I have no face. There was a time when I may have owned one, but this is a fuzzy half-memory. In fact, it may be entirely an invention of fantasy. These days, regardless of my history, I know for a fact that I have no face. However, I have been granted a name: The American Obesity Problem. And I am growing in the United States. You may have seen me on television. You may have been witness to my disconcerting back cleavage and mystified by the seamless transition my legs make from my calves into my ankles. You probably saw my unsettlingly large, shelf-like behind as it strained against my tight Capri pants that I swore I would fit into someday and, when I didn't lose the weight, decided to wear anyway because, "If I spend more than $30 on pants I better damn well find a way to squeeze into them." You may have caught a glance of ponytail resting on my back, or a peek at several of my lower chins. But, if you've seen me at all, you can say with confidence that I do not have a face. I have a plethora of everything else, but that is one thing I do not have.
There was a time when I thought I may be a woman—but I am not. I am The American Obesity Problem. Women are not obese. Women are creatures with perfectly smooth hair, smooth skin, smooth voices…but, most importantly, women have faces. Faces with large, engaging eyes that hide behind long, fluttering eyelashes. Faces that are graced with petite, feminine noses. Faces with plump, red, moist lips. Faces that smile and laugh and contort to emote coyness. Have you ever attempted to be coy without owning a face? One time, in 2009, I attempted such an endeavor and it left spectators believing that my hip was out of joint. I was so upset that I wanted to cry but, without a face, I wasn't properly equipped with the tear ducts that are required.
I have been told by close friends, in confidence, that women have sex. I'm still not completely convinced of this rumor's validity, but my sources are fairly reliable. I do have several friends who are women themselves. In all honesty, I remain skeptical. For nearly two decades I have believed that women, like The American Obesity Problem, spawn at random. I spawn, you see—I appear as if by magic. One night I am an unsuspecting human being with hopes and dreams, full of love and ambition, and then, the next morning, I am mystically transformed into The American Obesity Problem. I was never born. I will never procreate. I have no gender. I've looked—I've set out on expeditions, you see. It takes planning and provisions to search for any sign of gender on The American Obesity Problem. There's quite a bit of ground to cover. Quite a bit of flesh to explore. I returned sadly from each journey only gleaning knowledge of endless rolls of fat. They extend for eternity into some great abyss I have yet to fully understand. There is nothing else there, no sign of any kind of life or vitality or feeling. On one occasion I brought a Sherpa with me, but he got lost somewhere—enveloped, rather. I wonder if I'll ever see him again…
It is quite interesting to be an asexual blob living in a world whose axis spins on the idea of sex. I press my fleshy, faceless cranium against the thick pane of glass that separates me from everyone and everything else, and I attempt to observe. Which is quite difficult without eyes, I admit, but you develop other sorts of senses as part of The American Obesity Problem. Fatty perceptions that the rest of society is not privy to. You watch women struggle into tight, low-cut shirts and hear them claim they enjoy cutting off the circulation in their breasts and that they are not—definitely NOT—trying to grab anyone's attention. You watch men lift weights up and down in endless repetition in the hope that they will lose their insecurities like you lost that pen you swear you just had five minutes ago. Then there are the instances when both genders pound down drink after drink after drink so that their stark biological differences are made inconsequential. At this point, they are able to converse freely and—according to rumor—copulate. Or, perhaps, they simply meditate on the idea.
I have been witness to such things because I am in a peculiarly rare situation. Most members of The American Obesity Problem are not college students like I am. Education is not terribly important to many of us. Typically, food is the priority. And lack of exercise. We love not exercising. If we could not exercise all week, we would—and quite frequently do. But a college education is about binge drinking and spring break bikini contests and sleeping through class and loveless sex and pregnancy scares. Clearly this excludes The American Obesity Problem, as most of us would much rather read a book or write an essay. There has to be activity between food and not exercising to break up the monotony, and I find that reading books or writing essays helps pass the time. Yet, without one solitary pregnancy scare, I've somehow managed to maintain a decent GPA. If I had parents, I'm sure they'd feel a slight tinge of pride that might, momentarily, outweigh the guilt and shame of having The American Obesity Problem as a child.
