Fatiquette…AKA The Etiquette of Size

by admin on March 12, 2012

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!

 

 

 

{ 135 comments… read them below or add one }

PhDeath March 12, 2012 at 2:46 pm

Brava, OP – you are a shining example of the concept of “polite spine.”

Brava, Admin, for cogently outlining a piece on a very sensitive topic, and for pointing out that the pendulum of rude swings all ways in cases of body size/type. In the past, I have been very thin and subjected to the sort of treatment others have mentioned (i.e., accused of having an eating disorder or teased to “Eat a sandwich!”).

I am currently best described as “athletic” – participation in sports and conditioning associated with those sports renders me more muscular than average. I now deal with occasional comments from other women: “Oh: I wouldn’t want to be THAT muscular…don’t you think you look too masculine?” A body-gender double-whammy!!!

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Compelled to Comment March 12, 2012 at 2:50 pm

OP, the only thing you did that was wrong was not call an usher to escort the rude couple out. I used to have season tickets to all of the games for one of the professional sports teams. I purchased an additional seat for my coat and other items. Many times, people would try to sit in the seat. These were assigned seats in an arena, so I should have had no problems. I had to call the ushers over several times to have people removed from my seats and then would have to experience rude behavior when I placed my coats in one of the seats. If I wanted to spend the extra $$, I should be able to use the seat in anyway I wanted. Most of the time, the people being rude had purchased lower priced seats and were unhappy that they couldn’t sit in the more expensive area. I did ask one extremely rude person one day if he wanted to reimburse me for the cost of my coat’s seat, as I showed him the 3 tickets with my name on them for the seats I was sitting in. He stomped away uttering the b-word and something about wasting money. (The other seat belonged to my husband and he was out-of -town and not able to join me.).

Stick up for your rights, it doesn’t matter what your size is. You purchased 2 tickets and got there early enough to pick your 2 seats.

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Charli March 12, 2012 at 2:59 pm

I am outraged by the behaviour of this couple! It sounds to me like the OP made loads of really considerate and understandable decisions and the couple were 100% out of line. I would try to forget all about them if possible :)

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WildIrishRose March 12, 2012 at 3:05 pm

One of my favorite lines from Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion: What the hell is your problem, Christie? Why the hell are you always such a nasty b****? I mean, okay, so Michele and I did make up some stupid lie! We only did it because we wanted you to treat us like human beings. But you know what I realized? I don’t care if you like us, ’cause we don’t like you. You’re a bad person with an ugly heart, and we don’t give a flying f*** what you think!

These were bad people with ugly hearts, and eventually that sort of thing catches up to people. It’s called “karma,” and it may be slow but it does catch up. OP, you sound like a beautiful person–one whom I would be proud to call a friend. I was a tiny little thing once upon a time, and I got the same stupid anorexia/perpetual diet/wish-I-looked-like-that jokes that skinny people get. It was infuriating. What makes people think they can just comment on another person’s appearance? Even compliments on how I look make me uncomfortable! Those two theater idiots deserve each other, and they saved two other people.

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Andi March 12, 2012 at 3:18 pm

What truly awful people!! I’ve learned that not everyone is nice. In the last year due to health issues, I lost over 30 pounds. My daughter and I had to stop attending our church because of the whispers, stares and the rumors. Not one person asked me about it, I guess they just assumed I had developed an eating disorder. I’m guessing even if they had asked me, they would have twisted my illness to fit their gossip.

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Spike March 12, 2012 at 3:37 pm

When I go to a movie which is almost full of people, and someone has a coat or bag on an empty seat, I generally assume they are saving it for another person who may not have arrived, or who is in the bathroom/gone to get popcorn, and move on to other prospects (I wouldn’t necessarily assume it was because they were larger, though I think that is also a valid reason). I agree with admin that these people were cruelly taking out their frustration on the OP for their not having planned ahead better. It’s one of my pet peeves to have arrived a reasonable amount of time before a movie and then have groups of latecomers wandering around blocking everyone’s view while they search for the unicorn of 3 or 4 available seats all together. I mean I get it, sometimes lateness happens, but they should just suck it up and take what’s available.
I don’t think it is ever acceptable to comment on a stranger’s weight. Even if you claim to be “concerned about their health,” there are many health conditions and medications that would prevent someone from exercising or losing weight if they wanted to. People do the same thing in regards to scooter or wheelchair users who retain some mobility. It’s unbelievably ignorant.

