An Open Letter to Thin People Who Feel Infringed on by Fat People on Airplanes

You don’t know me, but I know you.

I see you glance at me over your magazine or phone at the gate. You cast your gaze downward when I meet it. “I hope I don’t get stuck next to her,” I imagine you thinking as you go back to scrolling through your social media feed. Maybe you tweet about me, the fat woman sitting across from you at the gate, whose hips can barely be contained by the generous seat. Maybe you text your thin friend, who will understand your anxiety about being seated next to me on the plane.

I wish I could tell you that I’m also terrified of being seated next to you. I’m afraid of how you’ll look at me, what you’ll say to me. I’m afraid that you might film me, film how my thighs struggle against the seat and invade your space, perhaps to laugh at me on social media or complain to the airline afterward. I steel myself for a confrontation that hasn’t happened yet. I scan the other people waiting at the gate; each thin person is a potential aggressor, someone who may be disgusted and enraged by sitting next to me. I try to shrink myself in my chair. It’s no use. My hips touch the arms of the chair, and there’s nothing I can do about it. I am grateful, however, that the seats at the gate are wide. The arms of the seat don’t dig into my hips; they just gently graze them. Since we are stuck at this gate for a few hours, I am thankful that this particular chair will not leave me with bruises on my hips. It’s happened many times before, and it’s a discomfort I have come to both expect and never question. I usually greet the discomfort with a weary sigh, but in this case, I was able to breathe a sigh of relief. This seat is comfortable. Usually, seats are not.

I return to my book and try to forget about you.

I snuggle into my husband, who is traveling with me. He is thin and conventionally attractive, but he doesn’t mind when I invade his space. I also see you glance at him, then back to me, your eyes darting to our wedding rings. I know what you’re thinking. “How does that work? How is he with her?” My husband doesn’t see this, but I do. He never sees it. He grabs my hand. He knows I don’t like to fly.

We take a selfie, because we’re on our honeymoon.

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The act of being in the airport feels bold to me. It’s something I have been afraid of doing. I wish I could tell you how much thought and preparation went into this flight. I spent hours online researching the policies of the airline, taking comfort in knowing the possible outcomes if I do not fit into the seat, or if a passenger takes exception to my presence. I seek out opinions online — I am part of a group of fat travelers who share information about the aircrafts they’ve flown on, how big the seats and seatbelts are, what the “customer of size” policies are, how accommodating the airline is. The group has thousands and thousands of people just like me, who are terrified of people like you, of being dehumanized and humiliated. I try to find pictures of aircraft seats online. I try to find the exact seat size, arm rest to arm rest, so I can determine whether the pillowy expanse of my hips will fit within them. I know that the measure of whether I will be able to fly peacefully depends, in part, on that measurement.

In the end, the math that makes the most sense is upgrading to a first class ticket. We are not rich, but it is worth the added peace of mind.

I see your face when I stand up to board first. You scan me, trying to understand. I do not look rich; I’m wearing jeans, a hoodie, a t-shirt, beat up old Converse sneakers. “How is she boarding before me?!” you think to yourself. Your eyes turn, once again, to my husband. “That’s it,” you say to yourself. “He must be well-off.” You stop looking, satisfied. Because you assume that because of my size, I must also be lazy, underemployed, poor. But you jut out your jaw a little bit at the injustice of it all when you turn back to your phone. I feel you hovering close to the outskirts of the line, waiting to board, furious that I get to board before you.

In the first boarding group, a thin man in a suit pushes past me. He also cannot believe I am there, so has decided that he can push me out of the way. He has more of a right to be there than me. His carry-on is a laptop. He is very important.

My husband grabs my hand again, and kisses me on the cheek. He acts as a protective shield in situations like this. If he could fold me up into his luggage to transport me fully shielded from you and your gaze, your jutted jaw, your brief but unmistakable eye-rolls, he would. He just wants me to get there unscathed.

We board the plane, and I hang back, like I always do. There are many people here who are more important than me in this priority boarding group, so I let them board first. I don’t want to make a scene, or act too entitled. I know I am lucky to be here. I want you to know that I know I’m lucky, so I let everyone else board first. I am quiet, and smile at everyone who passes me. My smile is deferential, appeasing, a shield.

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When we get to the plane, I find my seat. In first class, there are only two seats per row, thank god. The only person whose space I can infringe on is my husband’s space, and he doesn’t mind.

I get to my seat. The man in the suit with the carry-on laptop is in my seat. I wait for a moment, and then approach him. “I’m sorry,” I say, in my most polite voice. “I think you’re in my seat?” It is not a question, but I phrase it as such, so as not to seem too bold or accusatory. I am the master of non-intimidating uptalk.

He looks at his ticket. He’s already stowed away his laptop bag and opened his laptop. He says nothing, does not apologize, but collects his things and moves to his seat.

I ask my husband if he can put my carry-on in the overhead bin. I ask him to do this not because I am lazy, but because I worry about what will happen if in reaching up to stow away my bag, my shirt travels up an exposes a bit of back or tummy. I wear a camisole underneath my t-shirt to shield any eyes from my exposed flesh, in the event that it becomes a possibility, but I’m still nervous about it. I never know what will set you off, and I feel your eyes on me. So I’m not risking it.

I settle in, crack open my book. I’m sitting my the window because even though the window makes me feel anxious during the flight, it provides some degree of protection from other passengers.

I ask a flight attendant for a seatbelt extender. She grabs one and passes it to me discreetly, with a wink, like she were handing me something illicit or embarrassing. Her discretion is not necessary, but I am grateful for this act of kindness.

