Chubby-gay-kid-cum-sexy-author Mark Brennan Rosenberg turned his food obsession into a fitness mantra — and a memoir
When Mark Brennan Rosenberg was growing up in suburban D.C., he was a fat, nerdy, unpopular gay kid. But just look at him now. Still gay — very gay — but a hot gym rat with a popular blog about gay life in NYC, and his second book, out less than a month: Eating My Feelings: Tales of Overeating, Underperforming and Coping with My Crazy Family. In it, Rosenberg recounts in a gossipy, fabulous way growing up in a dysfunctional brood (half Jewish, half Catholic) and his progression from butterball to beefcake. He takes no prisoners in this uber-gay memoir, including himself.
Rosenberg brings those stories and his hot self to Dallas for a reading Tuesday, but before he got here, were asked him to tell us about his stylistic influences, his foul-mouthed past (and present) and what he loves about Dallas.
Dallas Voice: Your writing style is fun and dishy. Who are your literary influences? Rosenberg: I have really been influenced by people like David Sedaris, Chelsea Handler and Augusten Burroughs. When I read their books in the past, I realized they were no-holds barred, which is basically how I am in real life. I figured if they could get away with it, then I should be able to.
You portray yourself as a disrespectful, foul-mouthed, and vaguely racist. Were you really calling your stepmonster a bitch to her face? I don’t know why, but when I was a child, I had a worse mouth than a sailor — and not much has changed. So as far as language goes, I’m not taking much artistic licensing in that department. My stepmother and I always exchanged harsh words. Whether or not I called her a bitch to her face, I cannot recall exactly, but knowing me, I most likely did.
Your mom is now your BFF, but she’s not always portrayed sympathetically. (Then again, neither are you.) How have members of your family reacted to their portrayals — or for that matter, finding out the sordid deets of your sex life? My family is so supportive. My mother has forever been my champion and continues to do so. Everything that I have written about is in the past so we can all look back on it with a laugh. I will tell you that during a book reading for Eating My Feelings in D.C., my father discovered that I lost my virginity to one of his clients in front of at least 10 of his colleagues. That was hilarious. I wish that had been filmed.
You say early on something like, “If you’re not gay or a teenaged girl, why are you reading this book?” Is that just knowing your audience, or are you daring readers to go somewhere they shouldn’t? I do think there is something for everyone in this book. We all have issues with our body image and I believe what we see in the mirror every morning is different that what others see when they look at us from the outside. I don’t know if I would go as far as saying I am stereotypical: I like what I like, and some of the things that I happen to enjoy are things that other gay men my age enjoy a great deal as well.
Your book touches on a lot of issues relevant to gay men’s experiences growing up. What changes do you see since then? This country has made great strides in accepting LGBTQ culture as a whole, which is wonderful. It is certainly different than when I was an adolescent. [Popular culture has] opened the eyes of many to see that we are all the same regardless of who we like to sleep with. However, there will always be bullying: Gay, straight, black, white, fat, skinny — it doesn’t matter. Teenagers are fucking horrible to each other and it’s a very unfortunate part of growing up. It’s one of the hardest parts of life. But hopefully kids these days understand that if they try hard to overcome the things that are said to them, they’ll realize that they will grow up and have an amazing life because of it. And the person that called them fat, ugly or gay will most likely grow up and have shit for brains and work at a gas station.
What’s your experience with Texas? I was in Texas last year promoting my first book, Blackouts and Breakdowns. I went to Austin, Houston and Dallas and loved all three — and I met some really wonderful people along the way, whom I cannot wait to see again this time around. I really loved Dallas. Any town that has a gay bar named JR.’s and a lesbian bar named Sue Ellen’s is a good place in my book.
You mention on your dust jacket that you’re single. Do you find it more or less difficult to date if your prospects read your blog or books? I’m actually no longer single. I don’t know how it happened, but I have the most wonderful, kind-hearted boyfriend an asshole like me could ever hope for. He hates giving high-fives (which is one of my favorite things behind teamwork, taking showers and Sno-Cones), but we’re working on it. When I was single, however, the blogging, articles and books certainly got in the way. People are very quick to Google you when they find out who you are and it is very easy to discover my work online. Having said that, I have found someone now who doesn’t care much about it so it works. What you see is what you get with me whether it be a book or an article — it’s 100 percent genuine Mark.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 6, 2013.