Planes, Shame & Automobiles
Updated: Sep 12
The last time I flew was in 2016. I went to Anna Maria Island, Florida with my bestie for vacation. It was about two-and-a-half hours in the air. How early was I for the flight you ask? Three hours. I was there at the butt crack of dawn just in case they wanted to charge me for two plane tickets since my big booty will overflow one, not to mention the walk-a-mile trip from security to the gate. Mine is invariably the last one. Every time.
The time before that was in 2019 when I went to Oakland for a week of orientation and training for a new job that I was really excited about. That one is at least six hours in the air. Same story on the arrival, but then I had to trudge thru the ugliest airport in the world to get my bags and grab an Uber. I probably took a rest four or five times during that walk because I was about 20 pounds heavier than I'd been in 2016.
To say my fear of the dreaded possible second seat fare was crippling is an understatement. I'd been unemployed for a while so my finances were tight and I didn't know if I could afford to pay for a second seat at day-of-flight price. That would mean I'd have to call my brand new employer and ask them to pay for it. What if I wasn't worth it? What if they didn't think that sinking a few extra hundreds of dollars into me would pay off? What if my exciting opportunity went poof?
On the automobile side of things, I don't fit in all cars and if it's a foreign made car, the seatbelt usually won't fit me. People outside the US are simply smaller than our drivers are.
The most embarrassed I ever was with this was when I was on a date, many moons ago, and we were in his regular four-door sedan. I mentioned something about it being a beautiful night as we walked from the restaurant to my car, and he said, "I thought about bringing my vintage Trans Am with the t-tops open, but I wasn't sure if you'd fit in it."
Before you get mad at him, we'd met online and he'd seen my full body pictures. He obviously liked more "plush" women, but it's hard to judge exact size from a photo. I appreciated that he was thoughtful enough not to bring it and have me be so completely embarrassed that I couldn't go on the date with him because I didn't fit into his cool car.
Didn't stop me from the knee jerk reaction of shame though. And it hit me hard.
Shame is Embarrassment-Zilla. It goes beyond an embarrassed blush and scorches one down to their bones. I hate no emotion more than shame, and as an obese woman I feel it much more than I should in this thin-obsessed world we live in. Here's some of the greatest all the time shame highlights I've experienced:
When I'm walking somewhere and have to take a break to deal with my sore back and asthma, I'm ashamed.
When I go to an all-you-can-eat buffet, I'm embarrassed, even though I'm sure I don't eat more than any other person.
When I've had to get tee shirts or polos with my company logo for an event or trade show, I want to die when I tell them that no, a 3x won't fit me.
When the people I'm with want to go somewhere that will include a long walk from our parking space, I know I'm going to slow down everyone's pace by a lot and wish I'd never left the house in the first place.
When I'm in a public bathroom and have to use the handicapped stall because I won't fit in a regular stall and someone else in the bathroom gives "the look" like I should be taken out back and shot.
I don't know if thin or slightly overweight people who can still navigate the world really get that this stuff happens All. The. Damn. Time. Probably not or they would make allowances. I think most people are actually really nice and if I were in a wheelchair, they'd deal with it, no sweat. But because I caused my body to overgrow (and the jury is still out on what truly causes obesity - genetics or gluttony), the nice people will do what's needed to make things work for me, but they'll do it with a healthy done of judgment while they're at it. They won't express it, and they may even be ashamed of doing it, but that's how society and the media has trained people to think about people like me.