When I was in sixth grade I got it in my head that I would be a star athlete. I decided on an ambitious program combining Football and Wrestling to sculpt my chubby frame into a machine built of muscle, passion and skill. Sixth grade was the first year when kids could compete with teams outside of town and I was excited. I had participated into the normal white, upper-middle-class cocktail of sports as a child: baseball, soccer, basketball and even a little gymnastics. But football and wrestling offered something these other sports did not: violence. Better still, I was bigger than most kids my age. By 12 I weighed 160 pounds – mostly fat, mind you – but I was tall and had (still have, actually) extremely well-developed legs. I was also fast. For a kid my size, I could sprint as well as any of the smaller kids which, I imagine, had something to do with the strangely jacked-upped legs I mentioned before.

Football turned out to be less enjoyable than I had imagined. I fantasized about being a running back, seeing myself blazing by my opponents on the way to the end zone. My coach, upon getting one look at my size, had other plans. "Right tackle," he said in that jowly, salivating, constantly-out-of-breath way of speaking reserved for the criminally obese. Worst still, at the weigh-in day I found out that I wouldn't be playing with kids my own age. As it turns out, I was too big to play with the other 12-year-olds and was "promoted" to team for 8th graders. Now I don't know if you remember being 12, but I can assure you a 12-year-old's body, no matter what the weight, is no match for a 14-year-old of the same size. The kids on my team had muscle to account for their weight. They had pecs and biceps, I had tits and blub.

I spent a miserable summer getting crushed by kids who, though the same weight as me, were far, far more developed. I was the team pariah: unreliable, unskilled and weak. I hated the pads, hated the helmet, hated that when I was playing, my entire job was to take one step forward and have a pushing match with the kid across from me. I never got to run, barely got to tackle anyone and never, not once, laid a hand on the ball. When winter rolled around, I couldn't wait to see what wrestling was all about.

The first day of practice I was told to weigh in: 162 lbs. I would be wrestling in the second heaviest class available at the middle school level. In fact, it wasn't even an actual weight class, it was a trial weight class being tested out to see if there were enough kids to fill it. We had a rigorous practice during which I felt as if my lungs were going to explode (I had taken up smoking that year). The coach was great guy with a distracting case of cauliflower ear from an injury sustained while he was a college wrestler. Still, he was an inspired coach and knew how to make his team work for his approval. I was paired with kid a year older than me named Mike who smelled like soap and, thanks to a penchant for chain smoking, had acquired the nickname "Smokes" probably in infancy. I liked the guy immediately.

And better still, I liked the sport. The first few days of practice we were taught the basic moves, the rules of the sport and judged on our potential. I remember the first day we were allowed to actually wrestler each other. We did a 3-minute round with our practice partners and I was pinned in about 2 minutes, but I didn't care. Mike and I battled each other with determination: we choked each other, we grabbed limbs, we pushed, we fought! This was what I wanted. This was the outlet for my anger that I had been searching for. No helmets, just head gear. No ten second pushing match, instead a 3-minute kill-fest. No pads, just…wait, what did wrestlers wear?

Up till now, we had been practicing in gym shorts and t-shirts. I was completely ignorant of what wrestlers wore in the ring because wrestling – real wrestling, that is – isn't often seen on TV. So it was that about a week after we started practicing together, Coach called us all into the locker room early. He had a few huge cardboard boxes in the shower room and he informed us that we'd finally be getting our singlets today. Singlet, huh? What a strange name for matching shorts and t-shirts.

So it came as a surprise to me when Coach called me into the showers to get my singlet. He handed me a tiny piece of spandex and told me to try it on. I wanted to ask, "where's the rest of it?" but coaches have a way of intimidating you into compliance. I went back to my locker and stripped down to my boxers. I held up the garment: a black unitard with a gold stripe crossing the middle. With a heavy sigh I pulled in onto my body. I hadn't yet discovered boxer-briefs so my boxers peeked out of the bottom. I pulled the two shoulder straps on and took a look in the mirror.

You've got to be fucking kidding me.

I have never been so disgusted with myself. I looked like fat woman squeezed into a bathing suit two sizes too small. My bottom half looked great (besides the boxers poking out). The spandex hugged my well-developed thighs and, with the exception of an embarrassingly small bulge area – hey, I was 12! – it wasn't so bad. It was when my eyes started to wander north that my heart started to break, inch by mortifying inch.

I had love handles that could have put any frat guy to shame. Boobs bigger than every girl in my grade. Small, childish arms that lacked even a sprout of hair. My shoulders, though wide, sloped down and my stomach didn't so much stick out as it did hang down. Small rolls of fat peeked out from under my armpits, where the singlet cut a cruel indentation on its way to my back. My hips were wide and high as well – still are, actually – which ruined any chance I had at a desirable V-shaped body and condemned me to live out life as a block. My legs, which earlier had been such a source of pride, now only served to highlight the comical juxtaposition of my cut lower body and my pudgy upper body. Some cruel God had positioned the torso of a fat housewife on the foundation of an athlete!