I have vague recollections of being a child—which is strange, because they can't possibly be true. They must be fabrications; illusions of the mind. Perhaps these memories are dreams. I recall one such dream, and it included an ice cream party. I was, allegedly, in the sixth grade. A boy, mindlessly licking his frozen treat, approached me with an incredulous look on his face. "Why are you eating that?" he asked, pointing to the vanilla ice cream cone melting in my hand. "Aren't you already fat enough?" I stared at him for a moment, blinking with eyes I couldn't have possibly had, yet distinctly remember. After this brief moment, I responded. "No. No, I am not fat enough. I must continue to eat and gorge myself; shovel in the ice cream. I am not nearly as fat as I could be. There's so much potential! I will grow to be part of The American Obesity Problem, and you can't stop me!" At which point I consumed the entire cone in one gigantic bite. "I am America's future!" I proclaimed. I jumped onto one of the desks, commanding the attention of all the other sixth grade children in the room, and proceeded to give a speech to the captive audience:
"I am America's future! I will be the consumer of super-sized value meals and, simultaneously, diet pills that have not been approved by the FDA. One of the two—or both in tandem—will lead to cardiac arrest. And that, my friends, is my ultimate goal. There is comfort in knowing that I have planned to end my life via heart attack. I may settle for a severe case of diabetes to tide me over, but heart failure is the only victory that will satiate this appetite! Until then, until success, I will perpetuate industry. I will consume. I will spin the cogs of this great nation. And when I say 'great' I don't mean 'good,' I mean 'LARGE'—large in capital letters. It is my duty to make sure America remains the greatest country in the world! My cause is just, my religion is Consumerism, and my fuel is ice cream. If you have any iota of patriotism, you will give up your ice cream right now! You will hand your cones to me! You will witness as, one after another, I shove them down my throat. And I will grow, my friends. I will grow into The American Obesity Problem!" My cries were suddenly muted by rapturous applause.
Then, as effortlessly as it weaved itself into my psyche, the dream unhinges and recoils into some dark corner of the mind. There is a strange, backwards relief in this fantasy that plays itself out on the stage of my subconscious. The dream implies choice. That I had a decision to make—a desire, even—to become part of The American Obesity Problem. I can't claim full knowledge of how I properly spawned, but that is the dream that always springs to mind when I struggle to remember. I'm not entirely sure what to make of it, but I do love the dreams in which I appear to be human.
The American Obesity Problem is not human. Our species is something modern science is still trying to comprehend and classify. But, as a virtually undefined genus, we don't have many of the rights that most human beings take for granted. Like dignity, for example. Or respect. We are frequent fodder for comedians and pedestrians alike. Why not? There is, after all, nothing worse than being part of The American Obesity Problem. In a "Most Disgusting" contest, our flabby folds will beat out any challenger, any day of the week. Our asexual spawning confuses and alienates humans. Our apparent lack of self-awareness and disdain for proper bodily upkeep is inexplicable. Our desire to be hated and loathed is unfathomable. We are a misunderstood group, though there are many of us. We make vain attempts to become human, to be accepted into a foreign culture, to forge a path between worlds.
I know. I've tried.
At the end of the day, all that's left to me are those wonderful dreams. Under the quiet blanket of endless stars, I feel the impossible could be possible. I am inspired to imagine myself in a woman's body. I grant myself the ability to dream of a time and a place in which I am human. The folds of endless fat lift up and over my head like a poorly fitting costume I can now freely discard on the floor. I feel the ability to breathe fully. I drift and float and feel light. I sometimes drift right into someone else's arms by accident. Sometimes they are arms that belong to a man. He smiles, and kisses my forehead, and reaches his arms around me with ease. He doesn't have to stretch and strain, but simply embraces as if it were wholly natural. And that makes me smile. I smile a big smile with coy lips and engaging eyes that ask him not to let go. My entire face lights up—and suddenly I'm aware that I have a face. I have a face. And, if I'm lucky, I imagine I have a name. And even luckier still, I have all of these things, and…
…and I am loved.