Season 8: Episode 5
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia // Season 8: Episode 5.
“The Gang Gets Analyzed.”
Mac, Charlie, Dennis, Dee, and Frank (“the Gang”) break into Dee’s therapist visit to end the debate about who should do the dishes, choosing to get psychoanalyzed along the way.
It’s revealed that Frank more or less suffers from shell-shock after losing his first love (a girl with no lips), while Dee is a compulsive liar, suggesting she was the first choice for the lead in The Notebook, adding she believes Rachel McAdams “did a fine job.”
Dennis’s sociopathic tendencies are made even clearer by the dossiers he keeps on each member of the gang, as well as the drugs he’s been secretly giving to Mac to make him lose weight (Mexican Ephedra disguised as “size pills”).
Charlie is afflicted with some cocktail of bipolar disorder, severe anxiety, and any lack of any real education. Also, he hides a dead pigeon in his jacket.
And then there’s Mac.
Mac sucks on pens— pens he thinks look like dicks. He suffers from mood swings made worse by his recent weight-fluctuation: over the course of three months, Mac has gained, and then completely lost, 60 lbs. Mac admits he misses when people used to look at him “like a monster.” That, now that he’s “as tiny as a postage stamp,” no one is scared of him.
The therapist suggests that he may be suffering from body dysmorphia.
I’d like to do a writing exercise. I’ll give you a word, and I want you to “see” the word. Let the word construct itself in your mind’s eye. Whatever it gives you, allow.
Don’t Google it.
Just let it happen. See where it takes you.
OK, Here it is.
One more time.
I see a magic spell that afflicts an overwhelming panic on its target. I see a cloaked figure breezily strolling up to a a guard stopping him. “What’s your name?” he demands.
The cloaked figure smirks.
If I give it more time I begin to see a magnificent, golden-ratio inspired artifact, glinting in the sunlight on the deck of a battleship the size of a mountain. Wars have been wrought over this object, and now, it rocks calmly across the sea.
“Admiral, the panniculus.”
Panniculus is the medical term for lose skin around one’s abdominal region, the result of pregnancy or massive weight loss, usually. Your skin has a certain elasticity to it, and most times it will snap-back, just like it can expand. Occasionally, though, the trauma is too great; it hangs there like a deflated balloon.
I used to get pimples beneath my panniculus. You could just lift it up— like a marsupial’s pouch— and there’d be little sores I would pop or squeeze. Once, I considered hiding packs of Magic cards beneath it, to steal. In the winter I’d put my hands underneath it when they were cold. It was as magical as it sounds.
See, when I was 18-years-old, I weighed nearly 600 lbs. With a little help from crippling depression and gastric-bypass surgery I lost upwards of 300 pounds over the course of two years; most of it during the first year in a deluge of painful attempts at overeating with a stomach the size of a tennis ball. After the enormous loss, my skin had essentially said, “you know what? I’m done,” and considering what I was doing to myself, I can’t blame it.
I had “peaked” during my freshman year of college.
I would wake up and sit until I had to move, but not because I couldn’t. On the contrary, for a person my size, I was fairly mobile. I chose not move because where would I go? Outside? Where there were people? People who insulted and laughed at me? Why? Why do that when I could stay here with food and computer games?
A normal meal would be an entire pizza, grilled cheese, and various other snacks. I honestly don’t ever remember the feeling of being full. On the way to class, an hour or less later, I’d stop at the corner store, pick up a 99 cent bag of chips and some juice. During break, I’d hit the vending machine for something sweet.
When I’d get home, taking side streets for reduced-odds of a stranger verbally berating me, I’d hit up the girls I was cat-fishing online.
Since the age of 13, starting in good, old chat-rooms, I’d sent girls pictures of other, better boys, claiming they were me. It was the only way I knew to be on the receiving end of any affection, even if I was lying almost entirely. For the last year or so, I’d continued to use the photos a kid named Ronnie, a semi-mythical figure in my mind.
Ronnie had jet-black hair cut asymmetrically across his face, wore girl jeans, weighed about 105 Ibs, and played MOOG in various local bands, hailing from the town next to mine. To this day I have never seen him in person, yet his very image is single-handedly responsible for my foray into any sort of positive relationship with women.
After sufficiently counterfeiting self-confidence, I’d eat again— something light, I didn’t want to be staying up too late. In the middle of the night I’d wake up gasping for breath, my heart beating out of my chest. For years I thought these occurrences were the tail-end of nightmares I happened to catch myself exiting. In reality it was sleep apnea and it was exactly what it sounded like: when I was sleeping, I would just stop breathing.
This was my life, and I got really good at it.
There’s a bit of spiritual advice that goes something like this: if you allow yourself to die every day, then at the end of your life, death will become but another day.
Every single day of my life, I died— be it offered or taken from me, and I wondered what would happen. I wondered what would happen when it came to be that there was more of myself dead than alive. What would that feel like?