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Emmers March 12, 2012 at 4:04 pm

It seem’s really sad to me that you would even need to buy two tickets. Not because of your size, but because of anyone would be oblivious enough not to understand that by taking two seats your not only ensuring the comfort of yourself-but for others. The notion to me that you, or anyone else, would feel like you must buy two tickets just feels wrong in that it seems like such a simple and obvious notion that you are giving everyone , including yourself, some personal space.

When I go to the movies I do my best to avoid getting into others personal space, and to keep my own space bubble. I sit at least one seat away from couples, families, and those with small children. I would do the same for larger movie going patrons. It just seems like such an obvious thing to do for me, give people space regardless of if it’s a couple, a family, someone with small children, or a larger person.

This is one topic I must entirely agree with the Admin with. Making assumptions or judgments based on the subjects weight are never appropriate and uncalled for in all situations, people like that do not deserve an explanation, they do not deserve a response.

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LeeLee88 March 12, 2012 at 4:23 pm

I am one of a scant few in my family who does not have a weight issue, and reading this made my blood just about vaporize from boiling so hard. OP, I cannot express how sorry I am that you were treated so horribly by those God-awful toads. You remained classy and steadfast, and it took an awful lot to even manage that; don’t worry that you didn’t have a snappy comeback ready for those tools. You do everything in your power to avoid being in others’ space, and that’s all that anyone can ever ask of you. Now, before I say what I really think about those folks (which is not clean or PC in any way, shape, or form), I am going to go drink a coke or something because I’m super-rageful that this even happened. Turds.

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LonelyHound March 12, 2012 at 4:38 pm

Poor OP!!! No one has the right to treat anyone like that. I appreciate how considerate you are of your fellow man. Thank you. You were not in the wrong and you were doing the polite thing. I think, had you let them sit next to you, they would have complained about you the whole movie. That would have been rude to the whole audience and downright vicious to you. No. You were right.

I do say I have been tainted in my view of larger people due to one bad experience. A rather large gentleman who had the middle seat on a plane I was on. I and another passenger were unfortunate to be sitting next to him. I say unfortunate because he had both arm rests up and was so large he took up most of the row. There was no room of us. That and he was so rude to the flight attendant, who suggested he might have to be bumped from the flight to allow the other passenger and I to fly, that he made her cry and screamed at her to bump us, which they were going to do! Luckily, there were enough seats and the other passenger and I were able to fly. That rude man had tainted me for a long time, and you, dear OP, are fixing that image. Thank you!!!

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Mabel March 12, 2012 at 4:58 pm

OP, I’m sorry that you were subjected to such rude, nasty people. Having a big mouth, I might have told them to shut the *bleep* up and quit bothering you or I would call the manager. Sometimes when people act like that, it gets my blood up, and although I know it’s not polite, it makes me feel like doing battle.

It was thoughtful to buy two seats, and Admin, to do so on airplanes. Flying is a mess now. I’m not big but I am a tall woman, and airline seats are seriously uncomfortable for me from back to front. I wish I could afford to fly first class but unless I win the lottery, that’s not going to happen.

Admin is right. It is NO ONE’S BUSINESS what someone else weighs, and while people are entitled to think whatever they wish, when they open their mouths and make personal remarks about others, they slide straight into EHell.

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Sarah Peart March 12, 2012 at 5:16 pm

I second the recognition that people give you for buying two seats. Reading through the exchange I could see myself asking (hopefully more politely as I imagine the woman was not using a nice tone from the beginning!?) if you could please let us have the two adjoining seats rather than keeping one. However that is where the road forks in two I would have died of embarrassment when you told me that you had decided to buy two seats, suddenly finding myself in your private business. You are a lovely person, considerate in a world that needs more consideration!

