FRESH YARN presents:

Marshall Pitchrock, Folsom Bulldog
By Sean Hetherington

I was an obese and slightly effeminate teenager, so on my birthday during my freshman year of high school, my algebra classmates gave me a mix tape that they insisted I play when the teacher left the classroom. The tape had songs like Lionel Ritchie's "You're Once, Twice, Three Times a Lady," and as I ran in terror to the stereo to turn it off they stomped their feet as though my steps were causing an earthquake. Marshall Pitchrock always looked on but never joined in. He just smiled.

You should have seen Marshall smile. It was that smile that you see on New Year's Eve, from people who are counting down aloud from ten, as they yell "four" then "three," unable to contain their excitement about the upcoming twilight kiss. All it would take was to see him smile, and I didn't care what the kids did. I would just dance around like the bee girl in the Blind Melon video.

I always played the pudgy dad or the husky war general in the high school musical. I guess there weren't many roles for a guy who could flawlessly pull off an impression of Natalie from The Facts of Life. Marshall Pitchrock always showed up ten minutes late to any audition, strolling in, his walk tight and pensive, like a duck who owned the cafetorium. He still would get cast as the leading man.

It was horrible how God always put him in my P.E. class. I walked with purpose in the locker room wearing my required Folsom High School "Home of the BULLDOGS" double XL jumpsuit holding a dodge ball in front of my erection for 6 years. I had no interest in sports or physical competition. I threw like a girl and caught like a girl, too. I couldn't catch a ball without squealing, and I couldn't throw one without mooing like a cow. The guys would imitate me all day throwing a hand forward and squealing as they remembered that morning's fitness test. They called it a SeanToss when they tossed a ball (18 inches) making the noise of a cat in heat. The only sport I liked was professional wrestling and that was because I got to watch grown-up Marshall Pitchrocks battle each other for gold belts.

There he was in the locker room, buttoning his jeans and brushing his rusty hair, still sweating from running the fastest mile in class, talking about dropping eight pounds to compete in a lower wrestling weight class: "No food. I just drink water and eat a spoonful of peanut butter before I go to bed. It takes three weeks, but it's worth it."

I could never do that. I'm a compulsive overeater, so I can't eat a spoonful of peanut butter without adding whipped cream, crushed bananas, Cholula sauce and hot fudge, if I have the patience to microwave the fudge before I start freebasing it. I hated being fat and I wanted so badly to come to school one day and strip off my pants to a petite waist singing, "THIS is LIVING!" but as soon as I got home I'd have a frozen burrito wrapped in a slice of bologna and melted pepper jack cheese. Clutch your pearls, Lynn Redgrave.

Finally at age 24 I was tired of being afraid of myself as a sexual person and as a socially stigmatized closet-case. I decided that being treated as a second-class citizen for being fat was no longer acceptable. If being thin and maybe even kind of not-ugly would blow my not-so-well-hidden cover for being born gay, then so be it.

All that means is that I wanted sex, but I wanted love even more.

In 2002 I started on a calorie-busting diet and a cardio-intensive exercise plan. I became a militant health nut at war with refined white sugar. I defined those carbs as the true weapons of mass destruction.

In a year my 44-inch waist vaporized into a 30, and I'd lost 100 lbs. I was, according to family and friends, unrecognizable. My mom thought my weight loss was abrupt and dramatic. She asked if I was anorexic. I said, "No. I'm horny."

Three years later, I'm nervously peering over the scales at 24 Hour Fitness in West Hollywood. I'm so obsessed with my weight that I've spent this whole day driving to different gyms weighing myself to make sure that I have a precise reading of my value in pounds and ounces. West Hollywood is my highest weight at 172.3 pounds. Of course I'm fatter on the West Side. But then I remember to deduct 2.5 lbs. for my shoes and add 2.1 lbs. for the obvious mis-calibration of their scale. I add 1/5 pound back because I exhaled on the scale -- that means I'm a wee fatter. Now I'm back at…172.3 lbs. On the treadmill next to me someone is reading Oprah's magazine. She has it so easy.

