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Those Mutant Children


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Here I am, working again at Chelsea Piers, the only place where you can keep up with top 40 hits while eating sushi, wearing workout gear, monitoring your e-mail and generally producing the words and drawings that your career depends upon. It will be very hard for me when I have to work in an office again.

You forget about the real world here. Half the people are extraordinarily fit and good-looking, and the others are just, well, old. Or black. You forget about the epidemic of hormone- and corn-syrup-induced obesity that rages on in the outside world, beyond the piers and past the moat that surrounds Manhattan. But just yesterday I was sitting here and saw a FAT BOY. A little fat boy, about 11 or 12, the kind you see in shopping malls and friends’ houses (schoolmates, one hopes). He wore a voluminous t-shirt, shorts that came below the the knee, and a head that was nearly shaved. In other words, standard fat-kid wear. I used to think this look originated with fat black kids–gangsta rap and that–but now I realize that it didn’t; the first boys I ever saw like this were normal anglo-saxon types; no doubt little black kids took to the style because they are constitutionally more inclined to be obese. And when you’re an obese kid, an obese boy particularly, there aren’t very many kinds of clothes you can wear, let alone fit into.

I try to imagine this little porker dressed in the sartorial analog from, say, 1970, and what I get is a mental picture of very tight bluejeans worn with a leather belt and a yoked cowboy shirt. Or maybe some superhero t-shirt. If you saw someone dressed like that today, you’d assume it was a mental patient. Of course in 1970 if you saw a 200-pound 11-year-old with a shaved head…

Lil Fat BoyThe shaved head is the most mystifying part of the concoction. Is it a way of reinforcing gender identity or something? Years ago I had a coworker who was an eccentric computer programmer and mild transvestite. Nothing unusual there, but as he approached age 50 he decided to see if he could become a woman. Hatchet-faced and blue-bearded, he was a most unlikely candidate. But by jiminy he did it…sort of…though the journey required a continual tripping over the obvious, such as finding out that his wife didn’t care for the idea, told everyone he’d gone crazy, and ultimately tried to sue him for every last cent and prevent him from having access to their two preteen sons.

A bunch of us from the office made a journey out to this person’s condo one day to deliver a potted plant or something. The new woman was at home, recuperating from extensive facial surgery that enabled her to look a bit like Margaret Hamilton rather than, say, Murray Hamilton. She had her black kinky hair arranged in two plush cocker-spaniel ears that hid most of her face. She plied us with drinks and asked us to stay a while and meet her two sons, who were making a rare visit that evening. Nice looking boys, to judge from their pictures in the hall, neither fat nor thin. What turned up at six pm however were two roly-poly youngsters with shaven heads.

“They look like they’re recovering from brain cancer,” one of us said. This was some years ago, as I say.

“Oh they just did that recently,” said the programmer, meaning the hair. “It’s the new style.”

The rest of us looked at each other and mentally wondered if the New Style could possibly be related to Daddy’s New Life, but none of us was drunk enough to ask the kids directly.

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