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My FootprintCarrying the Weight of the World
By Jeff Garlin
GalleryCopyright © 2010 Jeff Garlin
All right reserved.
God bless my wife, she always calms me down. As I?m looking through our mail this morning, she says, ?You?re going to see something you?re not going to like.? And I say, ?Really? What?? She pauses, gives me a knowing look, and says, ?Just use it in your comedy.? I start thumbing through the mail. I have received a catalog from the good people at Living XL. It?s a catalog for fat people who want to stay fat and enjoy themselves. The message is, basically, ?Don?t lose weight. No, no, no. All the problems that you normally have with being fat?we?ve got a solution.? How do they know to send me a catalog? Do they have a list of fat celebrities?
I open it up. The first product on offer is a three-wheel bike with a five-hundred-pound capacity. As I look at this contraption, I?m wondering how many five-hundred-pound people are sitting around?well, they are obviously sitting or maybe lying around?but how many of them are sitting around thinking, I so want to go biking. I just don?t have the opportunity. I weigh 450. If only there was a bike that could hold my weight. Then I?d have no excuse.
Next up, fat ponchos. Because we know the regular poncho is so slimming. Has anyone ever put on a poncho and said, ?This is not freeing enough?? I guess the only way this thought would cross your mind is if you?re a really fat woman and you?re wearing a muumuu underneath your oversized poncho. Poncho and muumuu, sounds like a new cop show.
The next page features a lawn mower?handle extender. I don?t know what that has to do with being fat. Wait a second; it must be to allow extra room for your stomach! That?s probably it.
Now how about one of those chairs you bring to a kid?s soccer game, except this one?s got an eight-hundred-pound capacity. How many eight-hundred pounders do you see out in society? It must be for a four-hundred pounder, who?s got a four-hundred-pound girlfriend who wants to sit on his lap. How about a 650-pound-capacity sand chair. How many 650-pound people do you see at the beach? Do you ever? No! They?re at home. They can?t leave.
What else? Okay, here?s a hammock with a six-hundred-pound capacity. Now, I don?t care what you weigh, getting on and off a hammock is quite difficult. I don?t care if you weigh 150, hammock mobility is hard for everyone. So you?re six hundred pounds. The odds of you getting on that hammock are so slight. You?re going to be on the ground. You?re six hundred pounds?once you do get on you?re never getting off. So it?s good that it supports your weight, because you?re never getting up again.
Let?s see here, next is the big key computer keyboard. Because Lord knows, your fingers are so fat, a typical computer keyboard?s not going to work for you.
Here?s one with a great name. It?s the Pride XL Mobility Chair. I read the description and learn that when you press a button on the chair, instead of having to get up, the chair lifts you up. And yet they call it the Pride Mobility Chair. I think one of the first things about being a proud person is that you can stand up on your own. I?m not talking about someone in a wheelchair or someone who was in an accident. I?m talking about when you really don?t have a reason for not being able to stand up yourself. They should call it the Embarrassment Mobility Chair. Or the You?ve Hit Rock Bottom Mobility Chair. Or even the You Should Be Ashamed Mobility Chair.
Next up is something you?ve probably seen in commercials. And to me, this is so horrible and wrong . . . it?s the Living XL Wearable Sleeves Blanket. Now, how many times have you covered yourself in a blanket, and then thought, I can?t get up! I can?t maneuver; if only I had sleeves! It?s only a matter of time until you see someone wearing this thing at the grocery store to keep warm while perusing the frozen foods aisle.
My God, they?ve got toilets! All right, here?s one: a toilet seat that?s called the Big John toilet seat. And if you think I?m making this up, I?m not?1,200-pound capacity. Can a 1,200-pound person get up and go to the bathroom, let alone sit down and read? Twelve hundred pounds?! Who?s taking a shit in that house? It?s described as ?durable and convenient.? I understand the need for durability on this one, but what makes it more convenient than other toilet seats? Oh, right, it must be for the four-hundred-pound man with the four-hundred-pound girlfriend who wants to sit on his lap as he goes number two?or in this case, number five. The 1,200-pound capacity toilet really takes the worry out of going to the john. Once you get there, there?s no panicking questions like, ?Can it hold me?? Oh yes, it can. It most certainly can.
And here?s another bottomed-out contraption, the ?Pistol-Grip, No-Bend Toenail Clippers.? Not being able to reach your toes because of the size of your belly?I?m sorry, but that?s a low point. Maybe it?s not the low point. You could be wearing a blanket and clipping your toenails while taking a dump on the Big John. It?s a low point just the same.
But here?s the moment that might be the real bottom for me: I turn the page and look at the model who?s displaying the Cabin Comfort Inflatable Pillow?and who do you think he looks like? That?s right, he looks like me. When you?re going through a fat catalog and making fun of it, and you get to the last page and the model is your twin, that?s your low point. It was embarrassing enough just being sent a copy in the mail, but the fact that I look like a model in Living XL renders me speechless. I just don?t know what to say. He looks just like me! Wow. I?ve always wanted to look like a model, but not one from the Living XL catalog. So this is my bottom. Done! I?m not messing around anymore. I?m like the Captain in WALL-E. If not now, then when? You will see a weight-loss festival like you?ve never imagined.
As I get started on this big bowl of adventure, I wonder why I?m doing it. I guess I look at this book as my impetus. My motivating factor. If writing this book doesn?t make me lose weight and/or go green, what will?
This might be my only book, ever. I wish someone were writing it for me. Actually, I wish someone were losing the weight for me, too. There are times when I?m happy to sell out. Just not when I?m the writer. If I?m truly responsible for something?and you have to be responsible for your own book, your name?s on the cover?I have to make it the best I can. I really hope this book is great. If I do something that?s good, I look at it as a failure. Maybe that?s harsh, but life . . .
When you see a bunch of x?s in a row something happened. Something bad. Bad and self-inflicted. So here?s what happened.
I got distracted. I get distracted a lot. I have attention deficit disorder (ADD). That?s not such a huge deal?in fact, I think almost every comedian I know has ADD. It?s what happens when I get distracted that?s the problem. I just went down to the kitchen and ate a huge bowl of Life cereal.
I just had a big bowl of life. Literally. And therein lies the problem.
Let me explain my eating disorder to give you an idea what I?m up against. You can put me in a room. And in that room you have the best pot in the world, the best coke in the world, the greatest glass of wine of all time, and a two-day-old grocery-store sheet cake. Guess where I?m going? Half of it could be covered in ants. I swear to God. And I?d eat the other half. I am an addict. And let me tell you, of all the addictions that are most unattractive, being a compulsive overeater is number one.
Look, if you do drugs, you?re going to get laid. Smoke pot? Do blow? Drink? You?re having sex. You never hear a woman at a party say, ?You see that guy shoving burgers in his mouth? I?m going to fuck the shit out of him. Oh, he is hot. Are those White Castle Slyders he?s eating??
Also, I have a lot going on right now. I?m supposed to hand in a script for a film that I am slated to direct, and I am nowhere near finished. It?s no wonder I?m fat. I think I can write a book and a script while I?m in production on Curb Your Enthusiasm. By the way, I?m an executive producer and a co-star of that fine production. I figure I should mention that; I never assume that anyone knows who I am. Then again, I guess if you bought this book you probably know who I am and I suppose you like me. If you bought this book and you don?t know who I am, then good for you for taking a chance. If you bought this book and you don?t like me, then hats off to you. You?re the bigger person. Trust me, if I didn?t like you, I would never buy your book.
To stay focused, I?ve decided to keep a diary of my accomplishments, so to speak. So here goes.
THURSDAY, AUGUST 28, 2008
I?m standing in the kitchen staring at a box of Lucky Charms. The magical deliciousness overtakes me. I?ll start tomorrow. Although, after I?m done, I?ll recycle the box.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 29, 2008
Where did the fresh bagels come from? I?ll start on Monday. Labor Day. It?s better to start on a date I can remember. Who remembers August 29? I?m sorry if that?s your birthday. I didn?t mean to insult you.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 30, 2008
No, I?m not starting yet.
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 1, 2008
I?m currently reading a book of daily meditations for compulsive overeaters (of which I am one). The name of the book is Food for Thought. The meditation for today is about being nice to yourself by staying abstinent twenty-four hours a day. I?ll keep that in mind. I?d like to make it past one hour with-out doing damage to myself before I focus on twenty-four. It?s
6:00 a.m. and I?m in the kitchen for breakfast. Which, by the way, is late for me. I wake up every day at five thirty. No alarm. No matter what time I go to bed. If I?m not asleep by midnight I know the next day will be a disaster.
