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    Confessions Of A Topless Jackass

            The other day, I was biking to the beach. It was a sunny day, not particularly hot, probably in the low seventies. Less than a mile from the beach, a truck passed me, and as it did, the passenger stuck his head out of the window. A skinny teenager yelled “Put your fuckin’ shirt on you $@#*%!!”. I knew it was an insult, but I couldn’t make out the last phrase. Being a teenager, his articulation was less than stellar.
            I reacted instinctively by smiling broadly and flipping him the finger. It was a knee jerk reaction, because I was in a great mood, and I could have just as easily ignored him. On another day, at another time, maybe I would have. But that day, in that moment, I didn’t.
            There was a part of me that hoped the truck would stop and the kid would get out. Then I would pull a James Bond move on him by leaping off my bike and taking him down to the ground. Where I would make him eat my bicycle chain.
            The part of me that wanted to throttle the kid is not a very evolved or enlightened part of me, but he does exist. His metaphysical body is fueled by whatever unreleased anger is still inside of me. Some of it going back to when I was a little kid. This part of me is the garbage container for all the shit I’ve ever eaten and haven’t let go of. He’s an eye for an eye kind of guy, and sometimes his voice is loud and he has lots to say. That day, he flared up for a moment and then went away.
            What this incident brought up for me was how, occasionally, when I do something unconventional, express myself, or just simply be me, people have reactions that are less than positive. I’m not unusual or unique in that regards by any means. That happens to everybody. For those of us who are different, it happens more frequently. It goes with the territory.
            Making peace with that reality is a process that I sometimes struggle with. The primitive, neanderthal part of me that wants to settle everything mano a mano, and the inner garbage can of unreleased anger, want to scream at the other person; “What the fuck is wrong with you?! Do you have to actually insult me? Attack my character? Demean my actions? I’m not affecting you in the least. My not wearing a shirt doesn’t impact your life at all. So shut the fuck up.” These parts would love to do that. Or just bash their face in.
            Of course, those parts of me don’t get that, by not wearing a shirt, I am impacting those people who choose to insult me. If I wasn’t, they wouldn’t react like that. But what it’s affecting is something on their insides, not their outsides. And if those being affected don’t know that they are being triggered, if they aren’t self aware or introspective or somewhat enlightened to that process, then they lash out. They make it about me. It’s easy to do that. Much easier than going inside and trying to figure out what the hell is going on in there.
            The not wearing a shirt thing is just one example, but it’s a good one because I don’t like to wear a shirt in the summer. I mean not when I don’t have to. Obviously, for work and when I’m in buildings where going topless would be against policy or simply inappropriate, I wear a shirt. But in my home, or driving around, or whenever I’m outside, the chances are that I will be shirtless. So there’s plenty of opportunity for getting flack. I actually don’t get much. At least not that I know of. But who knows? Maybe more people inaudibly call me a topless jackass than I could possibly fathom.
            I do ask the question why I like to go topless. I’ve gone within, and keep going back, to discover more about myself. This is a good one to look at too. Because going shirtless is something I do frequently, something I like to do, something that some people don’t get but makes perfect sense to me, and it has to do directly with my body, which means it is intimately connected to my heart and mind. So I gain insights into what I think and what I feel by going through my body.
            Part of it is unbridled vanity. No question about that. I only go shirtless if I look the way I want to. If I think I’m too heavy, the shirt stays on. That’s telling me something. And I like how I look without a shirt. There is a part of me that is into looking good and attracting attention to myself. Going shirtless and exposing a lean, muscular torso is one way of doing that.
            But it’s certainly more complicated than that. I work very hard on my body, and it’s not all vanity. I feel so much different about myself, and about my life, when I’m really fit. Like I’m experiencing my life through a different lens. There’s definitely a je ne sais quoi to that part that I haven't figured out.
            When I work out religiously, the endorphins are really cranking every day, which definitely effects my mood. Looking the way I want means that I’ve set a goal and achieved it. Automatically, that sets me up for another goal, an ongoing one, of maintaining what I’ve achieved. That gives me satisfaction the same way the achievement of any goal does. And at the end of each day, if I’ve exercised and eaten right, I feel good about that. If I’ve had an otherwise difficult day, maybe a day where I didn’t get much done, or a day where I beat the shit out of myself, I can go to bed at least feeling that I did something good and positive for myself. And that helps me have better days ahead.
            I’m proud of the body I’ve been able to build, the same way you would be if you built a beautiful house, maybe with your own hands. I try not to be too proud, because I understand the pitfalls of pride. I work just as hard at keeping myself in check as I do keeping myself fit.
            If you designed and actually made your own line of clothing, and it fit you really well, made you look good, and you put lots of work into making it, wouldn’t you wear it all the time? Well that’s how I think about my body. If you wear your own line of kick ass clothing, nobody would fault you for it. I suppose going shirtless is my equivalent of that.
            Maybe because of all of the shame we attach to our bodies, not wearing a shirt just brings up so much stuff for people. I understand that. I used to be a chubby kid. I didn’t like how I looked, and I got lots of teasing from other kids. I know what it’s like to have a very poor self image. Which I’m sure is a major reason why I’m such a fanatic about it today. The scars go deep, and now that I have the ability to control, to a degree, certain aspects of how I look, I’m very driven to do so. It’s helped me heal. We’re not encouraged to love our bodies. Working out is one way of showing love for my body.
            But I’ll admit, it’s not unconditional love. That’s where I stumble. I don’t love my body no matter what. But I also know that there’s a center in me that doesn’t care how I look. My soul doesn’t care what my waistline is. The more I develop that center, the more in touch I get with my own soul, the more unconditionally I’ll be able to love my body. And if I always have this part of me that wants to look good and is willing to drive me to do so, that’s not a bad thing. That will help keep me fit. If I can keep that part in check, it can help me raise my quality of life. Getting and staying physically fit to me is just as important as getting and staying emotionally and mentally fit.
            David Lee Roth once said that every minute you’re up on stage, you’re flipping off everybody who ever tried to stomp on your dream, or told you that you’d never make it, or otherwise attempted to thwart your hopes of success. And let’s face it, there are plenty of people out there like that. People who are unconscious and hurtful and want to see you go down in flames so that they can feel better about themselves. They may be the same type of individual who would find perverse pleasure in insulting somebody or attacking their character because of what they were wearing. Or not wearing.
            Maybe going shirtless is one way of flipping off anybody who ever called me fat, or beat me up because I didn’t look right, or insulted me because I was different, or otherwise shamed me for being myself. Not the most mature attitude, but I'm aware of that. And I think we all need a little “Fuck You” in us. And not wearing a shirt is a pretty harmless way of saying that.