I shouldn't have had so much soy milk. I'm such a gluttonous hippie. This new two pounds I've inhaled today is sitting right in my cheeks. That's always where my excess weight harbors itself, making me look like I just had my wisdom teeth pulled. I can't get into my new body. I'm uncomfortable and don't know how to act minus 100 pounds and yet still feel like a freakishly rotund oddity. I have the mind of one of those crazy chubby-faced, over-excited Maury Povich babies knocking over pregnant moms, snarling, "When do I get a brothah, Momma?"

I walk into the locker room to pee because then I'll be 0.6 lbs lighter. Everyone knows how much water weighs. After that I need Kelly Clarkson. I whip out my iPod as I turn the corner and sidestep a man walking in.

I look back because I recognize this guy's walk. Still walking all tight and pensive, like he's holding an uncooked egg in his crotch and if he walks too carelessly, it'll break. But this guy is fatter than the guy with that walk.

It's Marshall. Marshall Pitchrock is in my West Hollywood Locker Room. And Marshall must have gained 80 pounds. No joke. He is a white Al Roker.

I debate my next move. I want to throw up. I want to exercise near him. But I really want to throw up. I feel the rumbling in my belly minutes later as he's grunting next to me trying to do a pull-up. Violently, as if out of an '80s Pat Benatar video, I jerk my head toward him and say, "Marshall. Pitchrock. Hi. Sean. Hetherington. I played your Dad in Pippin." He stares at me for a second and said, "Jesus Fucking Christ. We reversed."

"HOW did you do it?" Shocked, he's walking around me inspecting me like I'm his new apartment and he wants to make sure there aren't any paint cracks or leaks. "I'm going on a cruise! What do I do? How'd you do it? I need to lose 60 pounds before Christmas." My heart aches for him because it's the day after Thanksgiving.

In this moment I forget about all of those scales. They could have said I was 300 pounds on one leg and one giant purple zit on the other. This is the closest I've ever been to validated in my whole life, more than graduating from college or going to Wrestlemania 21, and I want to savor every one of his failed jumping jacks. I don't think it would ever get any better. That is until he says, "If you had been this hot in high school -- I would have come out sooner."

WHAT? Did Marshall, the most perfect man alive just tell me that he's gay, too? The next few minutes are hazy, something about guys in LA being so flaky, why does pilot season come right after holiday-eating season, the white socks sold on Highland by immigrants are poor quality, and his metabolism has made him disgusting. Then somewhere in there I hear:

"We should get together sometime for a drink...if you want."

Marshall is still so gorgeous to me, even in his aged chubbiness. It's so perfect. Not the "reversal" as he calls it, but the moment of being in a gym with 20 combined years of perspective for both of us. That gym transforms instantly into a private jazz club where Etta James warbles "At Last" and we sip Rosenblum Zinfandel and get lost in the soft glow of the table candles.

As I open my mouth to say yes and plan my life with him, he cuts me off. "I know I don't look good right now. But I'm going to Mexico next month and this weight will be gone then...I mean, it's just hard now. God, you look so great. I'm so ugly. I wish I could still look like that, like you do now. I'm so FUCKING FAT."

I stare, my mouth slightly agape. Marshall's famous smile is replaced by negative body image. The jazz club fades into the recesses of my mind, and Marshall melts into sadness before my eyes. He is no longer hot. He's not even cute. He's just like the rest of them in high school. He is what I am becoming on the scales. It finally makes sense, ten years later. High school is reaching past its expiration date to destroy my life, and his, too.

He seems too embarrassed to say it out loud as he leans in and whispers, "I just wish I was still the way I was in high school."

My hands are numb now. No longer shaking, no longer sweating. I kiss his cheek and say, "I hope we're never like we were in high school." And then I walk away from FHS class of 1996, home of The Bulldogs.

All of that soy milk is caught in the engine of my nerves and I go to the bathroom and throw up. And just FYI, that puts me at my goal weight. 169.9 lbs.!

I still have unreasonable crushes on straight guys. I still have my fat days. I still feel like a nelly homo once a day, usually at spinning class. But when I do, I just close my eyes and move it all upward out of my body into a ball and SeanToss it to Marshall Pitchrock.

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