It happened again the other day. Someone referred to me as “Big Guy” in the most affectionate of ways.
But even so, a part of me dies every time it happens.
I’ve been trying to figure out a way to explain how it feels. Here’s the best I can do.
It would be like referring to the woman who lost all her hair from chemo as “Baldy,” or to the veteran who lost his leg in battle as “Gimpy,” or to the plain looking person as “Beautiful,” or think about your biggest insecurity and then think about how it would feel to have someone refer to it in place of your name.
A select few from these groups would actually welcome such nicknames as a comedic coping mechanism, but I suspect the majority would wince, at least internally, like I do.
I’ve been overweight my entire life, and I am reminded about my size by people at every turn, as if I didn’t know. Some are overt with their reminders, some are covert.
Once, I walked into a public restroom and a guy who was combing his hair while staring at himself in the mirror apparently felt the need to say something to me. “Dang, I didn’t know they made shirts that big.”
“Well, now you know.”
A couple of years ago, I was inside a minor league clubhouse waiting to interview a player and two of his teammates pointed in my direction and snickered. They could have been laughing at the way I dress, or any number of other things, I guess, but I had my doubts. Instead, I envisioned them sharing a laugh about the clichéd overweight sportswriter who was standing in the corner.
Hypersensitive? Probably. But when you’ve experienced enough snickers, it’s hard not to develop a complex.
Another time, I went on a dinner train ride with a singles group from church. Part of the evening entertainment included a murder mystery in which passengers get involved, trying to solve the clues. A member of the cast took one look at me and began referring to me as “Big Beefy Guy.” That was eighteen or twenty years ago, and I still remember it.
I rarely say anything to the people uttering such comments or nicknames because most of the time, I trust that their intentions are honorable, or, at the very least, that they are oblivious. But be mindful of the words you use to address others. They cut and slash and wound in ways you never see.
Okay, music aficionados – what do the groups ANTHRAX, Aerosmith and Over the Rhine have in common?
Certainly not musical genre.
All three groups, or at least one member of each group, sells his or her own blend of brew.
ANTHRAX drummer, Charlie Benante, recently began selling “Benante’s Blend” on his website. Aerosmith drummer, Joey Kramer, has been selling his organic blend “Rockin’ & Roastin” for a while now. And Over the Rhine sells an organic blend on its website for “artists, writers, musicians, day dreamers, and night walkers!”
If you click on any of the links in the last paragraph, you’ll find that passion for the drink runs deep. I’m most drawn to Over the Rhine’s passion. Their coffee was inspired by their “love of good music, good conversation, good laughter, good living, and best kept secrets.”
Coffee tastes better in community, even if it is unfamiliar community. I think it’s one of the reasons so many of us visit coffee shops. I wrote about this in Common Grounds: Contemplations, Confessions and (Unexpected) Connections from the Coffee Shop.
Here’s an excerpt:
C. S. Lewis once said, “We read to know we are not alone.” I think we visit coffee shops for the same reason. We want somebody to ask us how our day is going. We want to hear someone say our name. We want to be pampered, even if we have to overpay for a cup of coffee to experience it. Even the slightest interaction can help us feel noticed.
How about you? Are you a coffee lover? If so, how important is the communal aspect of the drink to you?
On April 24-25, I’ll be teaching two workshops and meeting with conferees at the Wordsowers Christian Writers Conference in Omaha, Nebraska. If you are not already registered, you still have time.
You’ll have a chance to pitch your ideas to publishers such as Focus on the Family, The Upper Room, Nazarene Publishing House, Wesleyan Publishing House, Cross River Media Group, Bible Advocate magazine, Now What? magazine, Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas and AMG Publishers. You can register here.
One of the leaders of the Wordsowers group, Kat Crawford, conducted an interview with me a few weeks ago about some of my current writing projects, and the writing process in general. Here’s a portion of that interview:
Kat: What prompted you to write and freelance edit full time?
It wasn’t anything mystical. I just had a strong desire to do so. As somebody who is painfully shy, writing has been my primary means for communicating the way I feel. Once I realized that doing so touched others on occasion, it awakened a desire to do it professionally.
On the editing side, it’s a natural progression for somebody who is trying to make a full-time living in the industry.
Kat: You have a new book coming out soon. I know you have the title. Do you have the subtitle yet? Why did you write this particular book?
The book is called Common Grounds and the subtitle I will probably use is “Contemplations, Confessions and (Unexpected) Connections from the Coffee Shop.” A subscriber to my email list sent that idea to me, and I love it.
I wrote this book to see if I was the only one. Am I the only one who is still shy about approaching a woman I am interested in, even though I am forty-eight years old? Am I the only one who just needs to be around people sometimes, even if we don’t have a conversation? Am I the only shy, large person who tries to blend in wherever he goes?
Deep down, I knew I wasn’t the only one in any of these cases, but knowing something and feeling it are two different things. As such, I believe this book will resonate with people who have similar questions about their own insecurities and struggles.
I visited thirty coffee shops to find out the answers to those questions, and more. I wrote about what I observed and experienced. If I’ve done the math correctly, I spent $136.42 on coffee and a few donuts, which is a small price to pay for the commonality I felt between the patrons, baristas, and myself. And standing on common ground gave me strength in the most unexpected of ways.
Lee Warren is a freelance writer and editor who has written twelve non-fiction books, one novella and hundreds of articles for various newspapers and magazines as well as edited more than 50 books that currently appear in print. He's a fan of NASCAR, baseball, tennis, books, movies and coffee shops.