Family Matters

Family Matters

Me and My Belly: A Lifelong Relationship

By Matthew Petti

May/June 2014

As I write this, the tape has my midsection measuring out at an eye-popping 43 inches. I wear size 38 pants (itself embarrassing), which means a full five of those inches run unrestrained and wild over the lip of Belt Loop Dam until arrested mid-free-fall by the seemingly arbitrary fact that they belong to the rest of my body. But those inches do belong: they’re part of my husbandness and fatherhood; part of my love for baseball, psychoanalysis, and Russian literature; part of my facility with numbers and my unfortunate habit of joking about matters too serious to joke about; part of the fact that I’m a left-leaning professor. When I teach a class, attend a meeting, spend time with my wife, play with my daughter, or hang out with my friends, my belly wants in on the action. Or rather, it’s just there, getting in the way of the action; it has its own version of hanging out.

Luckily or unluckily, I’m no stranger to hating the body my genetics have saddled me with. In grade school, an all-out-of-proportion backside earned me the nickname Raindrop; I tried my best always to face forward. In junior high, the fine, dark fuzz that prematurely appeared on my upper lip seemed to scream, “Pubic hair down below!” I thought my preadolescent moustache was an advertisement that I’d discovered masturbation. Once I was old enough to shave, this problem was erased with such ease and finality that I was surprised 20 years later on the psychoanalytic couch when moments of irrational…

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