It’s not always so easy being lean


Upon graduating high school, a friend wrote me a yearbook message that I’ll never forget. Rather than the clichéd “don’t change” or “let’s chill this summer” or “never speak to me again” it went something like this: “Matt – while some college students fear the freshman fifteen, you should consider it a positive.” She was of course calling attention to my rail thinness.

Now, imagine for a moment that we were living in the Bizarro World, where I am overweight, where students typically lose 15 pounds during their first semester of college and, just for fun, hamburgers eat people. It would still be difficult to imagine my friend telling me I could stand to lose a few pounds. It’s just not something you say given what’s culturally acceptable. Everyone knows that fat is bad and skinny is good.

Even so, in light of the negative body-image epidemic afflicting this country, it’s hard to deem any kind of criticism regarding one’s personal appearance acceptable. And yet as a male who is very tall and thin, I hear remarks similar to my annoyingly blunt friend’s fairly often.

My grandmother, for instance, has told me that I am “much too thin” and “need fattening” every time I’ve seen her since 1987. It should be noted here that she is 76, Jewish and from the Bronx – indiscretion and over-feeding are in her blood. Nevertheless, it gets a bit old.

There have also been a few more creative taunts. My backside was once referred to as “concave.” That one stuck. Then there are those which fall somewhere in between an insult and a compliment. At the end of last summer, after weeks of wailing on my pecs at the gym and pounding protein shakes, I was thrilled when a friend who I hadn’t seen for a while told me I looked a little “less pointy.” Ouch?

For the sake of argument, let’s return to that societal inverse. Not even my uncouth grandmother would repeatedly tell me I’m too fat and need thinning. Nor would people ever poke fun at my bubble butt or my roundness. It’s just not how things work and I’ve come to accept that.

After all, the steady jarring is a small price to pay for the many advantages being thin affords. My freakishly high metabolism allows me to ingest just about anything I want whenever I want. I can honestly say that I have never second guessed a late night run to the drive-thru. Not once. And I’m no Kobayashi, but I’ve been known to take down one of those brick-sized burritos from Q’doba in an obscenely short amount of time.

Family and friends have even discovered a practical use for my eating habits, especially around the holidays. I’ve become their living, breathing garbage disposal of sorts. Every Thanksgiving it’s my job to finish off any remaining pieces of pumpkin pie and other fattening items that no one else can justify eating. The post-meal cleanup conversation usually involves something like: “Hey, don’t toss those turkey gizzards out, Matt’ll eat em.” When every high-carb, artery-clogging food in the house is gone, I’m free to go.

It doesn’t stop there. My girlfriend, a server who has trouble wasting even the smallest morsel of food, brings me leftovers from the kitchen on a regular basis. And of course I’m always happy to do my part. Still, I can’t help but feel a bit of pressure from taking on this task or “chore” as she likes to say. The occasion may arise when I’m just not hungry. Does that mean that everyone close to me will subsequently gain 10 pounds?

So, I’m tall and skinny. People often poke fun at my flagpole-like physique; my sprinting metabolism is exploited for the dietary needs of others; and in the event of a physical altercation, I’m not exactly the “go-to guy” if you catch my drift. But would I have it any other way? Of course not.

Now bring on the pie.

For questions or comments, e-mail Matt Goldman at