The rest of you board. I focus on my book, but I feel you pass me, one at a time, and look before you head to the other side of the curtain, to find your economy seat. Sometimes I catch a hint of befuddlement, sometimes resentment. “Who is she? How come she’s in first class?” The feeling of collective injustice is palpable as you all pass. I mentally challenge you not to look at me. You all do, anyway.

We take off. I did it, I got on the plane without any major incidents. I absorb myself in my book. The rest of the passengers forget about me.

I am offered drinks by the flight attendants, but I refuse, because I know there’s another hour left in the flight and I won’t fit into the tiny bathroom. I am thirsty, but say, “No thank you.” I have strategically planned my meals and fluids for this flight, and stopped eating and drinking several hours before we boarded. Every part of this trip has been strategically planned.

I wish you knew, I wish you could understand, how much planning goes into travel when you’re fat. It adds more layers to your trip than I think you can imagine. I am lucky, because I am white, able-bodied, and can hide behind my husband. If you are brown, disabled, trans, or otherwise visibly “different,” it adds even more layers. There are even more eyes on you, as you try to quietly get to your destination.

Consider Norma Rodgers’ experience. I wonder if the woman on the flight, loudly calling the large bodies she was seated between “pigs” and telling the flight attendant she “can’t breathe,” would have been so bold seated beside me. She was seated between two people who were fat, but also Black. I imagine this added to her distress. Not only was she flanked by people in large bodies who had the audacity to want to travel, she was flanked by two Black people in large bodies. I imagine it added to her rage, that the bodies touching hers had brown skin. She didn’t know or care that Norma Rodgers is a distinguished nursing professional. To the woman, her presence was an affront to her privileged status, her right to travel in comfort.

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It’s a right fat people are rarely afforded. We don’t expect comfort. We plan, we strategize, we prepare for confrontations. Scenarios race through our heads. And someone should tell Pete Singer, a noted animal activist and fatphobe who considers obesity “an ethical issue” and vocal opinion-haver about fat people on airplanes, that we do pay more. We pay to upgrade to first class, as I did, so as not to infringe on other passengers’ right to not be bothered by us. We often pay for an extra seat, to place a barrier of space between us and other passengers, so they are not bothered by us. That doesn’t even get into the emotional and mental toll we pay when we travel. Or that everything costs us more, down to the clothes on our backs. We pay, and we pay dearly. Sometimes we cannot bear the cost, so we do not travel at all, instead opting to stay home, in an environment we can control, free from the prying eyes of strangers trying to determine how much our bodies cost them and impede their ability to be comfortable and unencumbered. Sometimes we bow out of attending destination weddings, work trips, vacations, funerals. All because your comfort is worth more than ours.

I wish I could tell you, and have you understand, how great my fear of you is. I have never traveled far. I live on the East Coast, and the farthest I’ve made it was New Mexico. I was there for work. Before the trip, I spent weeks fretting over the flight. Would I fit? What if I asked my employer if they could send me by train instead? How long would that take?

Once, at work, I was excited to go to a conference I had helped plan. But I worried. I looked up how much it would cost to upgrade to a first class ticket out of my own pocket, even though I knew I couldn’t afford it on a nonprofit salary. I was both relieved, and saddened, when I was told at the last minute that I would not be attending the conference after all. My boss cited “budget concerns,” but I knew the truth. The cost of me flying to the conference was not worth my labor at a table, handing out pamphlets, because they didn’t want me representing them anyway. The week my entire department was gone at the conference, I sat alone in my cubicle. My entire department went, except for me. Before the trip, after I was told I would not be attending, my inbox swelled with desperate requests for finding volunteers. They needed me, but they also didn’t want me. It was a lonely week.

I have never traveled internationally, because I fear being trapped on board a long flight with you. I have never traveled internationally because while I am privileged enough to be able to afford to upgrade to first class for a short flight, that may not be the case for an international flight. And I know it will be a long flight, and your odds of being angry and uncomfortable will increase, and that I am at risk of being a target for your anger.

The thing is, I don’t expect comfort. I want it, sure, but I deal with discomfort every day. I do not expect chairs that will be comfortable; I expect chairs that will be uncomfortable, and may even bruise me. But I have learned to minimize my discomfort, and pretend that I am fine, for your benefit. I have also learned to avoid situations where your comfort might be compromised by me, by having to be near me or see me, which is why I do not travel as much as I’d like.

The solution seems simple, to me. Provide a few seats on flights that are larger, where fat people can be seated, away from your thin body and your expectation of comfort. But not only do you insist on comfort, you also insist on not paying extra for that comfort, so airlines must shove as many seats as possible onto the plane so you can purchase your tickets for less. All of this is your doing, yet we bear the blame. We miss out on so much because of your entitlement. I would pay more for such a seat, even though I make a modest salary and it would require extra financial planning, but I can hear your protests already — “Why should fat people get special treatment or special seats? Why should I risk having my ticket’s price go up so the plane can add a few extra seats where one fat person can sit instead of two or three people like me?” There is no winning here.

What you want is for us to be weighed at the airport. Your thought is that we should be asked to pay more, and you should be asked to pay less, because you have been successful in your pursuit of thinness. “I eat salads,” you hiss at fat passengers like Norma. I also eat salads, and I’m sure Norma, being a nurse, does too. (I eat a lot of salads, because for fat people, all eating is performative.) But you eat salads, and you are thin, and you therefore deserve privileges the rest of us are not afforded. You can’t feel the congratulations all around you, the privileges you are already granted for your thinness and salad-eating, so you feel you deserve even more. You don’t even realize that we already pay more than you.

I know better than to ask much of you. I want to ask you for compassion, to remember that the fat person sitting next to you or near you on a flight is a human being. I want to ask you to remember that you don’t know us, or why we’re flying, and to consider the idea that maybe our sole purpose for being on that plane is not to make you uncomfortable or invade your space. I want to ask to you to please be kind. And consider that fat people have no desire to touch you or squish you or infringe on your space any more than you wish to be infringed upon. We don’t want to touch you any more than you want us touching you. We just want to get to our destination, and live our lives. That’s all.