This was the exact moment I realized that I was,indeed, fat. I had always been a tall, skinny kid but at some point in fifth grade, without even noticing, I had gained a lot of weight. This happens to a lot of young guys. The hormones that would one day lead to pubic hair, goatees, mysterious erections, sticky bed sheets and an obsession with Claire Danes, kick into gear around 11 and bring with them a thick layer of fat. It's a cruel compromise a young man's body makes. "I will give you all these wonderful things – orgasms, height, facial hair, and a larger penis, " your body says to you at 11, "but you must also wear this coat of fat to prove that you are ready to accept the wonders of sexual maturity!" And so the software is in place and working but the hardware is too unappealing to have attract the attention of your target demographic – kind of like the Zune.

So that was it, I was fat. I wasn't the fattest kid on the team, but that didn't really matter because the fattest guys all had the marks of puberty that I was so sadly lacking: arm hair, chest hair, some stubble, even. In my book, that meant that their fat was earned, not inherited. Theirs was man-fat, not boy-fat. They acquired their fat the old-fashioned way: eating burgers and probably drinking beer. Their fat even took the general shape of muscles. It was firm – well, as firm as fat can be – and proportioned. Mine was loose, hairless and jolly, like an infant's.

I walked into Coach's office to plead my case. Perhaps there was an alternate uniform I could wear, something a little more modest and less make-me-want-to-kill-myself-y. He was sitting at his desk when I walked in. His eyes told me in an instant that he had been through this many times before. He knew why I was there and the pain I was feeling was reflected ten-fold in his face. After all, what's worse than breaking a fat kid's heart? I must have looked pathetic: on the verge of tears, stuffed into a little spandex suit, begging for another option when there was none to be found.

"Coach, I was wondering if maybe there was a different uniform I could wear?"

He sighed. "No Streeter, I'm afraid not. That's the required uniform for wrestlers. All the teams wear them."

"Oh," I said, devastated, "Maybe there's a bigger size? This one is pretty small."

He got up from his seat and took me into the stairwell, far away from my teammates. "Listen, I know you're looking at the other guys on the team and, yeah, they're more developed than you. They have muscles and they've lost their baby fat. But that's OK, you'll get there eventually. A lot of these guys are much older than you, ya know? I've been watching you at practice and you've got what it takes, OK? You're not in the best shape, no, but you've got powerful legs and those are the most important muscles to have on the mat." My legs to the rescue again.

I pretended that it wasn't my body or the more mature kids on the team that was bothering me, but that the singlet "was uncomfortable." He didn't buy it and told me that, if I really wanted, I could wear a t-shirt under my singlet. With that, we were done.

I thought about the t-shirt loophole long and hard. I weighed the pros and cons. I may have made a list, I'm not sure now. And then the most miraculous thing happened. For the first time I can remember, I just said "fuck it." That was it. "Fuck it." Wearing a t-shirt was an admission that my fat bothered me and I wouldn't do that. I wouldn't broadcast my shame to my classmates. I wasn't going to be the fat kid wearing a shirt in the pool, I was going to be the fat kid who did the truffle shuffle and made smiley faces with his stomach to amuse his friends. If I was indeed doomed to be fat, I wasn't about to be a self-hating fat guy, crying about how cruel life is while stuffing peanut butter-dipped Oeros in his mouth. I was going to be the funny fat guy or, at the very least, the semi-embarrassed fat guy.

The oddest thing was that my decision to wear the singlet in all it's mortifying glory sans t-shirt was probably the best one I ever made. I never got laughed at, never got made fun of, nobody cared. I got ragged on for other things but my teammates curiously stayed away from the hysterical image I presented when jiggled onto the mat. And my coach was right, too, my legs were more important than anything else. I pioneered a way of wrestling where I would essentially drive into my opponent until he fell to his side. I would then lay on him in whatever way I could and try to keep him down long enough to score a pin. It worked very well.

Eventually I grew into a man. I slimmed down in 8th grade – well, I didn't lose weight, I just got tall – and hovered in the "he's a big guy" range all through high school. I stopped wrestling my sophomore year after my hand was snapped in half and I decided that four bones was enough to give to one sport. College came and with it my old friend, fat. By graduation I was a whopping 260 pounds and, miraculously, I still had a girl to sleep with. A few years later and I'm hovering around 215 – comfortable "big guy" territory again and I don't see that changing anytime soon. So, if I'm doomed to live out my life as a larger man I can only hope that the rest of the world is as understanding and nonchalant about my size as my teammates were so many years ago.

That, or I hope I make make friends with fatter people so I'll look skinny next to them.

This came from My Blog.