Big Buddha

It is Chinese New Year which is an annual occasion for me to celebrate the richness and beauty of the culture that I happened to sort of marry into. Though many people do not know this because of the apparent whiteness of her skin, my wife is half Chinese, her father coming from Hong Kong and her mother, Georgia. This would, of course, mean that my children, who are nearly translucent in their skin color, are a quarter Asian. This is just another example of the Darwinian dominance of my Aryan genes.

To make up for this, we have given our children Chinese middle names. When we were trying to decide on a middle name for our first son Zachary, my father in law came up with an extensive list of options. All of these had both deeply rich meanings and serious potential to destroy our child on the playground of elementary school. With a middle name involving the sounds Kok or Dong, he would need immediate extradition to Beijing in order to survive long enough to attend college. We settled on a name that we thought sounded cool, the equivalent to those people who tattoo themselves with cool-looking Chinese characters only to find out that they actually mean, “Caution: I eternally spread herpes”. For our newest child, we went through the same difficult decision making process. He ended up being named after a really good restaurant on the outskirts of Hong Kong. The important thing is that our children can bear names symbolic of their cultural heritage, a few generations removed.

Our children got to revel in that same heritage this year through our New Year’s Day festivities. For the past few years, I have been involved with two of my wife’s cousin who own and operate a dragon used for the traditional dragon dance. I was recruited to play the part of the Buddha, most likely because of my rotund condition. Ever since then, I have submitted to the craziness that is the Yuen family dragon dance. Nevermind that the dragon is technically a lion and that the Buddha has really nothing to do with Buddha at all. I guess factual accuracy is not too important when the cultural ceremony is performed by a group whose participants are an average of two-thirds white.

Every year, I meet with the two sisters to go over the dance routine. In my role, I have minimal interaction with the dragon itself. I am basically reduced to silly and cartoonish mascot behavior- a mascot for the team of the entire Chinese race. So, my involvement comes down to how high I can kick my feet up in the air or how quickly I can out-run the dragon or how loudly I can beat on the drum. Each year the girls are determined to make the dragon dance as convoluted, difficult, and impossible to replicate as ever before. Next year, I think they might use electrical appliances and a tightrope.

The crowd lined up outside of the New Year’s party. The dance was scheduled to start at high noon. When 12 o’clock struck, I was sitting on the bed, decked out in full costume, while the girls talked on the phone with their friends and tussed their soon to be sweaty and matted hair. I was the feverishly playing Yo-Yo-Ma to their tardy swearing-in of Barack Obama. And of course the dance, which featured no less than 28 unique steps and 12 interactive gadgets, had been walked through only once. After much prodding, they threw the costume on and we went out and performed under the hail of firecrackers.

It was somewhere about halfway through the performance of the event, between the childish playing with a big red ball and the swinging of a head of lettuce from a dismantled broomstick, that I had a startling realization. It was something that I had been thinking about for a few months now, but it came to me in full clarity at this specific moment. I was gasping for air through the small mouth hole cut into the thirty-year-old papier-mâché Buddha head. I thought that it may have been the smoke from the 800 firecrackers, or perhaps the cold damp air. But the realization came to me at that moment that it was neither of these things. I was desperately sucking air after only a few minutes of performing which involved mild jogging and swaying from side to side. The realization was simple. I was fat.

It is not something that has gone completely unnoticed. Ever since I left the life of menial manual labor and joined a career with a menial desk job, my body has not taken well to the adjustment. I haven’t really changed my diet in the past few months. I still frequent the neighborhood Wendy’s and pillage their dollar menu until they institute a limit on items per order. I still reason that candy bars are reasonably healthy because of the protein that the peanut butter contains. I still enjoy both the meal I have discovered between breakfast and brunch as well as the 10:45 loaf of bread and block of cheese. The difference is that my physical activity has been reduced to my fingers tapping the keyboard one letter at a time and laughing while watching a monkey drink its own urine on YouTube.

I finished the performance and whipped off my sweat-soaked mask. I fanned out my shirt and noticed the curious spots where the sweat had soaked through. I collapsed on the couch and evaluated the things that were going wrong in my life. Small children approached and wanted to have their picture taken with me. I had gone from a sprite and youthful Buddha to a fat, sweaty, out of breath, groan-when-you-sit-down-or-stand-up Santa-like figure.

When looking for clothes to relax in the next day, I was confronted with the decision to wear a pair of jeans that I could barely button and which contained my thighs like sausage casings or, what was obviously the more comfortable option, the dirty sweat pants I wore for the dragon dance. Knowing how much I did sweat in them, I could not bring myself to extract the pants from the hamper, so I squeezed myself into the jeans and then donned what seemed to be a comfortable shirt. I put it on and then looked in the mirror and realized that the Hawaiian print shirt was the clincher. Something had to be done.

And here I am. I ate several greasy won-tons for lunch to celebrate my only affiliation with any culture of the brown-skin variety. I had to buy new pants one size larger and I am half-thinking I should have gone two sizes up. I think a Twinkie in my mouth sounds like a good idea right about now. But I am committed to loosing weight starting this moment. Specific diets haven’t worked. Exercise programs are impossible, what with my brittle-as-glass bones. No, I fear that the only thing that will work for me at this time is public humiliation. Which is why I would like to post this on my blog so that the millions of people who read this each day (ok, all two of you) can laugh at my unfortunate condition. After all, I noticed on my website analytics that this blog got a hit from someone searching the term “obese baby”. If that is not a sign from the gods of the internet, I don’t know what is.

It is time for a change. I may not be able to grow all of my hair back or remove all the hair from my back, but I can loose weight. I may not be able to re-coup the years of sleep I lost in college or in delivering bread, but I can get back a bit more of the vitality I am searching for. It is a New Year after all. It is time for resolutions. That is what is so great about the Chinese New Year; if we screw up on our Julian resolutions, we can put our stock in the Lunar ones. And if I need a little bit of extra help, I can always rub the belly of the Buddha for good luck. It is always within reach.


Marsha said...

What can I say? You are a regular comedian! If you need more motivation, The Biggest Loser is on TV tonight. We still love you and you'll always be our Baby Buddha. XOXO

Brian R said...

Thank God for double new years! I was doing a really shoddy job of sticking to my resolutions, and now I can start over again.
Losing weight is a pain in the ass, but compared to raising two kids, I bet it's easy. I think that you should go on an authentic asian food diet, whereby you can never eat at Wendy's again, and if you go to Panda Express you actually have to order Panda. Or something. Good luck!

Rob & Michelle Eberly Family said...

I feel your pain . . . hang in there Big Buddh!