I want to ask you these things, but I don’t dare. I have learned that asking things of you results in rage.

I hope you’ll do better, but the news cycle constantly reminds me that you will not. You refuse. You constantly disappoint.

I hope you will prove me wrong one day, and instead of eyeing me with suspicion and disdain, or pushing me out of the way, you’ll do what I do and simply smile at a fellow traveller.

207 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Thin People Who Feel Infringed on by Fat People on Airplanes

  1. This is a beautifully written piece and I am truly sorry for the anxiety and lack of self esteem that you feel when traveling. I do, however want to point out that you may be wrong in your assumption that “Your thought is that we should be asked to pay more, and you should be asked to pay less, because you have been successful in your pursuit of thinness.” Whereas there are some very judgemental people who do attack others based on their size, thin people can also be victims of abuse as well.

    Some people will starve themselves to get to their ‘ideal’ shape and I think we all agree that that is a really bad move. The media portrayal of the ideal body is also harmful. However, there are people who are naturally very thin and this leads to it’s own problems. My wife is one of those people. The thing is, people always assume that a thin person is starving themselves to get to that weight. My wife can eat and eat and not put on any weight. However, she would love to be at least a size 10 and has a bad self image with regards to her body. She has been the victim of dirty looks and whispered voices. Some people have even been openly hostile towards her. She has been labelled as ‘anorexic’, which is not only demeaning to her but also disrespectful of people suffering from Anorexia Nervosa.

    I certainly agree with your sentiments. No-one should discriminate against anyone. Just bear in mind that not all thin people are contributing to the problem.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There is self-esteem and body image, and then there is systemic oppression. Thin people are not systemically oppressed. People of all sizes may feel bad about themselves, suffer from poor self-esteem, may be bullied or have rude comments made by others, but systemic hatred of fat bodies is a very different thing. I wish you and your wife the best.

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  2. That’s actually not what I’m thinking at all. I’m thinking that my shoulders are already too broad for the seat as it is. I’m thinking that I can’t help but have my arms drape down on the armrest because that’s just the way my body occupies what little seat I’m given. I’m thinking that this flight is going to be a constant juggle of whose body parts are going where. Both mine and yours. I won’t necessarily like it.

    I think you might be doing people a disservice by assuming what’s going on in their minds. I frankly don’t care about what choices you’ve made to get to this point, it’s none of my business. Well, unless you have Ebola. Somehow westerners with Ebola have an irresistable urge to get on an airplane. Other than Ebola, please don’t judge me for what you think I may be thinking.

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      1. “I think you might be doing people a disservice by assuming what’s going on in their minds.”

        I very much agree with this statement. Your attitude in this regard is what I saw over and over in your post. When it seems to be all negative assumptions, it is quite unattractive.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Your lack of interest in your social (not physical) attractiveness to the general public is very much in line with what you wrote. I am sorry for this, but it will not change unless you choose to try. I wish you well but I hold little hope.

        This “random internet person” came to this post because it was suggested to me by WordPress. If you have a problem with that, I suggest you cease using WordPress or at least tell them you want your blog to be private (if they do such a thing).

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I have no problem with WordPress suggesting my post to other people, in fact, it’s been awesome. And even if you followed the link and read my post, you still felt compelled to comment on my attractiveness in the comments. Randomly and anonymously commenting on the attractiveness of strangers, and then assuming that I want to or need to change, is also an unattractive quality. It’s a DEEPLY unattractive quality. So, perhaps, if you are so concerned about social and physical attractiveness, you can work on yourself and consider why you felt the need to weigh in on my attractiveness or insistence that I should care about what you think of me, based on a small snippet of my life presented in a blog (that was written to make a larger point about the treatment of fat people on airplanes, in reaction to a video of two fat passengers being verbally abused). That you felt the need to weigh in and tell me I need to change because I am unattractive to you says more about who YOU are than anything else.

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      4. “… if you are so concerned about social and physical attractiveness, ….”

        First, I will point out that I said absolutely nothing about your physical attractiveness, other than to specifically point out that I was not referring to it.

        I felt compelled to comment on your attitude (which, yes, I did describe as unattractive) in the hope that you might benefit from it. Obviously, that is not happening. My motives were pure so I leave this conversation with no regrets in that regard.

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      5. I also find your attitude unattractive, and posit that perhaps you should not walk around thinking that you have some obligation to “help” people who have not asked for your help and do not need it, and instead try listen and learn before you comment. Or, maybe write in your own blog and contribute something instead of showing up to share your unsolicited opinions on other people’s work and attitudes.

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  3. I’m flying to Turkey in six weeks. If they sit me beside an obese person, I will ask to be moved. I will not be rude or demeaning, but it is not my fault that person chooses not to take control of their health. I should not have to put their emotional well-being before my physical comfort on a 14 hour flight. if you do not fit within the bounds of a seat, you are affecting other’s comfort. That goes for obese individuals as well as bodybuilders or anyone too large for the standard seat. I was recently on a flight to Las Vegas where I had to lean to the left the entire flight and I can’t tell you how much my back hurt when we arrived. When people say the airline should come up with a solution, it only shows their lack on knowledge regarding the physics of flight. Aircraft have to be as light as possible and balanced front to back. Today’s aircraft, made years ago, were designed to carry less than they are. Airplanes are having to fly with less fuel in order to accommodate that weight, which affects safety. Heavy people have to be distributed around the cabin. If all the heavy people were in the back and all the lighter people in the front, the aircraft would take off, stall, and crash. Less politically correct airlines like Uzbekistan and Somoa already weight their passengers. Since fuel consumption is primarily driven by weight, the airlines would be perfectly within their right to charge by the pound. As a 243 lb man, I would pay a lot more than a little guy or most women, but I still think it would be a fair policy. Maybe then, the airlines could afford to put on some wider seats, knowing the cost is already covered by the price of the ticket for the heavier person. In the meantime, you can’t just expect people to be happy to sit beside you in a tiny seat for hours. I’m sorry it hurts your feelings and I’m glad your husband is there to help you through it, but you are going to have to toughen up if you don’t want to start buying two seats.