So I decide on scrambled egg whites. Opening the refrigerator, I notice?okay, look for?some Pillsbury sugar cookie dough. I eat all the dough. Now I have to run out to the grocery store to replace it before my family wakes up. This brings a level of excitement that I enjoy. Not as much as raw cookie dough, but it?s quite enjoyable nonetheless.
Damn. I fell asleep on the couch before I could get to the store. My wife and sons are eating breakfast. I tell my wife that I?m going out to the newsstand.
?Is it open on Labor Day??
?I think it is.?
?What do you need at the newsstand??
?A fantasy football magazine.?
?You and your stupid fantasy football.?
A discussion of our different views of fantasy football would not be prudent right now. All I know is, fantasy football just gave me a great cover to run my covert errand, thank you very much.
I pop out to Gelson?s and grab my cookie dough and a Sporting News Fantasy Football guide. When I get home and roll the magazine around the cookie dough, I drop the grocery bag in the recycling bin.
A quick aside here: yes, I hope to lighten my carbon footprint, because I know it is a big one, but I?ve always been obsessed with recycling. I?ll even take things home from work or social events just to make sure they get recycled properly. The thought of some piece of plastic sitting for hundreds of years in a dump somewhere makes me nuts.
Okay, so after destroying the evidence and replacing the cookie dough, I stroll nonchalantly through the house to make sure I?m in the clear. My children are in the basement playing video games. I can tell it?s a Star Wars game by the music. I can hear that my wife is upstairs showering. Actually, I was wrong, because she pops out of our bedroom.
?Did you get the magazine you needed??
?I don?t understand what?s so important about fantasy football that you needed to rush out and get a magazine now.?
I shrug my shoulders and she goes off into the shower.
The only living things who saw me put away the cookie dough are my dogs. I know they won?t say anything. They love me.
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 3, 2008
Willingness. Today?s meditation is about willingness. I?ve always been willing to change and evolve. I could also say that I?ve been willing to fail. I?ve been ready to eat poorly and avoid exercise. Time to change. I?m willing.
I?m working out with my trainer, Anne, today. I can honestly say, no exaggeration, if it wasn?t for Anne, I would not be alive. She?s kept me alive. She?s really, really, kept me alive. She can be very serious. Today, as I?m working out with her, I ask her how much money it will take for her to walk up to all the other trainers in the gym and tell them that she?s a pretty little ballerina girl. She tells me ?I won?t, because you couldn?t pay me.?
?Let?s say a million dollars. Would you do it for a million dollars??
?No, because you don?t really have the money.?
She just won?t go with it. Across the room I see a trainer with huge fake breasts and an attitude.
?See that trainer over there that?s taking herself way too seriously? Go over and just pet the back of her head.?
?For ten million??
?Just focus on your workout.?
?What if I said I had the cure for cancer??
?C?mon, I?ll give you the cure for cancer.?
?Think of all the lives you?ll save.?
?What if that trainer got her fake breasts to overcompensate for the anxiety she?s feeling from her fear of maybe someday getting cancer? What if you could alleviate her pain by just simply stroking her head? Go ahead and stroke it. But then again, I already have the cure. Why am I waiting to tell you? I should do something about it now. Dear God, woman, I have the cure for cancer and I?ve done nothing with it.?
She stares at me, not even a smile. But I enjoy her nonetheless. I?ve been with her for nine years. That?s amazing . . . and gives you an idea of how long I?ve been trying to get healthy.
Before I found Anne, another fitness guru tried to help me. When I first moved to Los Angeles, I went to a taping of Bonnie Hunt?s sitcom and her guest star that night was Richard Simmons. Bonnie introduced us?yes, he was wearing his signature Richard Simmons outfit (striped dolphin shorts and a sparkly tank top)?and after a brief conversation, he confidentially offered to help me. Confidentially, right! He practically screamed it to the heavens. Reluctantly, I told him I did need help. Nothing had helped me lose weight up to this point. I was a bit desperate. Desperate enough for the magic of Richard Simmons.
