"Reality TV Super-sized Me"
Reality TV Super-sized Me Jerry Pattengale It was “Reality TV”—a super-sized me. I sat before millions looking like an awning advertisement. Before appearing on a recent national TV show, I joked to the makeup artist – “I only ask that you make me look like Robert Redford.” A few minutes later my extra pounds pounded across the airwaves. Instead of Redford they saw Humpty—a guest in need of a titanium corset. While a former beauty star was asking me about “purpose-guided education,” a topic of important substance, I wanted to guide this Bloomin’ Onion One offstage. TV transformed my belt into a black rubber band around a pinpoint balloon. The sofa nearly imploded under my weight—wedging knees and belly together. Friction from my heavy breathing nearly sparked a fire. While she read the teleprompter I leaned a throw pillow against my side—but needed a futon. The close up of the host showed her perfect face and chin. Oh no! It switched to me. I had so many chins I needed a bookmarker to track my lips, not to mention Dumbo lobes flanked by moles, bumps and autonomous hairs. My physique jumped out like a lemming with a life jacket. The host and I were as different as Napoleon Dynamite and Les Miserable, smashed tater tots on silk. I had prepared for the interview. I knew my material well, like the back of my hand— then, “Oh rats, I never noticed those homely fingernails.” The interview ended and within minutes I was rolled offstage to recover from my self-imposed self-esteem journey. The pixels were filled with Pattengale, and it wasn’t pretty. It dawned on me later that I hadn’t worried about appearance until going to make up. Like most days, I probably hadn’t combed my hair. I had the funeral-ironed shirt—that is, the front was pressed while the back sported a topographical map look. I’m pushing 50, and my mind is usually not on appearance. Blue or black socks—it never seemed to matter until the big screen thrust reality upon me. And that is what’s transpiring with regularity on TV—Reality shows. They reveal the human drama in many ways, usually accenting individual choices. Listen forward a few years: “Mommy, why do I have a hooked nose and a snaggle-toothed smile—and you don’t?” She replied, “Well son, I was on Extreme Makeover before you were born?” “But you always tell me I’m beautiful? Does that mean you changed your looks to be ugly?” I suppose it’s not too much of a stretch to assume that such conversations will occur in a few years as Extreme Makeover guests begin to deal with curious children. And what of family reunions? Imagine years of looking like everyone else with hooked- noses and snaggle-tooth smiles, and suddenly a cousin falls into the party like a leaf from another’s family tree. White capped teeth that would make Donny Osmond jealous. A nose from the Pitt line. A Redford chin. A Brittney belly. It’s all possible. The public irony is the outcry against baseball’s Balko while applauding outrageous makeover magic. At what point does correcting a deformity disrupt true genuine characteristics? To fix a disruptive feature seems far a field from forged beauty. Imagine Barbara Streisand with a Hepburn nose. Think of a gapless Letterman smile. Marty Feldman with Caviezzel eyes. A silk-skinned Olmos. And picture Whose Line Is It Anyway? with made over regulars. Drew Carey and Collin Montgomery have Norman Rockwell appeal—they’re believable, genuinely unique. The show would become Who Cares, Anyway? Likewise, Humphrey Bogart is no Elvis, but that’s why we know them both. After the TV broadcast, relatives called. They didn’t mention the puffy part. They didn’t notice the moles, the long earlobes and pronounced nose. They saw the same kid who chased pigs through Buck Creek fields, who waded Sugar Creek with a Zebco 202, who dropped silver roof paint on Grandma’s flowers, and who played basketball on a dirt court with a worn ball. Older, somewhat weathered, but the same kid. To them, it’s still Jerry Allen. They helped me to learn early that if you try to make an impression, that’s the impression you’ll make. In some ways, education and jobs separated our worlds. But we still look the same, like the beaches at the end of The Sneetches. I’ll likely need a contoured wooden coffin lid for my nose—but it’ll be hewn from our family tree. I love those Buck Creek people. They’re my people. With distinguished noses, round chins, plump figures. My grandpa is 92 and walks closer to the ground with each passing year. He still works, and our biggest worry isn’t his heart but tripping over his earlobes. But if you line humanity across the globe—he’d be a top pick among wonderful people, and very top among grandpas. All of him makes the man—and I love that man unaltered. Yes, the reality of TV helped me to see that my weight is a health issue, and I’ve actually eaten salads and visited the doctor this week. But my double chins, bumps, big nose, short legs, pencil lips and generic hips—that’s me. That’s reality. The key isn’t making surface changes to be attractive, but attracting attention to changes of substance. email@example.com