MR. ROGERS MADE ME FAT

by Collin Kelley

It was after Make-Believe,
when I was vulnerable.
He made the peanut butter jar
appear on his kitchen table
between the Museum-Go-Round
and Daniel Striped Tiger’s Clock,
dipped in a spoon, lifted it
to his mouth like sacrament,
proclaimed it good.

Wishing for Someplace Else,
I wanted to please him,
so I scampered to the kitchen,
climbed the counter to the top
shelf and found my first addiction.
As the cold metal touched
my tongue and salty sweet
the roof of my mouth, I was hooked.

The empty jars would stretch
to the moon now, Fred is dead,
and the magic Trolley still runs
on schedule, perpetually empty.
It disappears into a hole in the wall
faster than Lady Elaine Fairchild’s
boomerang-toomerang-soomerang
and I’m too tall and wide to follow.


From Render, Sibling Rivalry Press, 2013

What the Poet Says About the Poem: “Mr. Rogers Made Me Fat” was both easy and difficult to write. Easy because it’s one of those rare poems that changed very little from the initial draft; difficult because addressing the issue of my weight was not something I relished writing about in the first place. I obliquely referenced my weight in other poems, but never head-on and with an origin story. I freely admit to being an emotional eater, but I’m also a lover of food. When I was depressed, I ate to self-medicate. When I was happy, I ate to celebrate. As a writer and editor, most of my days and nights were spent sitting at a desk or on the sofa, so exercise was not something I had any time for or interest in. And I really was addicted to peanut butter. I was eating a family size jar of JIF every couple of days and chasing it with two liter Cokes. From that first taste of peanut butter after watching Mr. Rogers, I could not stop eating it. I don’t totally blame kindly Fred Rogers for my addiction, but he was my gateway. If Mr. Rogers said eating peanut butter was good, then it must be true A few months after the poem appeared in my collection, Render, my father died from complications caused by diabetes. He was heavy most of his life. It should have been a wakeup call, but I kept on eating. When I was finally diagnosed with diabetes, I was a shocking 309 pounds. I couldn’t believe it. I have since lost more than 100 pounds, thanks to diet and exercise. I no longer eat peanut butter and my diabetes is in remission. But even writing this, I can still see Mr. Rogers putting a spoon into the jar of peanut butter and my mouth waters. I am no longer that impressionable child looking for praise or recognition to fill the void left by emotionally distant parents. And yet it still shocks me – baffles me – that a two minute segment from a children’s television program left such a lingering mark on me. Stretch marks, yes, but also how it shaped me as a person and an artist.

About Collin Kelley

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