    ©2009 Clint Piatelli. All Rights (and a no shirt of Wrongs) Reserved.

    Reader Comments (4)

    Strange how similar of a conclusion I've come to....I'm not shirtless a lot, but I've recently dropped some weight and find myself walking in front of people a lot easier.

    I feel as I've run through the same thought process trying to figure out why I'd be able to do that without anxiety (something I know I"m prone to have)

    Keep finding the positive in everything, it treats me well, and appears to have treated you pretty well in the reflection of a angry moment.

    June 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterWertyui

    Thank you for the comment, and congratulations on dropping the weight. The fact that are more at ease with yourself is proof that there's a lot to be said for getting fit. I love success stories like yours. I encourage you to keep going with it and see how far you can take it.
    I appreciate your insightful thoughts, and it's always nice to know that there are others who connect with my experience.


    June 17, 2009 | Registered CommenterClint Piatelli

    Hi Clint, I thank you for your site. I look forward to reading your posts. The way you write and open up is amazing. Just wanted you to know. Keep up the great work and look forward to seeing you soon.p.s.I also love a great shoe on a sexy foot.( nice picture) .Cuz ,Roy

    June 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRoy

    Hey Roy, thank you so much for reading and responding. I very much appreciate it. Reaching people and connecting to them is very important to me. I'm proud to call you family. Also looking forward to seeing you, Cuz. Foot lovers unite dude...


    June 20, 2009 | Registered CommenterClint Piatelli

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