The Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow: Confessions of a Middle-Aged Husky Boy

Like so many people, I woke up on Friday morning with a serious case of the "I cannot believe I ate a whole turkey" Day After Thanksgiving Blues.  I rolled out of bed, slipped on some clothes and went out for, what I have not done in forever . . . a run.  45 minutes later I was pretty worn out.   In the end, my "run" had turned into more of a spirited walk, crossed with a duel with my ear buds that did not want to stay in my ears.  Nevertheless, I did it. I exercised.

My glory would be short-lived however.  As I came home, barely able to breath, yet still proud of myself, I met my Eldest daughter in the kitchen. 

"Dad, what's the matter?"

Gasping for breath, "I went for a run?"

"You went for run, good for you!"

Dejected and still straining to inhale every last bit of oxygen in our tiny kitchen, "Your dad used to be an athlete. I used to be in shape."

Without missing a beat, "Dad, 'round' is shape." *giggle*

Darn kids and their insightful humor.

Now I have never been skinny, so it was not mean of her at all.  Hysterically honest in fact. Blessed with broad "Chow shoulders" as my family likes to name them and having never even sniffed at a non-beverage-based six-pack, I have always been what many of us endearingly call "husky." Now "husky" boys/girls are also known as "big-boned" or "stocky" and sometimes less flatteringly chided as "chubby" or just plan "fat."

You know who you are and you are simultaneously proud and ashamed of your body.  See if these realities fit.  You may be husky if . . .

  • you have legs people have said or intimated are a tad bit too short for your body;
  • you find yourself wincing every time you see that you might have to cram into a booth at a restaurant;
  • you have never found a chair where you can sit all the way back and your feet still touch the floor;
  • you can only find pants that are either the right waist size, but are too long in the legs or or have the right length, but are too damn tight;
  • you joke first about your physique before anyone else can tease you about it [h/t: @r_kp];
  • and so on and so on . . . [twitter fun: #youmaybeHUSKYif thread]

Now from my list it may seem like it's all bad being a Husky One.  Oh contrare.  Being husky also means having a super-low center of gravity that makes for pretty good athletic ability, especially up to high school.  Skaters, gymnists, catchers, etc. We are deceptively quick and surprisingly sturdy for our height.  I still remember playing tackle football in the park and, after leveling some scrawny and taller kid thinking to myself, "Yeah, that's right, that will be the last time you try to run through this 'husky' boy."

No doubt women face a hard road when it comes to body imagery in our society, but at some point boys and girls begin to realize that Husky is not what is deemed as traditionally beautiful or sexy for men or women.  Sure, husky boys will have their hopes raised when hollywood lets Kevin James get the pretty girl and when Sara Ramirez showed on Grey's anatomy, I remember thinking how cool it was to have her body type in such a sexually charged role.  

In the end, the world is not very kind to people who are husky.  And as with any other characteristics that can attract unwanted attention, it is dealt with in a variety of ways. Of course, there are those who would probably feel comfortable in any skin they inhabited from day one, but most of us "deal" with ramifications of our physique in other ways.  Some retreat into academics or solitary activities, others find out where the huskiness is welcomed, usually in sports, and probably most of us learn how to deflect the attention with humor, usually at our own expense.

Without getting overly analytical about all of this, we husky people always live in a tension when it comes to our bodies.  Skinny people don't understand why we can't just lose weight and heavier people wonder why we complain at all.  Feels kind of like the middle class whining about the poor and wealthy, but there you have it, it is time for husky people everywhere to rise up and claim our space! 

Actually not really, it's just time to admit that it's hard to be husky.

Sure, it is easy to say that those of us who teeter on that "chubby" edge all of our lives that we should just get over it, at least you're not [blank].  The reality is that it's just not that easy, for any of us to just "get over" the struggles around body imagery in the world: skinny, obese and everything in between.  Rex Navarrete on his Comedy CD, "Husky Boy" (pictured above) does a great bit on being Husky.  In his humor he gets at our love of food, the aforementioned athletic prowess - for short distances - and the struggle and joy of living as a "Husky Boy."

Recently, I have found the hardest part of being a "Husky Boy" . . . middle age.  High blood pressure, a growing gut and as I began this post, a loss of athletic competency, has brought my youthful and husky confidence to a screeching halt. 

Now I am not wallowing by any means.  I have been married to a woman for 20 years whose appearance still makes my heart flutter and I have been, for all intents and purposes "successful" in my work life; but now, it's time to for me to get the body back to some semblance of husky health.

I have come to the realization that loving being husky and seriously enjoying food is no reason to be unhealthy and overweight. So here I go again, no longer able to easily shed those pounds and keep my blood pressure low I am committing to another round of dieting, eating better and exercising.  I am not going to go overboard: exercising three times a week, getting back on Weight Watchers and eating better are the order of the day.  

So do not get be wrong, I am in no way trying to fit into the svelte category or am I denying by husky lineage . . . I am and will also be a proud Husky Boy. But as others who have met middle age know, if we are going to be able to be around to hold our Husky Grand-babies, we better be healthy enough to live that long.

Peace all. Husky for Life. 

[Taken with permission from the Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow's blog, originally posted Nov. 27, 2010. Follow Bruce on Twitter @breyeschow ]