If I Ever Become The World’s Fattest Man

If I ever become the world’s fattest man, I won’t be granting any interviews. And I definitely won’t be posing for photo shoots. I read with fascination astory by Sarah Lyall in The New York Times last week about Paul Mason, a British man who was once regarded as the world’s fattest at 980 pounds. Three years ago, Mason had a gastric bypass, shedding nearly 550 pounds in one fell swoop.

Mason reveals all the gory details of his story to Lyall, and, though she’s a skillful reporter who obviously managed to win his trust, it’s hard to know what the fuck Mason was thinking in agreeing to participate in this story. Why would he think that the public needs to know about the “huge mass of loose skin” that still encircles his “torso and sits on his lap?” How can he possibly profit from describing how he used to eat $22 worth of chocolate bars a day or how social services workers used to have to change his incontinence pads?

But I have to give props to Lyall for venturing into this man’s home. I imagine that he’s desperately lonely. Nearly twenty years ago, I spent about two years as an advertising salesperson for The New York Post. (I had just graduated from college and wanted to join the Foreign Service but was unemployed and desperate for any sort of paycheck.) One of my favorite clients was a Jamaican immigrant named Jimmy who specialized in outfitting the morbidly obese.

Jimmy made house calls to people who were too fat to leave their homes. He would turn up, measure them and then return with custom fit clothing. Jimmy would occasionally show me a pair of pants someone had ordered and they were the kind of things that you could fit 3 or 4 normal people inside. One day, he told me about one of his occupational hazards.

“A lot of these guys are really lonely,” he said, referring to his morbidly obese customers. “A bunch of times, I’ve had guys make passes at me. I don’t even think they’re gay, necessarily, but they are starved for human contact.”

He recounted one story about how a client who was too gigantic to get up off of his couch grasped at his crotch as he tried to measure the man’s boundless waist.

“But there is one good thing about working with people that large,” he said. “They can’t move fast, so you can always get away.”