Wow, this is so unexpected. Thank you very much!
Oh my god, Iím so nervous!
Let me catch my breath here for a secÖWhew! 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 didnít before, you do now. Just look at me: Iím a balloon. I donít think thereís been an article or a photograph caption or an interview about this essay that didnít 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 donít decide these things; Iím only a writer. What can you do? You gain the weight; you do the work.
I had my doubts, donít 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 wouldnít be possible. Thatís why I did it: Commitment to my craft.
And thatís why I stand on this podium todayóbecause 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. Iíll have you know Iíve 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. Theyíre talking about how they always knew I was a talented writer. Itís 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 reviewersóI wonít name namesóbut the ones that now shamelessly refer to that early work as promising are the same ones that originally dismissed me as one of the Ďbeautiful to watch, ugly to readí 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! Youíre the real heroes! My friends in the business, those of you reading tonight: Please donít forget that there are regular 185-pound people out there leading exceptional lives. Nobody thinks theyíre special. But they are. Trust me. I understand this better than anyone: I know what itís like to be both skinny and beautiful and fat and ugly: Iíve been both. I mean, believe you me, Iím going back to slender, svelte, and stunning the second this essay is finished. And Iíll be writing essays at my usual weight for the foreseeable future. Donít get me wrong, Iím still thankful for this project. If it hadn't been for my editors at this journal, well, I canít imagineÖ Iíd 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 donít think I havenít heard the whispers: Why didnít they just hire a 185-pound writer for the essay? Can you even read the essay without thinking about how he usually looks? I canít read it without wondering if heís 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 ďget uglyĒ? Doesnít 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 itís like to be treated differently. Iíve had to deal with this my whole life. Itís called the ĎBeauty Paradoxí 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 writersómost of whom, hopefully, will never have to make themselves fat or ugly just to get the recognition they deserveóJust because weíre beautiful doesnít mean weíre 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 wouldnít 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. Iíll show them, I thought, Iíll show all of them! And look where I am today. Ha.
I showed you guys! I be-lieved!
Wow, that felt great. Okay.
I only hope that Iíll be back up here again someday. I could definitely get used to this. Certainly, once Iím 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 ďrealĒ gay writers. I may be straight, but Iím a flat-out great writer, and a great writer should be able to write about anything. After thatÖ? Well, thereís talk around town about an essay thatís supposed to be written by a writer dying of some horrible, debilitating disease. I imagine thatíll probably be a stretch, but after pulling off this essay Iím sure my audience is ready to see what else Iím capable of doing.
Now thereís still a few other people I need to thank. Let me start withÖ
Michael J. Ewing is a short-order cook at (pnote).
Write to Y.P.R.
Write for Y.P.R.
Right on, Y.P.R.