obsession. The idea that two overweight men could have an eating disorder was laughable to us. Eventually, though, being anorexic went from a punch-line to a point of empowerment. We dubbed ourselves the “Ana Twins” and made up t-shirts to show off the sense of pride we felt in starving ourselves. I was “Ana”; Blade was “Rexia”. We wore the size small shirts to a gay club one night to near universal accolades. Blade’s crowd of club friends delighted in his “accomplishment” of having come so far—and bringing me along with him!

Eating disorders have a way of isolating you and altering your reality. We’d done a good job of segregating ourselves from most social occasions that revolved around food. Though I had already lost over 1/3 of my original body weight—and Blade even more—no number was low enough. We set a competition to see who could get to 150 lbs. first.

Blade won. He died 2 months into our game. His heart gave out after he didn’t eat a morsel for several days. Blade was found dead in his apartment, logged onto Gay.com. I assume he was trying to find a date. His physique matched many of the men’s desired dimensions. Unfortunately, I’m told ashes don’t weigh much. At the intersection of Adonis and Narcissist, lean becomes lethal.

There aren’t words to describe the difficulty of coming to terms with a friend’s untimely passing, especially one that played out in such a sequence. After I had time to process what had happened, and once I had dealt with much the guilt of having willingly participated in a farce that lead to someone’s death, I became curious about the people behind those profiles.  Who were these anonymous men engaged in a digital pursuit of Adonis? Our obsession over losing weight was greeted with raves of compliments by our gay peers. Why did their praise lead Blade to drown in a pool of his own vanity?  I need to the bottom of the pond.

Were eating disorders a silent scourge in a community that already has a lot of heavy baggage? If so, what forces were at work in the culture at-large that contributed to this new outlet for self-loathing? Even more important, why weren’t we talking about this within the gay community? What was being done in the medical realm to remedy this? In the quest to exit Narcissus Ave., these questions are more important than any one story.

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Hugo
    May 12, 2012 @ 21:59:47

    What I would like to know is, what type of guys did you like and find attractive, and would you have also considered dating overweight guys? Sometimes these things are not a one-way street

    Reply

    • Jason Dilts
      May 12, 2012 @ 22:11:05

      They certainly are not a one-way street. I wanted guys who were thin, even though I was not. That doesn’t make it ok, but that is how I thought. I think that a lot why has to do with issues we faced growing up. Body facism among gay men is a continuation of the bully cycle. We turn on each other because we’ve been trained to hate who we are. Today, with anorexia behind me, I have a much healthier view of what attraction is and am much more open to different types of guys.

      Reply

  2. Hugo
    May 12, 2012 @ 22:47:22

    I would disagree with you to a certain degree, I am also physically attracted to mostly skinny guys, but I don’t feel guilty about it, any more than I feel guilty about not being attracted to girls. I know also that other people can be more flexible on what attracts them, and others are attracted to bigger people, so it is relative….I would never make someone feel bad about how they look, and I know that society (and gay society in particular) has a certain standard of beauty, a standard that also attracts me (and possibly because it influenced my perception of beauty)….whatever the case, I don’t think that anyone should feel guilty about their personal aesthetic tastes, on the other hand, I hope you never had to go through what you did, and what happened to your friend is a tragedy

    Reply

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