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    1. As a 243lbs man, you do realize you ARE the obese people you are railing against and refuse to be seated next to, right? And someone others may not wish to sit next to, may secretly film, or complain to the airline about? Hope you’re planning on following your own advice, toughening up, and purchasing two seats for yourself on your trip. Good luck.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. As a man, I’m already tough. I could care less what others think. I technically do fall into the obese category but I have never had anyone look at me funny or be mean to me in any way because of my weight. I think it’s mostly self-fulfilled prophecy. If you expect bad things, you’ll see them. Maybe a new attitude would help. You’re obviously self-conscious.
        Don’t put that all off on other people. Learn to like yourself or work on what you don’t like.
        On the way to Las Vegas, I chatted with the (I’d guess) 300 lb woman in the seat beside me. She was nice. She still made me uncomfortable and hurt my back but there wasn’t anywhere else to go so I made the best of it. I’m sure she knew what was happening and felt bad so why make her feel worse? I’m also sure there are a lot more people like me out there than the evil, bad, nasty people you expected to see and, of course, saw.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Men are hardly inherently tough, as evidenced by the gaggle of fragile man-babies whose comments I’ve been deleting for 3 days. And it’s really interesting to me that you blame the woman next to you for your discomfort rather than considering that perhaps both of you were too large for your seats, and made each other uncomfortable, especially given that she was not much heavier than you. But, by your own standards, you should be purchasing an extra seat for yourself. So, I hope you’re planning on doing that, rather than hoping you get seated next to a thin person whose space you can invade.

        That shoe doesn’t feel too nice on the other foot, does it?

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      3. To be anywhere near my weight, a woman has to have an incredible amount of fat on her. Fat has more mass per pound than muscle, therefore, a woman of even equal weight will be MUCH wider than me, especially since most women put on weight around their hips and legs. I am heavy, but nobody who looks at me thinks I’m fat. At 6′ and 243 lbs, I fit just fine in one seat. In fact, at 12% body fat, I used to weigh 185 with less muscle than I have now so I’ve always been heavier than I look. Sorry, but the shoe feels just fine.

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      4. It’s a real shame that BMI doesn’t take muscle mass into account, isn’t it? Because your BMI is 33, which classifies you as obese, whether you consider youself obese or not, which means that you should be purchasing a second seat for yourself. According to your own standards, unless your opinion only applies to women. Toughen up and admit you’re obese, buy your extra seat.

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      5. Does this guy or anyone realize that sometimes being obese, fat whatever may have an underlying cause (and it’s not always bad food choices or a lack of exercise). People make me I’ll. Ijs

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      6. Even if someone is fat because of their food choices or lack of exercise (and research shows time and again that fat people can follow restrictive diets and exercise religiously without any measurable impact on their weight, because it is largely a genetic issue, along with other factors science does not yet fully understand), you cannot surmise this by looking at someone, so it doesn’t matter. People should treat other people well, because they are human beings, and their weight is not a measure of their worth or whether they deserve basic human respect and access to things like air travel that are often a modern necessity.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I’m afraid you have your info mixed up, mate. Pound for pound, muscle weighs more than fat. This is why body builders have a high BMI and technically considered overweight, even if they are very lean.

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      1. This isn’t a physics calls. I was using the colloquial term “mass”, as in size. And if you’re going to nitpick, you can’t say “pound for pound, muscle weighs more than fat”. Pound for pound, everything weighs the same.

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  4. Hello!

    This post popped up in my reader and I am glad that it did.

    I will be transparent with you and say that it made me feel a lot of different things. Sympathy, empathy, frustration, a bit of incredulity.

    Firstly, each and every human and living creature deserves respect. Respect here being defined as regard for personal space, autonomy, and interacting within culture’s expectations. It is awful that humanity thrives on snap judgments based on what we see, and many times it is unfair. Having struggled with weight in the past (albeit only teetering on obese), I know the deep feeling of shame and self-consciousness that comes with being in any public space. I’ve felt the sting of very hurtful comments at my appearance. I can see here that you are fixated on what other’s think of you as you move through life. Having BDD, that is also something I empathize with deeply.

    I think you are absolutely correct in saying that the clear solution is to provide larger seats. I saw a couple of people in the comments, here, saying that flying is difficult for them due to things out of their control (height, disability). Larger seats would help many groups.

    We need to change our view. Gut reaction tells the logical side of people at a healthy weight that obesity is a choice. Okay, so what? Every day we all make choices, which add up to the sum that is us. I have depression – if I don’t choose the right thing throughout every phase of my life, is it my fault? Definitely not.

    Obesity is more complex than people realize. And at the end of the day, we are all people. I don’t know why that is so hard to understand.

