Unless I’m wielding a machete, two-by-four or shoulder-fired missile, I’m not a physically intimidating person.
For the record, I’m about 5′ 10″ or so, and usually about 180 lbs. If I get really busy for a while and forget to eat, like I have done recently, I’m probably 175; if I get on a workout kick and get my appetite back it’s more like 185, and that’s that.
I was just reading on our local newspaper’s website that there are now 54 local high-school football players over 300 lbs., with one monstrous Whiteland kid at 390 and 7 feet tall. Sheez. Those are my dimensions while I’m riding my motorcycle, if you count the bike.
There seems to be a brotherhood among big men, these lumbering giants with ham-hock handshakes and bellowing voices, their weary hearts beating slowly in unison. I’m not in it.
My brother in law could be, though. He’s fairly sizeable — tall, at least — like most of the men on my wife’s side. They’re Dutch.
I remember the first time I met Penelope’s grandfather, Big Jake. We stood in the living room of the house he’d built for his family, and he peered down at me, looked me in my beady little eyes and said to Penny, “Irish, eh?” I nodded. “I had an Irishman working for me once,” he said. “A good man.”
And that was that. Though microscopic, I was welcomed into the family. I’m fully aware that, if Penelope and I should have a son, he’ll most likely tower over me by his eighth birthday, potentially making discipline a problem. This is why I plan to get a shoulder-fired missile.
My main concern is not really “bulking up” — as I said, there’s not much I could do anyway — but I do try and make sure I don’t get some kind of Napoleon complex. Maybe it’s different where you live, but here in Indiana a guy my size is kind of shrimpy.
It’s all relative. There was this tremendous oaf at my high school, way back then, whose response to nearly any conceivable statement was, “So what? I’m bigger.” He wasn’t a bully, per se, just kind of a galoot. One day, when I was tired of hearing him brag that the springs on the driver’s side of his car were sagging more than the passenger’s, I pointed out that he was large only in comparison to other local humans. My couch, for example, is bigger than 6′ 4″, 260, as are most trees, and I suspect that either of those oversized items would have made a better offensive lineman than Joe. But I digress.
The truth is that I kind of like being average. I have no trouble finding clothes that fit; my heart has no trouble pumping blood to any of my extremities, and the springs on my car are doing just fine, thank you.
I fit on airplane seats — unlike Penny, who’s approximately the same height as me (demonstrably taller, she hastens to point out) but with legs several inches longer. I can fix things in my own attic, without recruiting compact friends to wriggle up in there on my behalf. Shoes? Eleven and a half, please. You have those in stock? Of course you do.
My food budget is reasonable, especially now that puberty’s over with. My motorcycle is maneuverable. My furniture is durable. The earth does not quake when I walk, which is how I prefer it, believe it or not.
And conversely, I’m never problematically small, either. I can open jars, no problem. Need that sofa moved? Can do, despite it being larger than Joe St. Friggin’ Clair. I can’t physically pick up one side of a car, no, but I can damn sure get the jack out of the trunk and operate it correctly. If I’m trying to loosen a bolt, and it’s not turning, I know it’s not me. I get a different tool, or some WD-40, or work around it.
Ingenuity, people — that’s what separates us from wooly mammoths.
And this brings me to my final point, the only useful thing my father ever taught me. I was about fourteen, on vacation in Florida. I was trying to fold my bed back into the couch. Dad heard a ruckus and came into the room, to find me sprinting from one side of the room to the other, leaping off the coffee table and slamming into the half-folded converta-bed, trying my best to ram it into position.
As I backed up against the window once more, panting with exertion, he said, “Colin. Things are made so that little old ladies can operate them. If you have to use all your strength to make something work, you’re doing it wrong.”
Then he walked over to the couch, flipped the release lever and neatly folded down the bedframe.
I stood there on the carpet in my swimming trunks, ready to go downstairs for the first swim of the day, and nodded my normal-sized head.