Something’s Rotten in The State of Denmark

For those of you who don’t know — which is most of you — I used to be an actor.

For the most part, every actor dreams of playing one role.

Hamlet.

A few years back I got the opportunity to do so.

I worked tirelessly to ensure I knew what every last word meant — it lead to a lot of late nights of studying, face and eyes into Albert Schmidt’s Shakespearean Lexicon as well as a number of other editions of the play, and oodles of sword-fighting rehearsals.

I wanted to give every ounce I had into being this man.

This prince.

The day the review came out in The Telegram (our local paper) I was excited, I ran to the gas station down the hill from me and cracked open a paper.

Here’s the opening line of the critique of my performance:

“Dave Sullivan is no matinee idol.”

Which basically means:

“Everyone, Hamlet is fat!”

Hours, nights, days, weeks, months of work reduced to — buddy’s fugly.

Which leads me to my point.

Why do people feel the need to remind big folks that they’re big?

Guys, we know. We’re all too aware of how our bodies move through space.

Seriously.

In my home province in Canada there’s this thing that people do. They meet you after not having seen you in a while and they greet you with:

“My god, you’re some size.”

“Jesus, look at the size of ya.”

“You’re after gettin’ some big.”

Yes. Yes I am. I am after gettin’ some big.

And I know, I know that people don’t mean anything by this. I get that.

But, here’s the thing — there has to be something else. Another thing you can mention.

“Those are nice glasses.”

Or if that’s not enough…

“You look happy.”

Or maybe…

“I heard you were raised by wolves, that’s fascinating. Do tell me more.”

Anything.

Stating the obvious is setting up an uncomfortable dynamic, and nine times out of ten it’s: “you’re heavier than me”.

We know. Seriously. Got it covered — in spades.

It’s plastered all over our television sets, our newspapers, our computers, our children’s toys — if we didn’t know, then we’d have much bigger problems than weight.

Here’s my dream.

Talk to me like I’m an equal. Say: “hello, how are you?”

And I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, it’s not a big deal.

And for the most part, you might just be right. But, having experienced this kind of greeting for the entirety of my adult life — it has an impact, regardless of its intentions.

Maybe I’m alone in this. I don’t know.

But for once in my life, I’d like to not be fat Hamlet.

Just Hamlet.

Just once.

“The rest is silence.”

25 thoughts on “Something’s Rotten in The State of Denmark

  1. Have without question been on the same end of many of those awkward exchanges. Can we expect there to ever be a change? Is this society or human instinct? For the record Dave, you’re most definitely “just” a Hamlet to me bud. I think it’s time to focus more on those who you only supply inspiration to. Appreciatively count myself as one of them.

  2. I think you’re smart, funny, and motivating. I also know that losing weight empowers one, weirdly. So ignore the crazy comments and keep being the icon you are.

  3. When someone else makes a comment without using a filter just think, ” In a months time I could be ten pounds lighter but you’ll still be stupid.” say it out loud if they’re a real arsehole.

  4. My wonderful husband and sons who are the loves of my life are all big men. I feel pain when they feel pain. Even though I am overweight somehow people do not feel like they can comment about my weight like they do about my husband and sons. I hate myself for feeling like I should make light of or ignore the comments when really what I want to yell out is. “Hey that hurts!” Somehow it feels like a socially acceptable form of bullying done under the guise of being concerned for someone’s health. But hey! I never hear anyone suggest to a skinny person that they should reconsider that second glass of wine because of what health studies tell us. And while I am venting a wee bit, let me say that both of my sons have autism and some days I think the stigma of being over weight is just yet another barrier to living life fully and equally. Thank for ” listening” GRRRR from Mother Beat

    1. Hi Kristie, I grew up with a brother with special needs, and I understand some of your frustrations. He too was overweight and received a heck of a lot of flack for it. He was a good kid. Thanks for reading, and venting. All the best.
      D.

  5. I have received such greetings/reminders from family, friends and strangers. I totally agree with the setting of a dynamic as many times it feels like a justification for the other’s physical state. It does tend to wear on you and get to a point where self justification at another’s expense can not be taken lightly, at least in my experience.

    I saw your performance. I was in awe the whole show. I though you brought something to Hamlet I had not seen before.

    1. Thanks Chris. It was an experience I won’t forget… just the review… I’d like to forget that… maybe, just the first line. Heh. All the best. And thanks for reading.

  6. Just the other day I was standing in line behind you waiting to get sushi and I mentioned to the guy with me: “hey I saw that guy play Hamlet outside a couple years ago. He was excellent”. Just thought I’d mention.

  7. Dave, the fact of the matter is, if you woke up tomorrow with a miraculous overnight weight loss, those same folks would greet you with, “b’y, ya got some weight gone, are ya sick?” or “what’d ya do, stop eating?”

    It really doesn’t matter . . . they’re gonna find a way to feel better about themselves at your expense. And for some reason . . . they feel they have the right to do that.

    Be your wonderful self, do the fabulous work you do and just let that stuff roll of your back. Smile back with your best f*ck you smile, and know that someday, maybe not today, but someday, they’re going to understand.

  8. You are brave and funny and I wish I’d been able to attend your Hamlet. The world is full of Neanderthals – you have left them in the dust with your talent and wit.

  9. You might want to skip Japan then, Dave. The first word I learned here because it was all I heard the first two weeks was “debu” or basically fat bastard. Micro aggression at its finest. Stay strong mate.

      1. I don’t read your blog often, but I always find it resonates with me, more than I care to acknowledge, usually. The thing that occurred to me when I read your “used to be an actor” remark is the quote from Rainer Maria Rilke (as quoted by Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act 2), “If – when you wake up in the morning, you can’t think of nothing but writing, …then you are a writer.”

        If acting makes you happy, and you love to do it, whether or not it’s your profession, you are an actor. And regardless of size, or the ridiculous comments that get tossed your way, no one can really take that purpose away from you, except you. That wasn’t all I took away from this blog, but I thought I’d toss my 2cents in the ring.

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