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  5. Incredible to read. I felt I identified with certain aspects of the anxiety described but being skinny I was shocked to read people actually pay for first class or extra seats, that’s next level. I’ve recently made acquaintances with overweight people who have thyroid problems and it really highlights to me the stigmatic assumption that overweight people are unhealthy. Of course I’ll try to encourage those around me to live healthier but I know that the two aren’t as linked as many believe. My uncle was morbidly obese, it was the widest coffin I’d ever seen, yet I’m positive the smoking contributed just as much, and for some reason smokers don’t seem to be looked upon with the same distaste as the overweight. Anyway, thank you for writing this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading! I hope you’ll check out the work of Dr. Linda Bacon; improving health behaviors improves health but won’t necessarily result in weight loss, while intentional weight loss fails for 95% of people and weight cycling can have terrible impacts on health. But, either way, people may have to fly for one reason or another, and customers should be accommodated so everyone can safely and comfortably get to their destinations.

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  6. As usual, I think the problem is capitalism. It would be relatively easy to provide different seats to accommodate people of different sizes & shapes, but that would be less profitable. They want to cram everyone into the minimum possible space to maximise numbers, and thus profit.

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  7. I appreciate this article very much and I can see you’ve had a few comments from the “skinny” side. I am not a small person but my reaction was immediately to the time when I had a very large women sit down next to me. In the middle seat. When she and her family were the very last group to board (southwest) so they couldn’t sit together without a lot of rearranging and since they were the last to board, the flight attendants were rushing to get everyone seated so we could take off. I was flying home after a visit with my mom, who after 15 years of dementia, had a bad stroke. I had struggled whether I should leave or not, as I had been there a week and already stayed past my time and had no place to stay during my visit (she was in a facility). I was very emotionally fragile, and then this woman sat next to me. She had no choice but to take her seat and half of mine. I very much empathized with her situation, but as someone else said above, why am I penalized? I literally had no room of my own to sit – and was in the aisle or crammed against my seat rest. I spent a good portion of the flight in the galley as I became claustrophobic. Southwest offered to re-seat me – next to a person traveling with a young baby. So thank you for considering all angles of this. YOu offer an excellent solution for airlines to designate several larger seats for passengers of size. The airlines are doing everything just to make money and are not concerned about any or our comfort – no matter what our size. I will say after complaining, Southwest offered me some compensation. Which helped, as my mom ended up dying the following week.

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  8. A good read. Thank you! Here’s a few thoughts from a relatively small person: 1)I don’t think you should pay more for your seat, but I do wish I could have a bag that’s 1 lb over without having to pay extra. 2) I look everyone over that is going to sit next to me on a flight. Why? Because I’m an introvert, and I’m wishing that I didn’t have to sit next to strangers. And I am really hoping I don’t have to talk. I would try the headphone trick but I feel like a liar. I only have 1 song downloaded and it’s actually just white noise. And I can never find any headphones. 3) I hate being on the inside bc I have to get up to pee. all. the. time. Even if I drink very little. 4) I am small so I always get stuck in the middle seat with NO armrests. I am short but I have arms people. Also, See #3. 5.) I’m sorry that people are turds. Your perspective is valuable and your feelings matter. Empathy is a game changer so I am honored to know how you feel. 6) I have never flown first class but I think it’s overdue. I like to board the plane as close to last as possible bc I am claustrophobic. But I like to tell some unexpecting first classer that they are in my seat and then watch them spaz. Then I giggle, and they giggle and they probably think I am an idiot and I saunter off trying to figure out how I am 44 and still haven’t flown first class. 7) No one should ever brag about eating salads. Live off of pop tarts and Hawaiian bread for two weeks and then come bragging to me. Then you will be my hero.

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  9. What a horrible experience you’ve had. I’m glad it hasn’t put you off flying. My mum’s a big lady, she also has walking difficulties so, like you, I have to check seat width and accessibility when booking any travel. At first she was embarrassed about asking for the extra width seatbelt but the air stewards never made a big deal about it. We travel every year abroad in Europe and I’ve always found people to be polite and helpful on the airports, maybe its because the flights are to holiday destination or maybe its because my mother is an older lady. We did travel to Florida once and I did notice a difference on the return flight with the other passengers attitude to us being boarded first because of my mothers disability. The people who had booked business and first class glared and one actual complained. I don’t know how it works in America but in Britain and Europe is now a matter of course that anyone who needs aid getting on board is given priority, some airlines have wider seats as standard and assistance is available at the terminals too.

    There have been some horrible comments on here. A persons size does not reflect a person’s soul or heart and there are some very heartless people out there. I’m glad you’ve left the comments on.

    You are your husband make a gorgeous couple, I love the selfie.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! For the record, I am moderating comments, and pushing through a handful to demonstrate the kinds of comments I’ve been getting. I’ve been called a fat bitch more times than I can count in the past several days. So, for every 1 rude comment that’s posted, there were 10 abusive comments I trashed and blocked.

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      1. Honestly you’d think people would have better things to do with their time. They must be terribly miserable and insecure if they feel they must put other people down to feel better about themselves.

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  10. I agree with you 99.9 per cent. The only thing I disagree with is that part where you say airlines can’t put more generous seats on their planes because skinny people don’t want to pay more for fare. Unless I see proof otherwise, I’ll assume it was not your intention put blame on skinny people. But it could read that way to others who might take it at face value. And that’s hardly better than skinny people blaming fat people for limited space.

    Passengers are not responsible for each others’ comfort. Ultimately, that responsibility falls on the airline. It’s their craft, they have control over the level of accommodation it can provide. They choose not to do anything about it because of, as another reader had commented, capitalism. No passenger is at fault there, fat or skinny.

    Outside of that tiny bone of contention, I support you and the spirit of this open letter.

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    1. There are groups of skinny people campaigning to weigh fat people at the airport and charge them based on their weight. Is every single individual skinny person responsible? No. But are skinny passengers actively working against accommodating fat passengers? Absolutely. Google “Weigh More, Pay More.” There is also a link in the post. If you’re not an ally and advocating for better accommodation on planes and elsewhere, you’re complicit, and part of the problem. Airlines aren’t making these decisions in a vacuum: thin customers drive the conversation.

