It became a routine in fourth grade: after school I would come home, eat a can of Chef Boyardee, watch some TV, and then start my homework. A couple minutes in the microwave and I had a hot, salty bowl of goo that I would shovel into my face. I didn’t realize it as it was happening, but I packed on pounds like a UPS guy loading his truck. “You’re a growing boy,” my mom would tell me as we would go back to Kohl’s to buy pants with a bigger waist, “pretty soon you won’t have to roll up your pant legs, and they will fit just right.” I was spoon fed euphemisms and excuses daily.
I had always been one of the bigger kids in my class growing up. I was taller, and just bigger. Moving up into middle school, I became the fat kid, too. One night, at the end of the summer before going into sixth grade, I stood in front of the mirror with my shirt off, shaking my gut like I was waiting for it to develop like a polaroid into a smooth stomach. It never did. How could I enter middle school looking like that?
Middle school started, and cliques formed like tumors, shaping the school and social existence. Athletes stuck together, guys who thought stupidity was charming stuck together and convinced all the girls that it really was charming, the kids who ate bugs ate bugs together, the pretty girls stuck together, and then the misfits who didn’t really belong in any other group found each other. I was and forever will be a misfit. Middle school girls don’t associate with misfits.
So there I was, a misfit with a bit of a weight problem: I played on the soccer team but was too heavy to run, so I either rode the bench or played in goal. I wasn’t one of the athletic players who the girls came to watch, I was the one who the girls would say “Oh, I didn’t know you played a sport,” if they acknowledged me at all. I didn’t fit in with the athletes. I got good grades, so I didn’t fit in with the dumb kids, no matter how hard I tried, and I wasn’t about to eat bugs (except I did eat some dog food in my day, but that was so my brother and his friends would let me hang out with them. They didn’t hang out with me after I ate it, probably because I smelled like dog food.)
So I became an outcast with outcast friends. The girls we talked to, we wanted nothing to do with, and the girls we wanted to talk to, didn’t want anything to do with us: a tough predicament for a thirteen-year-old who was trying to flex his game. I always knew what the problem was. I needed to lose my flab.
It was a simple solution. Get fit, get better at soccer, the athletes would accept me as one of them, the girls would flock to me like they did to Jimmy Clark. It was a mission I kept failing until after eight grade graduation. I started playing on a soccer team full of sophomores and juniors in high school, and my coach ran me until I threw up, time and time again.
By the time I got to high school, I was athletic and thin and ready to clique hop to the athletes clique. However, I soon realized that the athletes were assholes, and the girls who liked them were bimbos. So as it were, I was still a misfit, but I realized that my group of friends was no accident. We weren’t thrown together because we didn’t fit anywhere else. This is where we were supposed to fit.
My middle school years were spent trying to find myself somewhere in the mire of Chef Boyardee and low self-esteem. They weren’t about talking to girls because I needed to figure out why a girl would want to talk to me. And it’s because I’m a misfit, because I’m different, because I am how I turned out that I found an amazing girl: a misfit in her own right.
So Chef Boyardee almost ruined my childhood. It caused a lot of confusion and a lot of angst, but I am who I am because of that toxic goo. So cheers, toxic goo. .
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