The Twirl that broke the camel’s back15th January 2018
I almost didn’t go.
The outfit from the kilt hire shop that I’d agonised over for days really didn’t fit me properly. The jacobite shirt was too tight and even the kilt was a bit snug around my middle. I was uncomfortable when standing up and my breathing was slightly restricted when I sat down.
I hoped the taxi I’d booked wouldn’t turn up. But it did.
I was on my way to a fundraising dinner for a local football team at a hotel in Inverness. As soon as I walked into the drinks reception I felt self-conscious. That wasn’t a new thing; for years I’d been paranoid that people were looking at me and judging me when I walked into a room. But tonight was different somehow. I felt even more aware of my size than usual.
Our table was at the edge of the room and I sat with my back to the wall. I was happy with this because I didn’t have to try and pull my chair in every 2 minutes to allow someone to squeeze past on their way to the toilet.
Dinner passed without incident, I was steadily making my way through a bottle of gin and the conversation around the table was fun and lively. Everyone was having a good time.
And then it was time for the after dinner speaker.
He was going down well and there were a few decent ripples of laughter around the room as he reeled off his act. But that changed when he made a comment about my weight. I can’t even remember what he said, it was something about the meal. I guess I was an easy target when making a joke about food, I was easily the largest person there. Whatever he said it got a laugh. I think I even laughed too.
But towards the end he did something which didn’t get a laugh.
Part of his routine involved a Cadbury Twirl. Again, I can’t remember the story, but the punchline involved him opening the Twirl and eating one of the fingers of chocolate, leaving the second one in the packet.
He then walked over to me and asked if I was still hungry before throwing the Twirl onto the table. It landed right in front of me as he turned and walked away.
There was a stunned silence apart from just a handful of laughs. Everyone was looking at me – and this time I wasn’t imagining it. I felt humiliated.
My clothes already felt tight – but now they were tighter. I felt my face going red.
I was devastated.
A few people said to me afterwards that they thought the comedian was out of line and that he shouldn’t have done what he did. I’m a huge fan of comedy – especially stand up – and I’ll staunchly defend a comedian’s right to tell pretty much any joke on any subject. But only if it’s in general terms. As soon as you single out an individual, as soon as you make it personal, as soon as the person you’re making fun of is 3 feet away from the comedian, that’s when it’s too much.
I’ve been overweight for almost half my life so I was no stranger to jokes, digs or sly remarks about my weight. However, I can’t remember ever being singled out like that in front of such a large crowd of people.
It physically hurt.
I drank more gin and when I got home I ordered a big kebab and chips from my favourite takeaway app, ate all of it and went to bed.
The next morning I woke to the unmistakable aroma of last night’s kebab wafting through the flat. The kilt and jacobite shirt lay in a crumpled heap on my bedroom floor; the sporran, shoes, socks and flashes discarded in the living room.
As I walked to the kitchen to get a glass of water I suddenly remembered the events of the previous night and stopped in my tracks as I was transported back to the embarrassment and humiliation.
But, as bad as I felt at that moment, it dawned on me that the comedian had actually done me a huge favour.
Standing there at the kitchen sink I finally accepted that I wasn’t happy with the way I looked, I wasn’t alright with it. I didn’t want to feel like that ever again. I didn’t want to be humiliated in front of other people because of my weight ever again. I didn’t want to have to wear clothes that didn’t fit ever again.
I drank my glass of water and made a deal with myself that things were going to change. And this time I meant it.