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      1. I have not said anywhere that I don’t share the call for better accommodation. On the contrary, I’d rather that all forms of transportation have something for everyone regardless of weight, because weight should never be used to deny anyone respect. All I took exception to is skinny people being lumped together as if all of them are working against fat passengers. Again, I’m not at all opposed to what you believe in, and I pledge my support of it in consideration of fat people everywhere including many of my close friends. I also accept that there are skinny people who actively seek to undermine that cause. That’s why I feel that the distinction should be clear; not all of us are out there trying to hold you back. And neither is it our fault that airlines factor us into their decisions. If that were the case, should we then stop being skinny?

        But scratch that. Since you already clarified that not every single individual skinny person is responsible, then okay, I’ll take your word for it. I meant no belligerence. I don’t consider myself your enemy, nor am I trying to be. I have an awkward way of discussing things, and I hope it hasn’t put you under any additional undue stress considering that you already have to deal with comments from man-children around here. For what it’s worth, I found your letter a stirring call to action and I’ll be the first to dissuade my any of my skinny friends from supporting any Weigh More, Pay More campaigns or similar clamor that may pop up in our corner of the world. That may not mean much to you, coming from me as a stranger, and you might not acknowledge it as any sort of substantial support. But if any of us pitching in for this cause were to be preoccupied with gratitude, then we shouldn’t even be involved anyway.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thank you. I will admit that I am a bit tired of reading and responding to #notallskinnypeople comments on this post. It’s in the title — if you don’t fall into the category of thin people who are offended by fat people on airplanes, then it’s not addressed to you. If you are an ally, then it’s not addressed to you. If you are someone who advocates for better accessibility on airplanes, then it’s not addressed to you.

        I am not interested in dragging or demonizing all thin people in the world. I am attempting to draw attention to a systemic issue that oppresses people in society and can limited the parts of life they are allowed to participate in. I don’t place blame on each thin person, individually, though certainly in situations like the one linked in my post where two fat passengers were verbally abused by a thin passenger, individuals certainly have some blame. I do hope for better from people, as a whole. For some people that means not abusing the fat person sitting next to them on the plane, and for some people that simply means opening their eyes to an experience they do not personally have, having compassion, and demanding better from society and others. Because marginalized people need people to use their social privilege for good.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I now see that it can get tiring having to deal with the people acting all defensive. Sorry for piling on, mea culpa.

        I’d like nothing more than to see a world where no one is ever in danger of experiencing what was described in your post. It’ll be an arduous struggle for all of us, but it’s worth it. Hang in there.

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  11. Great post! I’ve never been a small girl, but now well into my 20s I find myself experiencing some of these things you mentioned. I dared wear a crop top out and got horrible looks as I unashamedly ate a double cheese burger at Five Guys in it. How dare I eat and show skin?

    But airplanes really are the worst. I’ve always had wide hips and have never felt comfortable on planes in the coach section. I curl my shoulders in as much as possible to avoid touching my neighbors. It isn’t comfortable for anyone, especially as it affects my disability to try to minimize my size. Being both fat and disabled doubles the anger of onlookers. Look at me taking up space and needing assistance that should go to the “more deserving.” How could I?

    Can’t wait to read more of your stuff!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I’ve traveled with my fiance, the rather thin woman with the overweight man. I’ve seen how people look at us. At him. Our world doesn’t like “different”. Thank you for sharing your experience with us. Nobody should have to feel that way. Ever.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’ve noticed how people look at my boyfriend and I, though our situation is reversed. He is a tall, lean drink of water and I am on the “wrong side” of pleasantly plump. But what helps me when people look and whisper is knowing that he loves me EXACTLY as I am, body and soul. And I’m willing to bet that is a sentiment you share about your fiance. That love and healthy appreciation for the fat form by our partners can be immensely comforting.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I once sat next to a fat old lady on a flight to London for the first time. I felt airsick and felt like dying until the lady asked an air hostess to get a glass of apple cider which she made me drink. I felt a whole lot better and she didnt mind me passing out on her as I laid my head on her lap. So yeah, I love fat people

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  14. You are a strong woman. Thank you for sharing your most frightened experience. Everyone no matter thin or thick, short or tall are all self-conscious at something we might not realized. I’m happy for you that you are on your honeymoon with the person that think nothing but the best of you. Remember “Beauty is in the eyes of beholder”, and is only his eyes that matter.
    Enjoy your honeymoon! Can’t wait for you to share all the happy moments.

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  15. I read this entire blog and I do sympathise with you. It’s very easy to associate obesity with gluttony, and that’s as wrong and unfair as it can be. I try my best not to fall in that trap. And more importantly, I try my best not to paint every person with the same brush.

    But on the same token, I’d like you not to the same with those travellers you encounter on your journeys. I’ve had, in more than one occasion, been sat next to a person of size who, as you said, was encroaching into my seat, somebody who couldn’t really lower the armrest without great discomfort. And in every case they were as mortified as I was uncomfortable.

    I, and I’d hope even the most of other people who happen to be in this situation, don’t want my seatmate to be weighted at the gate, to be buffooned or ridiculed. The only thing I would’ve wished was for my seatmate to have done was to have booked an extra seat. I appreciate it’s an expense, and an inconvenience, but it’d have gone a long way to make their, and mine as well, journey more pleasurable.

    Fabrizio

    Liked by 1 person

  16. This is such an expressive and thoughtful post! I feel you and the struggles you had to go through. But I honestly think what we think about ourselves matters more than how others think about us and see us (or how we think they see us) You may or may not be right in assuming all that they thought they were thinking about you but for a fact you should know that if they did, they are indeed wrong if they choose to mistreat/judge a person because of a certain way they are. You are so much more than just this one thing that people try to put a label on. I mean this is just something that helped me gain confidence and be at peace and I hope you try to look at yourself in a positive light without thinking about others too. Cheers!

