Wow, this is so unexpected. Thank you very much!
Oh my god, I’m so nervous!
Let me catch my breath here for a sec … Whew! O.K., much better.
Now before I thank everyone who made this essay possible, I want to say a word about the weight gain.
I know you know about it. I mean, if you didn’t before, you do now. Just look at me: I’m a balloon. I don’t think there’s been an article or a photograph caption or an interview about this essay that didn’t in some way draw attention to the weight gain.
But let me be clear: I gained the weight because the essay required it. Not for any other reason. This essay demanded a writer thirty-five pounds heavier than I was when I got the gig. End of story. I don’t decide these things; I’m only a writer. What can you do? You gain the weight; you do the work.
I had my doubts, don’t get me wrong: There were days when these new sausage-like digits could barely hit a key. But that was all part of the job. I never doubted I was the right writer for this piece. I knew I could craft this essay better than anyone else, fat fingers and all. I had the drive; I had the talent; I had the commitment. The commitment, damn it! And, as you can see, I could not only put on the weight, but I could make it believable. You look at me, you read these words, and you see a 185-pound writer. I look like a 185-pound writer. I write like a 185-pound writer. And, in this 185-pound body, I make this essay sing. A 150-pound man could not write this essay. It just wouldn’t be possible. That’s why I did it: Commitment to my craft.
And that’s why I stand on this podium today—because of my dedication to my work. Nothing more. I certainly could not have anticipated that now, because of this essay and my added flab, everyone would suddenly declare that now I was a serious writer. I’ll have you know I’ve always been a serious writer. If putting on some weight woke everyone else up to this fact, then so be it.
But I do love how certain critics have suddenly hopped on my bandwagon. They’re talking about how they always knew I was a talented writer. It’s even in some of the reviews, you know? They refer back to my earliest essays, the ones I wrote when I was known more for my dashing, slender looks than for my writing. I was a mere innocent in those days. Some of those reviewers—I won’t name names—but the ones that now shamelessly refer to that early work as promising are the same ones that originally dismissed me as one of the ‘beautiful to watch, ugly to read’ lit kids.
That cracks me up. It really does.
Now let me send some love out to all the regular 185-pound people out there. This is for you guys! You’re the real heroes! My friends in the business, those of you reading tonight: Please don’t forget that there are regular 185-pound people out there leading exceptional lives. Nobody thinks they’re special. But they are. Trust me. I understand this better than anyone: I know what it’s like to be both skinny and beautiful and fat and ugly: I’ve been both. I mean, believe you me, I’m going back to slender, svelte, and stunning the second this essay is finished. And I’ll be writing essays at my usual weight for the foreseeable future. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still thankful for this project. If it hadn’t been for my editors at this journal, well, I can’t imagine… I’d probably still be cranking out essays like all the other, run-of-the-mill, very-good-looking, 150-pound writers, never imagining that there was an essay out there like this one that I could really sink my teeth into.
Now don’t think I haven’t heard the whispers: Why didn’t they just hire a 185-pound writer for the essay? Can you even read the essay without thinking about how he usually looks? I can’t read it without wondering if he’s going to lose the weight. Once I recognized him, once I knew he was writing with thirty-five extra pounds, I became totally aware of his writing. Why do they always need to turn to the young, beautiful ones and encourage them to “get ugly”? Doesn’t the whole thing smell like a publicity stunt?
I hear those hurtful words and it makes me sad.
Besides, they ignore the main fact: I was born to write this essay. This essay is me. After all, I know what it’s like to be treated differently. I’ve had to deal with this my whole life. It’s called the ‘Beauty Paradox’ and it affects all beautiful writers. It makes my heart weep, but there is so much bias out there. I want to say, on behalf of all the other beautiful writers—most of whom, hopefully, will never have to make themselves fat or ugly just to get the recognition they deserve—Just because we’re beautiful doesn’t mean we’re bad writers!
This, by the way, is the type of stuff I drew on while preparing for this essay. I remembered all the people who told me I wouldn’t make it as a writer. Too handsome, they said, too good-looking. My God, that really hurt. But it also taught me a lot about discrimination. I’ll show them, I thought, I’ll show all of them! And look where I am today. Ha.
I showed you guys! I be-lieved!
Wow, that felt great. O.K.
I only hope that I’ll be back up here again someday. I could definitely get used to this. Certainly, once I’m trim, tan, and lovely again, I should be ready to tackle some gay writing. I mean, this essay I heard about the other day is a wonderful project. And, believe you me, I can write as gay as any “real” gay writers. I may be straight, but I’m a flat-out great writer, and a great writer should be able to write about anything. After that … ? Well, there’s talk around town about an essay that’s supposed to be written by a writer dying of some horrible, debilitating disease. I imagine that’ll probably be a stretch, but after pulling off this essay I’m sure my audience is ready to see what else I’m capable of doing.
Now there’s still a few other people I need to thank. Let me start with …