Richard asked for my mom?s phone number?I gave it to him knowing that her excitement might make up for the second thoughts I was having about this crazy idea?and then he proceeded to call my mom and tell her that he was going to change my life. I would have felt more comfortable if he?d just told her he was going to help me lose weight. He actually could have told my mom that he was going to help me bedazzle all of my shirts, she wouldn?t have cared. She was over the moon about simply being on the phone with Richard Simmons. After he was done talking to her, he handed me the phone.
?How about that??
?You know I love Richard Simmons!?
?No, I didn?t, but I do now.?
?My heart is beating so fast.?
Richard was smiling at me.
?Calm down, Ma.?
?Jeffrey, you do whatever that man tells you!?
?Maybe I will.?
?Do it, Jeffrey. This is a rare opportunity.?
?It is a rare opportunity.?
Again, Richard smiled at me.
?Promise me you?ll listen to everything he says.?
?Not ?we?ll see.??
?Okay, I?ll work with him.?
?I just told you I will.?
Richard grabbed the phone away from me. ?Mrs. Garlin, don?t you worry about him. The next time you see him, you won?t recognize him.?
After making arrangements to meet at Richard?s studio, he gave me a big hug and went on his way. He practically floated out of the room. What have I done? Really, that?s what I was screaming in my head. At least, I figured, I could count on my wife to talk me out of it.
A few days later my wife, Marla, and I arrived at Richard?s studio in Beverly Hills. She made me come. And she?s not there to exercise. Only to watch my humiliation. I was not prepared for what was about to happen to me. No one could be. Unless you owned Deal-A-Meal and were already dancing away at home to Sweatin? to the Oldies. Richard greeted me warmly and announced my arrival to the thirty or so women of various shapes and sizes in the class. We stretched and warmed up to music that probably came from the Fame soundtrack.
And before I even knew what was happening, I was jumping around and doing aerobics with Richard and all these women to the song ?It?s Raining Men.? But it didn?t stop there. Later, as we bounced along to Diana Ross?s ?I?m Coming Out,? Richard had everyone form a big circle around him. Then he pointed at me to join him in the center. Doing aerobics with Richard Simmons while surrounded by a circle of thirty heavy women in tights?you tell me what word to use to describe this experience.
In addition to attending his classes, I would receive messages on my answering machine that typically went like this: ?Happy Monday! It?s a beautiful day to exercise! See you soon.? I have to admit these messages brought my wife and me great joy. I wish he still called. At one point, a couple of months after I met him, I found myself alone at Richard?s house. He introduced me to his dalmatians and showed me his doll collection. (At this point I probably should have run. Run or just decided to be gay. Is there a better time to come out than when you?re being shown Richard Simmons?s doll collection?)
As I was driving home, I was listening to sports radio. I listen to sports radio all the time, but I?m sure subconsciously I turned it on in an effort to instantly regain my masculinity. Anyhow, the reason I remember listening to sports radio was that they announced that Northwestern had upset Notre Dame in football. I had planned to watch it on TV that day. But, no, I didn?t watch it. Instead, I enjoyed the magic of Richard Simmons?s doll collection. I thought, I can never tell anyone about this. Until now.
God bless Richard Simmons. He?s helped so many people. He tried to help me. I stopped going to his classes after a couple of months. But how would things have been if I?d gotten healthy for good with Richard Simmons? Just imagine the two of us on the talk shows, with him showing me off like Frankenstein?s monster.
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 2008
Today, as a result of the ADD skill set, I?m at the car wash and I?ve got to be at my son?s school for an event in twenty minutes. I don?t know why I choose to wash my car minutes before I have to be somewhere. But it?s happened before, as if it?s some weird habit. I?m supposed to be at an appointment somewhere ASAP, and all of a sudden I?m turning in to a car wash. I should be grateful; at least it?s not an In-N-Out Burger.
As I wait impatiently, I see a beautiful Mercedes sedan being hand dried. A very fat guy with long hair and a black baseball cap on backward is talking to the guy who?s drying it. The fat guy is getting kind of animated. I?m intrigued, so I move closer and notice a couple of key things. One is that the car has a V12 engine. Second, the guy?s baseball cap says save the planet in white block letters. He?s got a V12 and he?s telling the rest of us to save the Earth. Clearly a conflicted individual. Or one who likes driving cars with big engines and wearing free stuff.