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    1. Thank you! The thing is, the issue here is not my confidence or how I feel about myself. I am happy. I am secure, and loved, and confident. The issue is external forces that marginalize people and oppress them. It’s not fair, or even realistic, to put the onus back on people who are marginalized and “othered” in society to find a well of inner strength and rise above systemic oppression. People cannot love themselves out of oppression.

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  17. Our bodies are a vessel, a shell for our souls that live inside. It’s a shame so many of us have to be preoccupied by size, shape, and exterior presence. But alas, we’ve been doing this our whole lives.

    Thank you for expressing your vulnerability; your humanity. Thanks also for bringing in the experience of “other” into the conversation based on the intersection of race, class, gender, religion, sexuality, disability, etc. It’s important to remember that our experience in our bodies is compounded in many unique ways due to implicit bias.

    Finally, my advice to you is to love yourself (vessel included) and do your best to assume the best in others. I know there are jerks out there (as evidenced by some of the replies), but most folks are good, and most folks don’t hate fat people. They just haven’t met the person inside the body yet. It’s time to escape the shell and prove to the masses how awesome you are!

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    1. Thanks for your kind words. The thing is, I think it’s a cop-out to put the onus back on people who are marginalized to “assume the best of others” when they are constantly shown the worst. I have had the worst of humanity flooding my inbox since this blog post was highlighted; I’ve gotten about 10-20 messages that are outright abusive each day. You can’t love yourself out of systemic oppression. You can’t love yourself out of being marginalized by society at large. You can’t simply love yourself into living in a more accessible society when you are constantly PHYSICALLY shut out of participating in many areas of life. Sure, I can love myself, and I do. But that doesn’t change the fact that people as a whole need to do better, and use their social privilege to advocate for people who are oppressed (which is something that applies to far more battles than just size accessibility).

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      1. Point taken. It sucks that people are abusive and heartless. And I see your point on the systemic marginalization too. Guess I’m just really idealistic (or living in a fantasy world) wanting happiness for everyone and believing people can be good, honest, and empathetic. As an educator, that’s what I work for. I’ll continue to do my part. Thanks for the candor. My eyes have been opened, if even just slightly more by this discourse.

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  18. Frankly I couldn’t care less about the size of my fellow passengers. What I care about is their courtesy.

    Provided I can get passed them (I tend to book the window seats) should I need to get up to use the restroom, or perhaps stretch my legs then I am OK. Or if the person(a) sitting in the seats directly next to me are of a bigger build, I would hope that they are good enough to stand and move to let me past.

    I remember one flight I had a large couple next to me. Both where very large indeed. And both were frankly rude and moronic. They refused to move to allow me past to go to the loo, I had to struggle and squeeze past them, which arguably was more embarrassing for them than me. All it would have taken was some common sense and courtesy and it would have saved them a lot of abuse from other nearby passengers heckling them for their weight.

    Their behaviour does not beget the abuse they received, but they could have prevented it.

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    1. Wait, are you saying you verbally abused these two “moronic” large people next to you? I’m confused by what you’re getting at here. Your experience with two large people on an airplane has literally nothing to do with anyone or anything else, least of all the systemic issue of abuse of fat people in airplanes and lack of accessibility. If you’re looking at an experience with TWO PEOPLE and using that experience to paint all people with larger bodies with one large brush stroke, then that’s a problem that begins and ends with you.

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      1. Not at all, as my comment clearly states, other passengers did.

        The reason I refer to them as moronic is because they were. They were too stupid to realise that in that scenario a little courtasy would have gone a long way and saved a lot of hassle for all involved.

        I do not believe that this one experience defines all experiences with large people.

        The fact that these two passengers were fat is actually more or less irrelevant to the anecdote. Had they been thin persons it still would have been a struggle due to the way airlines pack their passengers on board like cattle.

        My anecdote was in relation to the fact that they were abused by other people because they deliberately made the situation harder than it needed to be.

        If a fellow passenger needs to get past you, you get up and move out the way. Everybody knows that. Your weight shouldn’t preclude, or exclude, you from this unwritten rule.

        Had they been courteous and moved, they would not have suffered the rudeness and abuse that they did.

        Please don’t tell me my comment has nothing to do with anything or anyone when clearly it does. You didn’t have to approve it. And you certainly don’t need to be looking for an argument where there isn’t one to be had. If my original comment was unclear, you should has asked for clarification before assuming my agenda, and before making accusations that are unjust and unfounded.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. First, don’t tell me what to do or say on my own blog. Got it? Thanks.

        Second, your comment was clear about none of that. And if the fact that they were fat was irrelevant to your little story, why did you feel the need to share it on my blog post about the treatment of fat people on airplanes? It is not a blog post about the abuse heaped on people when they refused to let you by so you could use the bathroom. I have never refused to let anyone by when they have tried to pass me in an airline, movie theater, or anywhere else. So, what does this story have to do with ANYTHING? And the woman in the video linked in my blog post, who was verbally abused, did not refuse to let a thin person out of the aisle to use the bathroom. In fact, she was sitting by the window. So, your tale has literally nothing to do with absolutely anything contained in my blog post, unless your thesis is that people ask for abuse from other passengers? Which is empirically not the case with either the situation this post is reacting to, or in most cases where fat people are abused on airplanes.

        And if you’re sharing this because you believe that people who are abused and harassed are at fault and must have somehow triggered the abuse, well, we’re at an impasse. Because I flatly disagree with that, whether that is in reference to harassment of fat people on airplanes, street harassment of women, racial harassment, and so on.

