Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Growing up Fat in Kensington Brooklyn

Being humiliated by other kids was always quite normal for me at Ditmas JHS on Cortelyou Road. You see when I was about twelve years old, I was well over 200 pounds and had a size 44 waist. So being made fun of and laughed at almost every day by the other “good looking thin kids” was just a another cross I had to bear.

I remember sitting in Mister Sorkin’s Art class at Ditmas that day.
He always played either Neil Young or Santana on this small record player that he kept by the window. I can’t tell you how many times I heard “Black magic woman” while painting a watercolor, along with “Only love can break your heart”.

“Oh, I have a boyfriend for you Susan, how about Ronald?”
Randy Brandis and Susan Gold just laughed hysterically at that thought, while looking directly at me. And Susan Gold was the most beautiful girl in the seventh grade too, which made it just that
more embarrasing.

And besides being the fattest kid in class, I also had a terrible stuttering problem. So trying to answer them back would have only lead to more laughter, so instead I just buried my head in my painting and tried not to pay attention to them both.

The laughter of others just comes easy when you’re fat,
especially in Junior High.

“We don’t want fat Ronald, you can have him”.

I was always the last one to be chosen for baseball in the schoolyard too. The biggest fattest kid that couldn’t hit a ball or even catch one.

Yeah, humiliation comes easy too, especially in Junior High.

And my mom used to get doctors notes for me too, because every time I had to go to gym I felt like throwing up.

Yeah, just me and my geeky Jewish friends standing on the sidelines trying to survive another day at Ditmas JHS. Jason Kerner, Authur Triesman and Murry Israel. No wonder most of my friends were Jewish, it must have been the doctor’s notes.

“Hey mister, you better stop eating before you get any fatter”

I just ran from the dinner table and to the pond behind our house in the Catskills. My mother found me about thirty minutes later hiding in a small tree behind the pond.

“Why did grandpa say that?”

My mom just took my hand walked me back to the house.
I didn't speak to my grandfather that night.

And then there were the patches my mom used to sew between my thighs, because the pants used to just wear away after a month or so. Along with my aunt Beatrice who would count how many chicken legs I ate at dinner in Queens Village. And of course the continuous laughter of the “skinny kids” at Ditmas who always found something to make fun of about “Fat Ronald”.

"Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys"
or was that "Fatboys"?

Now, I was always a skinny kid you see. They even used to call me “the skeleton” when I was about five years old. But something happened when I was about eight years old, and you can see it in my class pictures too. From one year to the next I just started to get fatter and fatter, until I was quite obese at twelve.
Yeah, 200 pounds and a size 44 waist at Ditmas Junior High.
What a wonderful time I had, I tell you. It was all so priceless.

And forget a “glandular problem” when it came to me being fat.
No, I ate too many "Ring Dings", "Yodels" and third servings, it was just as simple as that.

Humiliation unlike physical pain usually lasts a lifetime, and when you’re fat, it just comes with the territory.

But then something happened, and I don’t know when it started. People started telling me that I was getting taller and was losing weight. Buy the time I was 14 years old I stood about six feet and weighed around 155 pounds. Somehow I stuttered less and gained more confidence too. The kids that were making fun of me every day at Ditmas were just not paying attention to me anymore. And I was actually buying jeans at the Gap instead of the “Fat Boys” department at Mays down on Jay Street.

By the time I went to High School I was known as “slim”, and it all seemed so strange to me. Because I thought I was still being made fun of somehow, still very sensitive to anything weight related, even the word “slim”. And It took a very long time for me to get over the Ditmas experience, even well into my twenties.

I guess I should be happy that my son prefers a carrot to a candy bar, or a head of lettuce to a bowl of ice cream. He's even skinnier than I was at his age, and hopefully won't end up being the butt of everyone's "fat" jokes by the time he's in Junior High.

But although it wasn't very pleasant for me, I think the ridicule from others made me a better person, even if it was about being fat or having a stuttering problem.

Yeah, Neil Young, Mr. Sorkin's art class and Randy Brandis.
I never realized at the time how luckey I was, and never knew
some 37 years later that I'd be the one getting the last laugh.

Ron Lopez
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Cousin Pete said...

Touching - having been overweight myself - but what you don't say is that 1) no one made fun of you in the neighborhood - you had lots of friends; and 2) you and I started playing hockey around age 12 and I'm sure the exercise helped both of us shed those pounds.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, but too bad most of your time is spent in school where it can be the hardest.

Robert Rosen said...

Just wanted to say hi. Came upon your blog doing a search for N E Tells bakery. Been doing some research on the old hood and it's always surprising what pops up. I lived in Flatbush and Kensington from 1952-1975, 35 E. 17th and 70 E. 8th. Went to PS 249, Ditmas, and Erasmus. (My brother, born in '61, went to PS 130.) My father owned a candy store on Church Ave, 3 stores down from Tells--the one in the middle of the block, next to the subway entrance. The summer of 1971 I was the Good Humor man in your neighborhood. You should post some old pix if you've got them.

Anonymous said...

It all makes sense to me now, I think you got the munchies from breathing all that second hand smoke from Mr. Sorkins joints, he was the first burnout I ever met, did he used to say hey ya all the time when you had him? Will

Anonymous said...

I knew Jason Kerner and Murray Israel. Ditmas 69-72.