Living in Los Angeles (again), I try to attend a TV show taping at least once a year. While boring at times, TV show tapings allow me to at least feel for a few hours like I am part of the action. The 170 episodes I worked on at Pictionary are some if my best memories, as are visiting the set of Babylon 5 several times, and being in the films 16 To Life and South Dakota while I was in Iowa. The hustle and bustle of producing a TV show or film is addictive. And so recently I again set out to attend a taping of a popular TV show.
By all accounts the evening was a success. The show is funny, it didn’t go too late, and I was involved in several segments between takes while they were filming.
Which is where I experienced Fat Shaming for the very first time.
If you are reading this post, you only need to go back one more to find out that I have tried, unsuccessfully to jump-start my weight loss again earlier this summer. In fact you can go back further – years and years – and find my dramatic statements of “this time it is for real!” Only to find a similar one a few months later.
In other words, I failed again recently.
I can tell myself it’s because of the warmer-than-usual weather here that “prohibits” me from walking before work and at lunch. I can tell myself it is because of contractors and vendors visiting that “made me” go out to lunch several days of the week. I can tell myself a lot of things – but in the end there is only one person responsible – me.
Which brings me to the TV taping.
When a sitcom is taped/filmed in front of a live audience, the studio hires a warm-up person to help keep the crowd going. It is his job both to entertain and control the 200+ audience members and get them to laugh at the right spots, and be quiet during the rest. He will employ several tricks to accomplish this, from gags to magic tricks, to making people do stupid things all for a piece of candy.
This particular warm-up guy has been with this show since the beginning. In fact he has worked on many shows over the past 30 years. But what happened that night – and what I went along with – still bother me now several weeks later.
I knew something was up early on, as he invited audience members to get up and do their best dance for a chance at a key that might unlock a $20 bill. After several people had their turn, someone on the aisle opposite me decided to try as well. During her dance, he asked me to get up and dance with her. Now, I knew he had autographed photos of the cast he was also giving away, and other shows gave away autographed scripts, so I said why not – and I got up and gave it all I got, then sat down.
The next break in the action, he called me up again – this time to show my dance moves to the show’s makeup and hair stylists. I once again went with it.
It was during this interlude where I got the feeling – for the first time in my life – that I was intentionally being asked to do something because of my weight, and probably my age. Suddenly I was the “obese kid dancing” meme that makes the internet laugh and share while secretly he is humiliated.
And it didn’t stop there.
Throughout the night I was called upon to become the “surprise reveal” at “The dating game” for a young woman, to loan my shoe for a bit where he made it disappear, and also as the subject of an audience member to “squeal like a pig longingly” – again all for the chance for a photo or other prize.
At the end of the night, I felt used and abused for the last 4 hours. Made fun of because of my weight and probably my age.
I disguised it in laughs and smiles, even thanking the warm-up guy at the end of the night.
So why does it still haunt me several weeks later?
Growing up, I was the skinny kid. Literally. Can we say size 10 slim jeans? So it hurts me greatly to look in the mirror as well as feel what I have become.
Have you seen that ad that asks “What would make 10-year-old you proud?”
The answer: Nothing.
I wake up every day and realize that I am not who I want to be – in many ways, but definitely physically.
Being overweight – really overweight – I notice things. I notice the gut hanging over my belt, causing indentations and scarring on my waistline where the belt buckle digs in during the day. I notice at my heaviest when my armpits seem to rub against the sides of my chest. I notice when a shirt isn’t quite long enough to be wearable. I notice every time I try to do a youtube video.
I notice – everything.
And after this TV taping – I know others do too.
I would love to wake up tomorrow and be at my “ideal weight.” I would love to go home at Christmas or New Years and have everybody ask “what happened?” in a positive way. I would love… to be happy with myself.
If nothing else, this is a wake up call. I can’t let it go another day, week, month and certainly not a year.
Things need to change.