Monday, January 22, 2007

Seven hours versus five minutes.

Subtitle: "I Really Wanna Be A Loser."

Yesterday, I got up much earlier than normal, showered and dressed, and drove the opposite direction from church (my usual Sunday destination), until I reached a gym. There I joined about 300 people in line ahead of me.

Yesterday morning, they were holding an open-call audition for "The Biggest Loser."

Being a participant (it feels weird calling it "contestant") on that show has been an idle dream of mine for a few years now. I've always thought that it would be an amazing experience, but I never really considered it a possibility. I always thought too much of my life would have to change, in order to make that happen. I was never willing to do what it took, make the sacrifices necessary, to do so.

Then, about two weeks ago, I found out that representatives of the show were coming here, to my town, to find contestants for the show. I knew I needed to try. It just seemed too perfect. My friends and coworkers cheered me on. My family encouraged me to give it a shot. So I took my hastily-taken photograph and my application, and stood in line.

It was a strange experience, standing in that line. First, it's odd to see so many overweight people in one place. One of the hallmarks of being obese is feeling singled out and ostracized. So there was a strange sense of community in the idea of 500 fat people all together at once.

On the other hand, when I walked up, I was instantly "sized up" (bad pun) by the people already in line. I could almost hear them calculating what I weighed and if they could "take me" as a contestant. Truth be told, I caught myself doing this very thing. The abstract camraderie of the moment was swallowed up in the understanding that we were all contestants competing for one, maybe two, slots on the program. Unlike the show itself, where your biggest competition is yourself, in this very first "round" of the game, we were up against each other. I wished I had brought friends or supporters, like some of the people in line. It felt a little lonely at first, before I started talking to the group of people in front of me.

Our little group became fast friends, though I can't remember but two of their names. We'd hold each others' place if someone needed to make a bathroom run. We encouraged each other. It was nice. However, we couldn't lose sight of the competitive undercurrent.

Some observations about the crowd:
1) I felt a little emboldened (wrong as it may be) by the fact that several of the largest people were pretty scary-looking. Not only fat, but just outright fugly. While "TBL" is a reality weight-loss show, the contestants aren't incredibly unattractive. They're "TV fat." I'd like to think I lean more toward the "TV fat guy" than the "scary cautionary tale" fat guy. Or the "half of my teeth missing" guy. Or the "half-balding stringy mullet" guy. I think my chances were a little better than them. That may be wrong to admit, and I don't deny their inherent value as people, but they ain't pretty. By a long stretch.
2) If you are in line to try out for a reality show about proper diet and exercise, because you ostensibly want to improve your health and life, does it make sense to a) smoke like a chimney while in line; b) once you get a bracelet guarenteeing an audition, go across the parking lot to Wendy's and get a big bag of fast food and a Frosty, to eat while in line at 10 in the morning? (On the other hand, after missing lunch to be in line at the audition, I got home and had a combination lunch-dinner that consisted of about 3/4 of a large pizza. And some breadsticks. So I'm a paragon of hypocrisy. But still, I didn't do it while standing in line.)
3) Dear mother of apparently-helpless 20-year-old girl who may or may not have some kind of medical condition I missed hearing about: It's okay the first time to offer the people around you a chance to say hello over the phone to your daughter who's sitting in the car in the adjacent parking lot. But NOT every time you call her, every twenty minutes, for seven hours. No one, but NO ONE, cares that much about someone else's kid, no matter how sick they are.

Okay, maybe it's the bitterness talking. But really.

So, from 7:15 to after 1:30, we wait and wait and wait. [Note: I accidentally typed "weight" the first time. heh.] Finally we are ushered in. We sit in groups of ten with the recruiter-type-girl. We introduce ourselves individually--name, age, hometown, how much weight we want to lose. Then she asks us a quick discussion question about why we want to participate in the show.

You know me. I like to talk. But I don't often like to interrupt, especially with strangers.

This only goes to show that, sometimes, politeness is fo' sucka's.

This nice young woman with whom I spoke while in line commandeered the conversation. Not maliciously, nor intentionally, I think. She just had lots to say. A few people piped up, often speaking over one another. I waited for an opening. Waited. Waited, and then I opened my mouth to speak, but--


And that was that. I nodded and smiled a lot, and said lots of affirming words like "Yeah" and "I agree." And in the end, that and my introduction were the whole of "the audition." Seven hours. Five minutes. Done.

The girl said they'd call people for callbacks over the next day and a half. By Wednesday, if we haven't heard back from them, we aren't getting pulled from the "Houston" group. She assured us we can certainly send in a video audition for this season, too, because they're picking people from videos as well as the open calls.

And that was that. I went home, ordered a pizza, watched football and a movie, and stared at my phone, trying to will it to ring.

No luck yet.

On Wednesday, I guess I'll decide if I want to put out the effort to make the video, if I want to get my hopes up again; or if I want to just accept the fact that if I'm gonna be a "loser," I'm gonna have to do it all on my lonesome.

I'm trying not to be bummed out, but I think I'm suffering from "American-Idol"-rejectitis. Thankfully, I was self-controlled enough to not tell anyone to "go back to England" or that they didn't know what they were talking about.

But seriously, I wish they'd call. Any second now.

Any second now.

[cross-posted at Dave's super secret diet blog.]

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