To label it mere depression would be an understatement; it was monumental. It was comical. It was a complete absence of hope.
I could no longer control my life.
And the effort needed to rectify it was something I had neither the strength nor any real reason to want to pursue. I began to marvel at my own tragedy.
See, now I feel silly. Dramatic. I can hear the poorly imitated Hawthorne Heights song now, “so cut my wrists and black my eyes.”
I can see the eye-rolls coming from that dude in a polo shirt as he rips into another Miller Light.
It seems to be that, for every step I’ve made towards admitting to myself that what I went through was real and awful and heartbreaking, something else says I need to just get over it. But I can’t, I can’t because it is still real. It is still here.
I want you to understand, you sitting there, reading, listening.When I talk about wanting to put an end to my life, it was not a cry for help. It never was.
It was bell tolling.
I was sitting at my desk, tears running down my face, laughing, after taking nearly 70 photos of myself— my real, actual self—in my room, at the mirror in the bathroom, outside in the hall, in the closet, on my bed, on the sofa, standing beneath a streetlight.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was monstrous.
To capture my entire body in a photo was nearly impossible, I had to stand 10 feet away from a mirror just to fit my frame in the picture.
So I told the three girls I was talking to that I was lying to them and then deleted every single one of them out my life as much as possible, as I’m sure they did for me.
All the reasons I had compiled not to live, but to die, began to form into some sad singularity; and was in such the wrong place that I didn’t realize they are often the same thing.
I hadn’t seen the Chicago skyline. I hadn’t watched my brother marry his wife in the warm sunlight. I hadn’t so much as held hands with a girl who smelled like ten kinds of fruit. I had jackets so big they could double as comforters. I had never looked down and seen my dick. Yes, that’s a not a myth.
I never went to prom. I skipped my graduation because I was too anxious about the structural integrity of the flimsy chairs; already breaking a bench in front of my entire 8th grade class at the formal. I had strangers approaching me on the streets— adults— to backhandedly insult me. “Yo man, how tall are you?”
“Like, 6’2. 6’3?”
“Damn, how much you weigh?”
“45 lbs.” I’d say.
I never finished a story.
The salesclerk at Casual Male: Big and Tall knew my name. I was, at 17, one of his best customers. We’d walk in and he’d say, “Hello Andrew and Andrew’s mom.”
And I would smile.
And I would look around at all the shirts with that stupid fucking “big dog” on them.
And I would pick out anything black. Size 64 jeans.
And while ringing us up he’d say things like, “oh, this is a great shirt.”
And I would think to myself, “this cannot actually be my life.”
So yes, I tried. Of course I tried.
Ironically, being the size of a horse saved my life.
When I woke up extremely late the next day, after managing to crawl out of bed, the first thing I did was stumble into the kitchen.
Someone had to do the dishes.
Like a game of Whack-a-Mole, I’ve found new reasons to hate myself.
Inconsistencies in my appearance: my waist is smaller but there’s a strange fold on my back. I walk taller, but yank on the seams of my shirt. When I get rejected, which as I’m learning, is something that happens no matter how much you weigh, it’s obviously because they think I’m too fat.
There’s the looking through your reflection rather than at it. The nagging anxiety of not having worked out.
I can remember the morning I woke up, not even three years ago, and sat at the edge of my bed, grasping two handfuls of my own flesh— my man boobs— wondering how drunk I’d need to be and how long I would need to saw before I could take myself to the emergency room and have them finish physically cutting the tits off my chest.
There is no courage here; there is only the way jeans will always fit. The years it took me to actually have sex without wearing my shirt. There is my online dating profile where the last photo I have is of me at 18, visibly uncomfortable at having my picture taken, sitting on a bench, hair down to my shoulders, with a very tiny bag in my lap, clearly trying to cover up. That is who I am, forever.
Imagine if you took a Nimistz Class carrier— a 1,000 feet long, 100,000 ton battleship— sunk it, and told the crew they had to go work on rickety fishing boats off the coast of Indonesia for the rest of their lives.
What I mean is, there is such a disconnect that exists between the person I was and the person I am, that I know I will never feel completely whole again. There are days I’m convinced I am going to wake up gasping for breath again, and I’ll look down and there will be my bulbous gut; my stretched skin basking in the glow of TV on the far side of the room.
It will be 3AM. I will go find something to eat.
After hassling the therapist to the point where she nearly loses her mind, chanting in-unison, “Dishes, dishes, dishes,” the gang manages to get her to make a decision for them.
“Dee, do the fucking dishes,” she screams.
Dee drags a bag filled with the dirty dishes into the room, which she begins smashing on the floor.
Andrew Buttermore lives in Chicago. His upcoming short story collection Too Many Holes will be published by Chicago Literati Books, and he can be found on the internet with the cats and porn at http://www.andrewjbuttermore.com.