A little bit of background: I am a very heavy woman, 5’3” and 300lbs, in my early thirties. Because of my girth, I buy two tickets when I go to the movies. This way I can raise the armrest between the two seats without inconveniencing anyone by “spilling over” into their space.
Saturday night I went to a 10pm showing of “Sherlock Holmes 2” and bought two tickets as usual. I tend to arrive about 40 minutes before the movie starts so I have time to pick up some snacks, settle in, and enjoy the previews. About 5 minutes before the previews started the theater was getting full. It was becoming harder and harder for people to find seats together. I was sitting on the aisle with the armrest up and my purse on my 2nd seat to my left. The third seat in the row, the one next to my two seats, was also empty. I can understand why someone would see this and think there were two seats open next to me.
A couple in their late twenties or early thirties approached me and asked if I they could have the two seats next to me. I replied. “I’m sorry, there is only one seat available. The one next to me is taken.” The woman in the couple said, “You can’t save seats. The movie is about to start. If your friend isn’t here yet, we should get the seat.” I smiled and told her, “Actually, I have the tickets for both seats. I like to have two seats for my own comfort. Sorry, but this seat is taken. The only one available is the one next to it.”
At that point the woman threw a screaming fit. She began cursing and yelling that just because I was a fat b-word, didn’t mean I could take two seats. She was there with her boyfriend. They should be allowed to sit together. And if I was so fat I needed two seats, I should just stay home where I wouldn’t disgust the rest of the world with my hideous fatness.
She then began a diatribe about my popcorn and candy. How it was no wonder I was so fat and obviously I had to attend the movies by myself since who would want to be seen with such a pig…
I wish I could say I stood up like an avenging valkyrie and let the woman know exactly how unacceptable her behavior was. ,Instead, I’m ashamed to say, I turned bright red and had to choke back tears.
My response, after a few deep breaths, was “I bought two tickets, these are my two seats.” The man pulled on her arm and said, “F-word this B-word. Let’s just find another place to sit.” They then stomped up the stairs while I prayed for the ground to open up and swallow me.
My weight is due to my food choices and lack of exercise. There is no one else to blame. But, do my food issues mean I have no right to enter a public venue? Does being fat give people a free pass to hurl verbal abuse at me?
To accommodate my weight, I am willing to pay for an extra seat at the movie theater, on airplanes, on trains, etc… People shouldn’t have to deal with me taking up my seat and half of theirs. But even when I pay extra to ensure their comfort and my own, this isn’t enough for some people.
Was I rude one for not letting the couple take the two seats next to me, even though I paid for one of them? Does being fat mean I’m simply not “suitable” for polite society? 0103-12
A blog post on the subject of “fatiquette” has been a long time coming and today seems as good as any. Given the extremely volatile comments on forums and blogs on the subject of how obese people affect their fellow traveler’s traveling experiences, it is with a teensy bit of trepidation and a word of caution that we’ll explore the issue of how we all should walk through this world together in as civil manner as possible.
First off, OP, those two persons were anything but polite so don’t measure what “polite society” is by their actions. When people act like this, it is more a statement of their own frustrations at themselves for not planning better or being late. So you become a more convenient, safer target than squabbling with each other. I’m obnoxious enough that I would have introduced the couple to my friend “Mr. CoatAndPurse” who I had invited to sit next to me and whose ticket I had purchased. Having bought two tickets, you were entitled to take two seats and have no obligation to strange bullies to give it up.
Here are a few ground rules. It is absolutely no one’s business…
1. …what another person weighs. And this goes for whether the person is obese or very skinny. You can speculate about it to yourself but if you say it aloud, you are a busybody and possibly a cad, too.
2. …what other people eat, or in some cases, what they don’t eat. Hovering over someone’s plate dissecting the contents of their meal like the food police is rude.
3. …what another person’s health is. I’ve heard rude comment about some0ne’s weight justified under the slim pretext of “concern” for their health. Unless you are a spouse, parents or trusted friend or family with personal knowledge of someone’s health issues, you have no business speculating as to how weight is affecting that person’s health.
I’m sure there are a few more but off the top of my head, I can’t think of them.
The above rules apply to everyone, in every situation but there is a portion of the population that believes either the very thin or the very large are exempt from receiving these courtesies and rude comments are forthcoming. I am a Big, Beautiful Woman and I’ve had my share of stupid things said to me over the years such as the rude stranger who commented on the ice cream in my grocery cart, not knowing that I dislike ice cream and it was for the husband. Young men, in particular, seem to have no governor on their mouths when expressing their disdain for the appearances of a female that isn’t exactly to their specifications of perfection.
For the obese, the rules are simple. Don’t inconvenience anyone. You do have a physical condition that does present some limitations as to your mobility and your personal space is substantially bigger than the average person. You must, therefore, think proactively as how you are going to negotiate certain situations. Within various cultures, personal space can vary in size but for most Westerners, that space is about a 2 foot zone around them. When that zone perimeter has been pierced and as the another person gets closer, the tension level goes up. Some violations of personal space are to be expected such as standing in an elevator, bus, subway, long line, etc. but where possible, effort should be made to not intentionally or unintentionally infringe on others’ personal space.
Large air travelers must either buy two coach seats or fly first class where the seats are wider until such time as the airlines redesign their seats. I know there are fat advocates who will disagree vehemently with me on this but even my own fat accepting family has told tales of flying in coach seats where their significantly larger co-travelers have overflowed their seat into theirs, much to their discomfort. I’m a BBW and I fly first class when I travel which is infrequently in recent years. I want to be a good ambassador for the larger members of society and not insist that others must sacrifice their comfort to accommodate my size. I see it as a win-win situation where no one is inconvenienced and I am quite content and comfortable in a roomier seat.
And for the record, one does not have to be fat to not fit into a coach airplane seat. My petite daughter was once seated in coach between two very muscular, tall men whose shoulder widths were considerably wider than the 17″ seat. Both of these men hogged the arm rests and spilled into her seat simply by virtue of being overly endowed with muscles. My averaged sized husband recently dealt with a situation where a very large man overflowed into his coach seat taking over about 1/3 of my husband’s already small seat. While he doesn’t mind getting close and personal with me, it’s an entirely different matter with a stranger.
It’s unfortunate that we have to even address this but I feel some blame lies with the airlines who have made the seats both smaller in width and more compacted from front to back. I have a 24 year old photo of me seated in a wide body plane in coach holding my then infant daughter. I’m a big woman but you can clearly see that the seats are much more roomier back then than they are now. Even first class seats have shrunk over the years….you have to research seat sizes for different airlines and planes as they can vary by as much as 3 inches. But there may be good changes coming. Some airlines are redesigning their coach seats to be more comfortable: http://youtu.be/hqV9sAL4fxg.
Large theater or movie goers should either sit with family who are quite happy to “cuddle” with the arm rest up or buy two tickets. If there is a possibility that there could be backside spillage into someone’s space, I think there is an inherent obligation to not inconvenience others. So, plan ahead, get to the theater early and stake out your seat choice
Those are my thoughts this day. Comment away, readers!