The world has a weight limit. If you’re like most people, you didn’t know that until now. I envy you for that. I really do. Once upon a time, I was clueless about the weight limit, too. For years, decades even, I was a skinny guy. A beanpole, as my father used to say. As a boy, I sprouted quickly, growing tall so fast that my waist couldn’t keep up. I can remember Dad using an awl to poke extra holes in my tiny little belts so I could cinch them tighter, holding up my baggy jeans.
Even when my growth spurt began to slow, I couldn’t hold a spare pound on my thin frame. I was sensitive about it, afraid I looked like a scarecrow, and I sometimes wore three or four shirts at once so I looked bulkier. Somewhere along the line, I started filling out. I played basketball just about every day and football whenever I could, and muscles grew where skin and bone had been before. My shoulders broadened, my voice deepened, and I felt strong and fluid. It was a great time in my life, one I thought would last forever. Of course, it didn’t. If it had, I wouldn’t be writing this. I had a few pounds to spare when I hit my mid-20s. By the time my odometer ticked closer to 30, I was legitimately overweight. I wasn’t over the limit yet — I still didn’t know about it — but my days of innocent bliss were numbered. I wish I could say that I remember the moment when I crossed the line and became truly fat, but I don’t. It wasn’t exactly a sudden thing. At some point, I quit playing sports, but I kept eating fast food. I stopped walking everywhere, which I’d continued doing well into my 20s, and bought a car. I’d always been a reader, but now I was reading and watching TV instead of doing ... well, anything physical at all. Inactivity fostered further inactivity, and before I knew it strangers were calling me "big guy.” Then I found out about the weight limit. The limit is kind of like "Fight Club.” Nobody talks about it, but it’s always there. You can find it if you go looking for it, but it’s more likely to find you, especially if you have a glandular disorder or spend your life as I have, consuming way more calories than you burn. Each person encounters it in a different way. It may be that you lean back in a plastic lawn chair, and it collapses beneath your weight, plastic shards flying out like shrapnel. It could be that you go shopping for clothes at a department store and can’t find anything — anything at all — that fits. Once your eyes are opened to it, you see the weight limit everywhere, restricting what you can and cannot do, which products you can purchase, how you can travel, where you can go. Did you know, for example, that many folding ladders are rated to support only 225 pounds? Most are over-engineered to hold more than that, but as the saying goes, the bigger you are, the harder you fall. Would you be willing to risk it? Did you know that most men’s clothing stores don’t carry shirt sizes bigger than extra-large or waist sizes greater than 48 inches? Ever tried using a standard bath towel when you’re built like a giant? Ever felt embarrassed as you struggled to squeeze into a seat at the Ford Center? Ever tried to find a jockstrap in size 4xl? It’s not completely hopeless.