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Onlyme March 12, 2012 at 5:21 pm

HI OP, wow….I applaud you for purchasing two seats and taking care of your comfort. I am an average sized person and honestly sometimes I think “normal” seats are just to small.

I am offended on your behalf that these people were so rude. I get “you can’t save seats” (just went thru something a couple of weeks ago myself regarding that) but once you gave an explanation, then that should have been it.

I think I would be proud to have a friend like cause you bought two tickets and know what was good for you. Onlyme

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German Shepherd March 12, 2012 at 5:23 pm

OP – you did everything right. Everything. Let that knowledge ease [some of] your pain. The couple who insulted you made themselves look bad and boorish in front of others in the theater.

“I wish I could say I stood up like an avenging valkyrie and let the woman know exactly how unacceptable her behavior was.”

That would’ve been epic, but could’ve caused a bigger and possibly violent scene. Better safe than sorry.

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Electric Blue March 12, 2012 at 5:27 pm

We have allocated seating in cinemas in Australia.

If for whatever reason the cineama is rather full you will be notified when purchasing the ticket…and if there are no seats which are together you are warned…and you can either choose to sit separately from your friend/ partner/ family member or see if someone in the cineama is kind enough to give up their seat and move elsewhere.

However, your allocated seat number is on your ticket. And if someone is in your allocated seat or you’re in the wrong seat and it’s a busy movie…expect to be moved.

Really sorry to hear your situation OP. Regardless of your size or eating habits you paid for those 2 seats…you are entitled to them.

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Angela March 12, 2012 at 5:33 pm

Wow, this is infuriating. I have a good friend who is probably about the same size as the OP and I can’t imagine lecturing her about her weight or her diet. If she asked me for help or suggestions I would do what I could, but in the absence of that, it’s her business.
Those people are entitled jerks who, as Admin says, didn’t want to deal with the outcome of their own poor planning so lashed out at the OP. Kudos for standing your ground! I am willing to bet that they have gotten their way in the past with such bad behavior and were shocked that it didn’t work this time.

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Tyler March 12, 2012 at 6:15 pm

To the OP, you sound like a fantastic lady, and I’m impressed by your ability to maintain grace and etiquette in the face of such bullying. As others have said, you did everything right, and the couple did everything wrong. Truthfully, they probably would have blown up at anybody, and you, unfortunately, were just their target of choice.

I just don’t understand why people fail to realize that attending a movie should be considered a planned event. You have to consider travel time, time waiting in line to purchase tickets, time waiting in line to purchase snacks, and so on. Also, you have to consider what time the movie is showing, because evening showtimes are likely to be more crowded than matinee or late-night showtimes. If you fail to take all these factors into consideration and then arrive late and can’t find a seat, the fault is on you.

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SS March 12, 2012 at 6:30 pm

Quite simply, nothing she said matters. You paid for 2 seats, no matter the reason. I would keep repeating “I paid for 2 seats. Nothing you say changes that. Do you wish to purchase one of them from me?”

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Missy March 12, 2012 at 6:38 pm

I have to say that the OP sounds like someone I’d love to hang out with. I’ve “taken up” both sides of the aisle so to speak.

One of my worst bullying experiences is from elementary school. I grew fast and didn’t have time to fill in. At one point, the school instituted a policy that you could not leave the lunch room unless you finished your main course. On one day, the main course was hot dogs (yep, in the 80s no one cares about that) and other children didn’t want to finish theirs. They demanded that I finish it for them because I “needed it.” I refused because I had a normal appetite and ONE hot dog for an 8-year-old is plenty. I immediately got a torrent of abuse about them insulting me for not wanting to eat five hotdogs and telling me that they hoped I died of malnutrition. Since they left them on my tray I went to explain to the teacher what had happened and she said, “Well it wouldn’t have killed you to eat them.” Um seriously? She told me I should have eaten five hot dogs with teeth marks in them? She told me that being insulted for being skinny wasn’t mean and they could say those things if they wanted. Yep. I skipped lunch to cry for a week which didn’t help my bony frame.

And then when I was 30, I had a terrible experience with pneumonia and had to take steroids so my lungs could heal. I went from a size 10 to a size 22 in four months. I had the joy of having people comment on the ice cream in my cart too. Really, I was hoping to lose the weight once I could handle rigorous exercise again. But after hospitalization, frustration at my body for not healing, all the physical therapy and what not, I wasn’t about to give up ice cream on top of it.

After being on both sides of this issue I’ve realized that life is unpredictable and there is no reason to add obsessing about your body to that. I love being around people like the OP who are realistic but don’t let their bodies rule their life. It’s the couple’s loss that they don’t realize what a joy that is.

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Cat Whisperer March 12, 2012 at 6:54 pm

First, it is NEVER acceptable under any circumstances for someone to call someone else names, use pejorative terms or language, or use obscenity, profanity or vulgarity to address another human being. Never, not ever, no matter what the provocation or the circumstances.

It. Is. Just. Never. Okay.

Wouldn’t the world be a nicer place if everyone could just abide by that rule?

Second, it is never okay to make derogatory, snide, critical or disparaging comments about someone’s physical build or appearance. If you don’t like what you’re seeing, then look somewhere else; if you don’t approve of what you see, bear in mind that nobody is perfect and that “judge not, lest ye be judged” is the ultimate guide to etiquette and good manners.

Third, it is never okay to offer anyone unsolicited advice on their lifestyle choices. If you want to be helpful, you ask someone “do you need help?” without implied judgement or criticism of what they are doing. Giving unsolicited advice, however good that advice is, is just another way of patting yourself on the back for being more perfect than the person we’re advising. Unsolicited advice is just criticism dressed up prettier. It’s still judgemental, it is rarely helpful, and is a form of self-praise.

Finally, it’s helpful to recognize that nobody can ever go wrong by taking the “high road” in any situation.

We all have the capability of being jerks, and we all know when we’re being offered the opportunity to be a jerk. I’ve done my share of behaving like a jerk, and I can truly say that every time I’ve given way to taking the low road and satisfying my anger/irritation/anxiety/shame/whatever by acting out and behaving like a jerk, I knew that that was what I was doing. Everyone who behaves like a jerk knows that that’s what they’re doing, they’re just being a jerk because of the immediate gratification jerkish behavior offers when we’re in a situation where we aren’t happy with things.

So we know when the impulse to act like a jerk is upon us. That’s the time to remind ourselves that if we know what acting like a jerk is, we also know what the high road in behavior is, what the right thing to do is. (Hint: it’s usually something that’s harder and involves more effort than behaving like a jerk, and is not immediately gratifying.)

Take the high road and remember that our merit as human beings becomes apparent to others in how we behave when things aren’t going well, not in how we behave when everything is wonderful and things are going our way. When offered the opportunity and provocation to behave like a jerk, make the deliberate choice to not behave that way, try to find a way to behave with graciousness, kindness and patience. You will make the world a better place. And you will make yourself a better person.

I’m sorry the OP had the experience she did, she sounds like a decent person who tries to do the right thing. I hope that she find that thought rewarding, because sometimes it’s all you can salvage from a situation where other people have decided to be jerks.

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Echo March 12, 2012 at 8:09 pm

OP, I am so sorry this happened to you and that the awful woman made you cry, but I think the quiet but firm approach was the best way to handle the situation. Give yourself a pat on the back!

I’m an underweight gal and I’d like to add some points from the other end of the scale (yay, puns!)

1. The word skinny has the same connotations as the word fat for most underweight people.

2. Accusations of eating disorders are not funny nor complimentary. If you genuinely believe I have an eating disorder, you may come to me privately and address that. I might not take to it too kindly, but at least you’ve gone about it the right way. If you yell at me, “Oh my gosh, do you even eat?!” in the middle of a crowded room, or suggest that I’m going to throw up when I visit the restroom in a restaurant, I will not be pleased.

3. As was mentioned in the OP, commenting on what an underweight person does or does not eat is the height of rude. Saying, “You need to get a Big Mac into you,” is just as rude as telling an overweight person to lay off the Big Macs. And don’t walk up to strangers in a food court and tell them that they should trade their sushi for fries – you’d think that would go without saying, but that’s happened to me twice.

4. If I am your friend and I have shared YOUR weight loss journey with you, I should be allowed to talk about my weight gain journey. I’m not saying, “I wish I could gain weight,” to make you feel bad, I’m saying it because it is a genuine problem for me. I’ve been there for you and your problems, pay me the same courtesy.

5. I understand that many people don’t get the controversy surrounding discussions of underweight people, so I will always give someone the benefit of the doubt if they (inadvertantly) say something offensive. But if an underweight person explains to you in a calm and rational manner why what you’ve said is hurtful, don’t dismiss their feelings by saying, “But it’s a compliment!” It’s the same as saying, “But I’m just being honest!”

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NotThumper March 12, 2012 at 8:25 pm

Oh OP!! I wish I could give you a hug! Your story brought tears to my eyes. I wish I could say I was surprised at how you were treated but sadly I’m not. Some people today can be so cold and cruel. It’s no one’s business how big or small you are and you absolutely do not need to stay home. I think you should go see more movies! That couple was horrid and I’m sorry you had to endure that.
You have to be one of the most thoughtful people I’ve ever heard of. You obviously were thinking of others comfort, as well as your own, and you were verbally assaulted for it. That is unacceptable.

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Katy March 12, 2012 at 8:29 pm

I once went to the movies with a group of friends, but I had a recently injured ankle and to hold it down for a long period of time was uncomfortable, so I bought two tickets, and we got to the theater early enough that I was able to sit next to the wall and turn so my leg was resting (on my sweatshirt, because no one wants to sit where feet have been) on the seat next to me. The only place we were able to do this was in the last row, which had about 20 seats rather than the 16 or 17 a regular row had.
About two minutes after sitting a birthday party of about 15 kids and 5 adults came in (see where I’m going with this?) The only place they could sit the whole row across was in the back row. The mother of the birthday boy demanded that we give up our seats so they could sit together in the row. I refused, saying that I’d gladly move if there were another row where I could lean on the wall during the movie, but sitting straight-backed for two hours while keeping one foot up is uncomfortable. She started telling me her son ‘only sits in the back row’ and therefore we should give up our seats to him, and again we refused. At this point three of the boys and one adult said they’d sit in the next row forward, but this still left the group a seat short in the back row. The mom changed her demands to my friends moving over a seat into my ‘extra’ and me sitting like ‘a normal person and not like a lazy slob’. I tried to tell her that I had my foot up for medical reasons, but she wouldn’t hear it. Finally, and I’ll admit this comes out of being a somewhat hotheaded teenager I told her that there was no way I was my a– was moving, and if she didn’t like it she could stick it where the sun don’t shine. She got a manager, who sided with her until I showed that I had bought two seats and was therefore entitled to the second seat. The manager then told the woman I was entitled to any two seats I wanted, and after she whined a bit a couple more of her party moved. I resisted the urge to throw popcorn at her all throughout the movie.
As a BBW I usually avoid crowded movies like the plague, but with some newer releases I’ve made sure that I take my average-sized hubby who doesn’t mind a little snuggling or I go to the ‘expensive’ theater near us with the large-sized recliners (and bonus- bar and restaurant service). I get comments occasionally, mostly from kids, but I know I’m big and have to have a thick skin about it or I’d be crying often and in front of my kids.

