The Choke Artist

Grand Central Publishing recently released Gotham teacher David Yoo's The Choke Artist:Confessions of a Chronic Underachiever, a collection of personal stories about failure and fear from his youth to adulthood.

This is David’s fourth published book so he is perhaps not such an underachiever, but he still has a knack for understanding the various tortures of growing up. Vanity Fair calls the book “hilarious” and Boston Magazine says it “will make your own childhood blunders seem totally boring.”
Here is a peek at the essay “The Routine:”
In the winter of senior year of high school I’d stumbled upon a radical solution to my lanky appearance. I was especially cold one morning, so I donned a few extra layers, and at school that day a girl in study hall actually remarked that I looked bigger. At first I was convinced she was being sarcastic, but when I got home and inspected myself in the mirror I realized I did look bigger. That it was just an illusion would have bummed out anyone else in my situation—there I was, futilely stuffing my face and religiously doing pushups and yet utterly failing to alter my appearance in the slightest, but I was actually thrilled with the revelation. The way I saw it, I’d just discovered by accident the simplest solution to looking bigger.

I went to school the next morning wearing two T-shirts under my mock turtleneck. It made me feel solid. Encouraged, the morning after that I put on three T-shirts under my plaid button down. I could barely button the top button (which was already the only one I used, anyway, in effort to resemble Lou Diamond Phillips’ gangbanger in Stand and Deliver), but it worked out because nobody could see all the collars underneath. The following Monday I tucked four T-shirts under my plaid button down. It gave me traps that didn’t actually exist in real life. My Q-tip-sized shoulders transformed into NBA grapefruit deltoids, and—best of all—I could tell that my classmates were subtly starting to regard me differently. It was respect. In fact, classmates seemed to even forget that I’d been scrawny all those years, the same strange amnesia I noticed when I showed up to 8th grade wearing contact lenses for the first time and nobody seemed to remember calling me four-eyes all through middle school.

Things were going great until the day I had the rare instance where I found myself shirtless in front of a mirror and was utterly mortified—I looked like I’d just busted out of a prison camp. I weighed myself in my parents’ bathroom and, sure enough, I’d lost seven pounds from constantly sweating, wearing so many layers (though it was mostly water weight). And just like that, my days of wearing extra layers were officially over. I considered myself lucky—had a girl fallen for the padded me, she would’ve just been falling for the idea of someone else, anyway. Besides, the cold weather wasn’t going to last forever, and I couldn’t abruptly revert back to wearing just one set of clothes like a normal human being come the spring; the change in my outward appearance would have been the equivalent of seeing sheared sheep.

And what if I actually did start dating a girl, and she wanted to hook up one night? “Let’s be crazy,” she’d say, and rip off her clothes, which was what I’d assumed girls did when they wanted to hook up with guys (I may have hated Long Duk Dong and the Japanese guy from Revenge of the Nerds, but I otherwise considered these movies totally accurate depictions of what hooking up was like). I’d follow suit, but because of all my layers she’d have to sit at the edge of the bed with her chin in her hands as I took upwards of nine minutes peeling off layer after layer, like some sweaty Korean nesting doll, during which time her interest in hooking up would have quickly evaporated. My season of false comfort dissolved in an instant, and I was left feeling and looking even scrawnier than before.


Reprinted by permission of Grand Central Publishing
For more information on David and his book, go here: