I had hoped to get all the posts about my Dad out of the way in one shot – I think there are another 2, perhaps 3. The truth is, though, talking about him makes me feel mentally sticky and gross –  I need some sort of mental floss afterwards. Anyway, my point is I don’t think I have the wherewithal to subject myself (much less you) to concentrated doses of Daddy Dearest. Instead, I’m going to talk about something nice – food.

God, I love food. I loved it even as a kid. I don’t look Italian – in fact, I take more after the German side of my family in the looks department. But inside, I’m a fat little Italian boy (I’m fat on the outside too, but that’s a whole other issue). My Grandmother was an amazing cook – in fact, most of my memories from childhood involve her in the kitchen. And when she cooked dinner, she didn’t just cook one thing – she cooked 2-3 main courses and several side dishes. I’m talking home made ravioli with meatballs, sausage, salad, and maybe some chicken cacciatore thrown in for good measure. Maybe Italian wedding soup if she was feeling it. I have to stress that these were typical dinners. God help us if we had company over. You could easily double or triple the amount of food on the table – and still she’d worry she didn’t have enough. She used to get upset if people didn’t finish all the food.

Grandma: What, you don’t like it?

Me: No, Grandma it’s great. I had a third helping.

Grandma: Well, there’s only a little bit left. Here. Have some more ravioli. And don’t forget there’s dessert.

And God forbid a guest should leave the house bereft of leftovers. You remember the sweet old lady from the Wedding Singer who tried to hand Adam Sandler meatballs? Yeah, that was kind of my Grandma.

When I was a kid, I was chubby – I had to wear “husky” sized pants. Mom and Grandma kept telling me (and everyone else) it was just extra baby fat. But by the time I was 8, there really wasn’t any way around the fact that I was getting to be a bit portly. Mom started to get on me about being “too heavy” – not an unreasonable concern, but she had a difficult time following through with meal plans for me. The same day she lectured me about not eating right, we’d run through the McDonald’s drive through. I would be chastised for wanting the Big Mac (for me at 8, this was the bottom of my foot pyramid) and instead encouraged to order the Quarter Pounder, no cheese. The super sized fried and Coke were non-negotiable items. As an adult trying to lose weight, I can see that these choices made little sense – it’s like deciding whether you want to be shot or hung, nutritionally speaking. While my Mom pounded it into my head that I was “too heavy”, agents and casting directors agreed – albeit a bit more diplomatically. I was a “character actor”, they’d say – a nice way of saying not the leading man with perfect teeth and pecs. So, I thought “Fuck this. I’m just gonna be fat.” My “efforts” all throughout childhood failed – I see now that they were set up to explode, though. You can’t lose weight – not substantially, anyway – by eating fast food 3 meals a day. Or by feasting on Grandma’s endless ravioli or lasagna, with apple pie for dessert (the argument there being that it wasn’t too bad for me – the apples are at least a fruit). So by the time I decided in earnest that I was going to lose weight – really, really try – I had already become so used to failure I expected it.

Food was also a source of comfort for me – even as a kid in times of bereavement, I was offered ice cream and candy. Long hours on the road will make you bored, as I’m sure any long haul trucker can attest. Our frequent journeys to New York necessitated visits to truck stops for a Coke or Gatorade (the argument being Gatorade was “better for me” because it was “juice”), and a couple King Size candy bars. How I didn’t have a heart attack by the time I was 11 I’ll never know.

Today, at 30, I’m still trying – I hesitate to say “struggling” because that implies failure, at least to me. It’s hard, though, when Mom offers me chocolate covered peanuts (“It’s not *that* bad for you…it’s only nuts and a little bit of chocolate”) or when I have a particularly rough day and just need some sugar.

I still remember when I was in To Kill A Mockingbird, having my nightly dinner after the show. Even then, I was a creature of habit – I ordered a Shirley Temple, fried shrimp and fries, and a hot fudge brownie sundae for dessert. I remember seeing the director leaving with a friend, and he stopped by our table to say hello. He was a really, really sweet guy, and I knew he meant nothing offensive by it, but he gently let me and Mom know they were having to let my costume out for a 2nd time. My 8 year old self was happily chowing down on my hot fudge brownie sundae as I bid the director a good night. Mom grabbed my hand (the one holding the spoon).

Mom: You don’t want to be too fat to play the role, do you?

Me: No.

Mom: Well. Do you want that sundae, or do you want your career?

Right then, I just wanted my damn sundae. I just looked at her.

Mom: Well?

Me: My career, I guess.

Mom: You guess? You better know.

Me: My career, my career.

Mom: Okay then.

She slid the sundae away from me, and I watched regretfully as she finished it off. It didn’t matter in the long run, because tomorrow would be filled with Butterfingers, Egg McMuffins, and super sized Cokes. She would have forgotten all about her “pep talk” (which wasn’t a pep talk, really – it just served to make me feel angry and guilty) and back in her own little world. Another day, another drive thru.

 

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