        Maybe this one couple was awful. I don’t know, I wasn’t there, and I am getting one side to your story. And if they were abused, as you contend, because they were rude and wouldn’t let you pass to go to the bathroom, and not due to their weight, then it still has absolutely nothing to do with my blog post or the subject I’m attempting to discuss. So, go write you own blog about the experience if you want, but it’s neither here nor there in this discussion.

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      3. Once again, reading in to my comment and seeing things that aren’t there. I assume at this point you’re just reading what you want to read.

        The point I was making, is that two fat people did something rude and I considerate, and instead of people calling them out on their rudeness like you would expect, comments immediately turned to their weight. Because that’s the horrible world we live in nowadays.

        It is clearly connected to your post. You are clearly, deliberately, not seeing the connection. I replied nicely, you are still deliberately missing the point so let me spell it out to you.

        Blog post about fat person receiving abuse on a plane + comment about fat people receiving abuse on a plane = connected topics.

        I have not once even remotely implied my acceptance of fat persons being abused in any way, or anyone else for that matter. Nor have I implied these people were asking for abuse about their weight. But that’s clearly what you’re getting from my comments.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. They are not connected, because you stated IN YOUR PREVIOUS COMMENT that these passengers being fat was irrelevant to your story. I was not rude to anyone on a plane, the passengers in the video who were abused by another passenger were not rude to anyone on a plane, therefore your story is not relevant unless I grasp hard to understand whatever point you are clumsily trying to make… about how people should be polite to others or face abuse? That was literally the only water I could squeeze from your dry stone of a story.

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      5. Once again deliberately missing the point.

        Tell you what. If you’re that unhappy with anything I’ve said and can’t be bothered to ask for clarification: delete my comments. After all, as you say, it’s your blog.

        I apologise if I didn’t make my points clear enough, but instead of responding rudely, all you had to do was ask questions.

        Liked by 3 people

  19. Hey Linda, I also believe that little bit of understanding and courtesy can go a long way. Unfortunately we are living in a world that judgment is use as a self defense mechanism.

    Cannot wait to read more on your site.

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  20. I’ve never flown before, but I understand where you’re coming from. There are things I encounter everyday because of my weight. Many times there is someone looking at me with a side eye trying to see what I’m going to do next; so they can have something to talk about. It seems no matter where you go because of your size people are going to treat you like you don’t deserve the amount of respect you do.
    As we know, no one person is the same and we should be excepted for our differences not ridiculed because of them. The sad part is people like myself who are different always find them self trying to appease the person who is excepted by society. We do this by being extra nice, polite, soft spoken, or by being reserved, because we’re trying to do everything in attempts to be excepted by the people who don’t except us.

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  21. I am a small person both vertically and horizontally; i hate flying ……nothing fits me; I’m very anxious and hate the confined space . I never think negatively about larger people on a flight ……i am totally engaged in my own anxiety. I hate using the bathroom because it is really claustrophobic . I once had a women ; bigger than me ; fall asleep ……i had the inside seat . She didn’t wake up and i needed to use the rest room . I had to crawl over her; i felt bad about that…….i should have had the outside seat because anxiety makes me have to pee. Flying is just horrible for everyone .

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  22. Thank you for you! Being vulnerable enough to write this piece is inspiring. We all have something we have to deal with and I too wish people did not judge what they do not know. I have a compromised immune system which makes flying difficult for me, even with masks and hand sanitizer, so I pay more for first class as to not have to be around as many people in cramped seats. But I always feel like I get stares too. It would be nice to just have smiles from others who know we are all human and in this journey together. (Just some at different levels of enlightenment) I hope you know there are many who will see You and your beautiful self just as I know you see me and others. So take comfort in those smiles if warmth that do come your way, to ease the anxiety, by just even one person, maybe me, smiling back with a genuine love of who you be. 💖💫

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  23. This was wonderfully written! I’ve never been on a plane but I connected with absolutely all of this. I can always feel it when people are looking at me, judging me due to my size. I absolutely hate eating in front of most people because I fear they’re looking at both *what* I’m eating and how* much* of it I’m eating in one sitting.

    I have been made fun of, bullied and insulted all my life because I’m bigger and that has created and led to social anxiety, depression, feeling inferior…(thanks, former classmates!) Turns out my size is due, in part, to a medical condition.

    You’ve put into words what I feel every time I leave the house, and I am very impressed. This is the first post of yours I’ve ever read but I am looking forward to reading more!

    P.S. For what it’s worth, I think you’re amazing, gorgeous and obviously have good taste in fandoms (your shirt is fantastic). You can sit next to me on a plane, anytime! We can talk about books! ^_^

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  24. I’m glad you wrote this, its honest. not a lot of people are ok with being honest. I have seen those eyes you talk about from both spectrums and the suck. You are very gifted at writing and speaking about things that make other uncomfortable and I applaud you for that.

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  25. What can i say this is something supper. I can feel the expression and the attention caused around. How most people feel about themselves and the judgmental eyes every where. But i hope that someday people will go beyond judgement and see the other side. May be the person you think is judging you is actually envying your life style, your courage, your passion, and the affection you are given. Its never about the tears but peers

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  26. So sorry you had to go through that. Everyone has their own struggles and it’s sometimes easy to just pour our own insecurities and prejudgements on those who we see as more vulnerable.

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  27. I love you already! You’re beautiful from what I can see and from your post, inside-out. What matters the most is that the Almighty God loves you so much and has surrounded you with a beautiful family and with friends that see you through His eyes. Do not let what anyone think about you get to you, you’re wonderfully made. If you feel the need to make any changes, then do it. Do it for you. Cheers!

    Like

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