How did I get this fat? What happened? I used to be a handsome, somewhat in-shape young man with charm and an air of confidence. But I went to bed thin and awoke this mammoth of a man. A sloth. Gigantic.
Well, back in the day I was still the chubby, cuddly cutie-pie who carried some extra pounds, but I made it work. Cool clothes from Urban Outfitters still actually fit me. I looked halfway decent in purple jeans and flowery shirts, even if I looked like the keyboard player for Erasure. Women still found me attractive. They still wanted to sleep with me. I'm funny. It helped balance out the weight. Now even that doesn't work. Any joke I crack around a woman comes off as perverted or creepy or both. This weight has killed me.
These are not uncharted waters for me. I've talked about my weight issues at length. To doctors. Friends. Nutritionists. At Overeaters Anonymous meetings. I have written about it in scripts, books and articles. I've promised myself a million times: "This will be it. Today I start. Today I lose weight!"
I have said this so often a friend once suggested my memoirs be titled "Starting Tomorrow -- The Mark Phinney Story." I can't count how many diets I've quit or how many gyms I've joined (never went, just joined). My biggest fear in life is that I may never kick this. I want to be healthy so I can play football in the yard with my son, Conner. Conner is my imaginary 5-year-old. (He's adorable, but I'm having trouble finding the right preschool for him right now. You imaginary parents out there understand where I'm coming from.)
Losing the weight would contribute to so many great things in my world. Confidence. Health. Emotional stability. Women. Always women. Skinny = laid.
This weight has been the bane of my existence. I've lost relationships over it. I've missed job opportunities because of it. I have suffered health afflictions from gout to diabetes and even that hasn't stopped me from gorging on pizza, fries and ice cream. All of this, combined with a horrible depression, makes for an emotional breakdown cocktail. I'm not making some plea to feel bad for me or for this to lead to some "Eat, Pray, Love" book deal (though I will do that if commissioned. My version: "Fat Broke & Horny (and Pray)"). The diabetes scares me, though. I fear they will have to cut one or both my feet off and when I can't afford the prosthetic limbs I would have to glue roller skates onto my ankles and be pulled around on a rope. A great conversation starter, true, but at what cost?
I have nightmares of going to my 20-year high school reunion weighing 400 pounds, rolling around in a Rascal scooter because I can't walk anymore. My old chums feel bad and cater to me, getting me apps and punch. Lots of apps and punch.
Let me explain to you that in my head I'm not this big. In my head I'm a thin, dashing stud who can still rope in women at a manic rate. More of a 007 type instead of a 300-pound type. I never wanted to be the FFG, or Fat Funny Guy, as an old friend coined it. Oh, I thrived off the fat for a while, I'll admit. Booking TV roles, entertaining friends and audiences with stories and stage shows. It all worked at around 230 pounds, but it's out of control now.
This is all material I would use at the reunion, though, like I always do. The whole "L.A." bit. That I was a writer and performer. "Yeah, I did the whole Hollywood thing," I would say from my Rascal at the reunion. "Ran into Tarantino a couple of times. That place is full of politics and red tape. That's why I bailed. I'm an artist, not a whore."
All this would be said in my fat voice that is stuffy and low from my chins pushing against my windpipe. It sounds like a record player at a slower speed.
This and other fears take me even deeper into the realm of sad possibilities. I have anxiety-filled visions of reaching 600 pounds and being incapacitated to where I can't even leave my room. I have to live in my aunt's house, in my old bedroom back home, in a giant bed specially made for me. I can't leave this bed and my sweet 65-year-old aunt has to care for me in her retirement.
In my own self-hatred scenarios I'm horrible to her, yelling after her for my remote control and pudding. She's so sweet about it all, too, changing my catheter while I watch "Jersey Shore" in my sweaty underwear that I can only change once a week. It gets so bad that eventually the armed forces and fire department have to smash into the side of the house, lift me out with a reinforced cherry-picker and chain me to a helicopter to hoist me out. It's all being shot by "20/20" and every other media outlet, cellphone and website in the world. My rescue is being documented as the most popular thing happening at that moment. As my enormous body, draped in only a XXXL Morrissey T-shirt, is being flown off I'm crying, "Why? How did this happen? Why?"
Fade to black. Cut to: Two years later. I lose the weight!
I actually do it! I'm a success story. I finally achieve the one goal that eluded me for all these years.
After spending almost two years in a hospital in upstate New York for the morbidly obese, with the help of doctors, I drop over 400 of the 600 pounds. The whole thing is documented on PBS by Ken Burns while NPR is doing a live simulcast of my release from the clinic. I become an instant celebrity worldwide. Everyone loves me and my miraculous journey from being at death's door to the picture of health. I'm the new Jared. Funny, the one thing that was killing me gave me what I had always wanted. Life is strange.
I'm on magazine covers as the story of the year. Even Obama has me to the White House where Bruce Springsteen performs. He was so inspired by my tale that he wrote a "Thunder Road"-type song called "Overweight Man Triumphs (on the Edge of Town)."
As if this weren't enough, I write my memoir with the help of Jonathan Franzen, followed by a graphic novel that is optioned and made into a film by Paramount with Frank Darabont at the helm. I never could have imagined this happening, but the icing on the cake (that I refuse to eat anymore) is that I am to be portrayed by George Clooney in "Starting Tomorrow: The Mark Phinney Story, Starring George Clooney." Of course: Clooney wins an Oscar.
Oprah has me and "Cloons," as I call him, on to discuss the film, but no one has seen me for a while, including Clooney, and in this time ... I gained the weight back. Well, not all of it. Just 350 pounds. We go on the show and he's clearly embarrassed, as is Oprah. This was supposed to be one of those message movies about obesity in America and the president even tapped me to be the ambassador to overweight kids across the country. I went to schools all over and preached against bad foods and the importance of diet. Now here I am, morbidly obese again, but trying to play it cool. I joke with George on the show, trying to keep it light. In that fat voice, now on my even bigger Rascal, I talk about the filming -- "This guy. Cloons. He's a practical joker." Clooney half-smiles for the cameras, but when he tilts his head at me the way he used to do on "ER," it's with a gaze of anger and hatred.
We all know how this ends. After being shunned by my Hollywood friends, I'm found dead after doing cocaine with a 15-year-old runaway who rolls me for my wallet, leaving me for dead in a ratty motel in Glendale (but close to Silverlake).
There's a small snippet about me in my hometown paper. The headline reads: Local obese man found dead.
"Mark Phinney, the inspiration for the Oscar-winning film 'Starting Tomorrow: The Mark Phinney Story, Starring George Clooney,' which starred George Clooney, has died. He is survived by his imaginary 5-year-old son, Conner. Friends say he lost his lifelong battle with weight but tasted his lifelong dream of fame, even if for a short time. May he rest in peace."
I better lose weight fast. That part is real.