I?m fat, but this fella is a pig. He kind of looks gray. As I make this observation, he lights up a smoke. He?s truly a mess. I don?t think he?s ever exercised. Absolutely no muscle mass. I bet if I touched his arm, it would have the consistency of a water balloon. I can?t quite hear what?s being said, and now I?m obsessed with figuring out what?s going on. I move even closer, and I hear him telling?or rather, ordering?the car-wash guy to put some muscle into it. A guy with no muscle mass should never be condescending to someone who has it, particularly with respect to activities that require muscle. Then fat Earth guy says, ?Harder man!? The poor car-wash guy is really working hard. Finally he finishes and hands the keys to fat Earth bozo, who says, ?I have no change or money for a tip.? He throws his cigarette down, steps on it, and gets in his car. I can?t take it anymore, so I say to the fat Earth guy, ?That wasn?t right. I?m going to tip the guy for you.?
?Do what you want; I don?t give a shit.?
He looks in his backseat, then moves his seat forward and pulls out a stack of newspapers. He stuffs the newspapers into the garbage and gets back in his car.
?What about ?saving the planet??? I ask. I can?t help myself.
?Fuck the planet and??
I interrupt, ?And fuck me. . . . Very good.?
He peels out and almost hits a pedestrian. I walk over to the garbage can, pull out the papers, and put them in my trunk.
As I enter my son James?s classroom a few minutes late, still obsessing about the ignorance of the guy at the car wash, I receive a swift, angry stare from my wife. A ranger from Joshua Tree National Park is there addressing the class, wearing her full ranger regalia. She seems very serious. This could be a long night.
In a few weeks my son?s class is going to Joshua Tree for a two-night camping trip. Two nights in the outdoors. Dear God. As the ranger details the various outdoor activities that my son will be doing, I begin to have an anxiety attack. I?m not a big fan of outdoor activities. I am a big fan of air-conditioning. I hate heat. Heat and hay fever. And touching greenery. I like looking at greenery. But if I touch anything green, I?m gone. I start scratching myself like a crazy man. And, mind you, I don?t stop. At least until I?ve gone home and showered in cool water. After that I?d probably take a nap. It doesn?t have anything to do with the itching. I?ll just feel like a nap at that point. So sue me. After some time with greenery, if I want a nap that?s my business. I also hate spiders and snakes, though I like lizards. They?re like little dinosaurs that eat insects. I?m also not a big fan of hiking. I love to walk. But I enjoy walking through a city, not amidst rocks and greenery. I loathe rock climbing, too?I shouldn?t climb anything except stairs. And caves, I?m afraid of caves. I?m crazy claustrophobic. Have I left anything out? Oh yeah, the sun. I don?t burn easily, but I get rather dizzy if I?m in the sun too long.
I hope I don?t come off as too much of a wimp by admitting all of that. Because I?m really not. As a matter of fact, if you put me in an air-conditioned room in some office building in New York City, I?m as tough as the next guy.
The activities my son will be forced to endure include climbing, helmets, and rocks. Apparently they will be climbing under boulders. Under boulders! I run outside to the parking lot for some air, and I feel like throwing up. Minutes later my wife comes out. She is completely unconcerned about my health. Instead, she makes me promise that I won?t mention my reservations about the trip to my son. But I know that he?s my son (which means he loves the outdoors about as much as I do; I?m not sure he even likes looking at it), and when he finds out the shit they?re going to do, he?s going to be furious. He?s going to want to come home. Oh dear God, I want to save him!
Standing by myself in the parking lot, I realize that I am conflicted about my desire to be green. Well, not as conflicted as that asshole at the car wash. I want to do my part to make the planet cleaner and healthier; I want us all to have a future on this Earth, especially my sons. I recycle religiously?even other people?s trash. I know that global warming is real. I know that natural beauty needs to be preserved. I know that I need to do more. But the last place I want to go is back to nature. Please don?t make me go back to nature. I want to go back to my couch. And then maybe I?ll watch the documentary Planet Earth. In Blu-ray. I?ll see nature the way it was meant to be seen. From my couch.
? 2010 Frosty Productions, Inc.
Excerpted from My Footprint by Jeff Garlin Copyright © 2010 by Jeff Garlin. Excerpted by permission.
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