I once wrecked a car reaching for a Cheez-it. I am not proud of this. In fact, I’ve never admitted it out loud. If I was reaching for the radio, my purse, change for the toll? Those are all shame-free events. But Cheez-its? They weren’t even white cheddar.
I often hear men at social gatherings telling stories about wild partying days when they were in their teens or twenties. At a small neighborhood gathering the other night, I heard a man tell a story about reaching into the back seat for a beer and ending up on the railroad tracks with a train coming. He wasn’t embarrassed. Actually, he seemed quite proud of the story. The six or seven people listening all leaned in to hear how he got out of this scrape. They laughed, then sighed and looked at him with admiration for turning himself into such an upstanding citizen after those wild and crazy times. I couldn’t help but wonder how my Cheez-it story would have gone over.
I’ve heard people admit to driving drunk, using drugs, stealing from department stores, charging up a spouse’s credit card, infidelity and tax evasion. It all gets a laugh at a party. I’ve never heard anyone admit to bingeing on stale chips in the middle of the night or waking up with melted chocolate on their chest from eating ice cream until they fell asleep. (I’ve done both of these) I know women who would tell a roomful of people the number of sex partners they’ve had rather than disclose their weight. Admitting you had six vodka and tonics and then woke up beside a stranger will elicit nods of commiseration, winks and “I’ve been there’s”. Admit you ate an entire sleeve of Ritz crackers and then went to bed with Ben and Jerry is like farting at a funeral.
A few weeks ago, before the start of a Red Sox game, I was in line at the 7-11 trying to buy a bottle of water to smuggle into Fenway. (fyi-this is acceptable party chitchat) The young guy in front of me tells the clerk he wants two burritos and points to the glass case beside the register where various salted meats all dressed up in oily buns are rolling over and over trying to tempt on-lookers. There is a miscommunication of sorts and the clerk behind the counter keeps asking for clarification, causing a delay in the line which is growing exponentially.
“Which one do you want?” “Do you want the extra hot?” “Do you want the one with sauce?”
He turns to me and says, “Hey, I’m just a chubby guy looking for a snack.”
I laugh. Everyone laughs. I turn around and see a very overweight woman, her eyes overted, not laughing. I know that look. That’s the “please don’t see me and notice that I’m fat” look. I can’t help but wonder if she were holding up the line buying Cheez-its if we would think it was funny. I don’t mean to imply that the weight shame game is a woman’s only sport. I know many men insecure about their weight and tied to the scale. But I think we’re a little harder on women. I wonder if later on that night, during cocktails with her friends or dinner with her boyfriend and another couple, if she’d say, “I held up the entire line buying Cheez-its only to crash my car into a fire hydrant trying to open the F*%$#@ ing things.” I doubt it.