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sugaryfun March 12, 2012 at 8:30 pm

I agree wholeheartedly with the admin about how people should mind their own business about what other people eat! I find that ‘food police’ type behaviour is often directed at women in particular. I am not even slightly overweight but if I eat a chocolate bar or a bowl of pasta with a creamy style sauce in public I am often subjected to snarky comments about how fatty my food is/how many carbs it has and how I had “better be careful”. No-one ever says things like that to my husband no matter what they see him eating. I’ve also had relatives at family get-togethers give me a portion of the meal half the size the males present were having because they assumed (without asking me) that being female I must be dieting.

OP I’m sorry you were so poorly treated. You tried to do the right thing but you just can’t win with some people! Good on yu for standing up for yourself!

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Annaham March 12, 2012 at 8:33 pm

What a horrible story! OP, you absolutely did the right thing–good for you.

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Ultra Venia March 12, 2012 at 8:37 pm

Unfortunately, when one is morbidly obese, it’s sometimes impossible to avoid inconveniencing people. If there is an emergency and you are trapped somehow, it becomes more difficult and dangerous for emergency crew to rescue you. That’s the consideration that motivated me to lose 120 pounds and get in the best shape of my life.

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GroceryGirl March 12, 2012 at 9:05 pm

All I want to say is that the woman had no right to freak out over the idea that she was saving a seat. What if she’d arrived with someone who stepped out to use the bathroom or was on a long line getting snacks? Who says there is no saving seats in a movie theater? Clearly, these are the types of people who would make a big fuss anywhere over anything. OP, put these e-hellions from your mind, they aren’t worth it.

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acr March 12, 2012 at 9:19 pm

OP, you did everything right! You bought two tickets and you got there early so you could choose a good spot.

The only think I think you should change – program the number of the theater into your phone. Then you can call for assistance if this ever happens again. It probably won’t – but I, personally, would do that for my own comfort.

That woman was a psycho.

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Steph March 12, 2012 at 10:22 pm

@sugary: I’ve noticed that too. I went to a buffet with my boyfriend and his family. His aunts and mother had a salad for their first plate; I came back with a steak, baked potato, and carrots. The first thing I heard from an aunt was, “Why didn’t you get a salad?” Meanwhile, my boyfriend, his uncles and father were coming back with plates of pizza and steak. Nothing was said to them. I don’t remember what I stammered, but I do remember being extra sure to get salad the next time we dined together. I hate salad.

To OP, I’m sorry that you had to deal with those turds. I’ve always been heavier than I should be (doc says I need to lose at least 70lb to be at a healthy weight now) and have had family and strangers who think they are the health police give me “tips.” Nothing makes me more miserable, and I don’t think I could stay as calm as you if I were in this situation. You are a fantastic person.

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jess March 12, 2012 at 10:25 pm

I am large (5’9 and aussie size 26) and recently had to travel from Sydney to the Gold coast for a uni workshop. I tried so hard to buy two seats for my comfort as well as others. I could not book the tickets both in my name online so I went to a airline booking agent who gave me a funny look and told me that he had never heard of such a thing and I would have to speak to the airline. I rang the airline who told me I diddnt need to buy two seats but if I did I would have to pay 150% of the cost of the second ticket (being a uni student I was flat out even paying for the two seats as is) AND I would not be able to use the luggage allocation for the other seat. This was just simply unaffordable I just did not have the money in the bank and no credit card. The workshop was strictly compulsory and if I did not go I would be in breach of my uni’s policy. So I booked one ticket and hoped for the best. I did need a seatbelt extender but I still managed not to spill onto the next persons seat (I maybe took up half the armrest which I dont think is unreasonable) and squeezed myself together as much as possible, I even made sure I had an isle seat. It was tight but I did it. As it was I lived off cup-a-soups and a loaf of bread for my week trip so the extra seat would have actually forced me to starve literally. I wish airlines made it easier to book two seats in one name and not actually make it almost impossible.

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jess March 12, 2012 at 10:26 pm

OH wow,…..I mean I am 5,11 and aussie size 26 lol

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Moralia March 12, 2012 at 10:45 pm

OP, I wish you could go to the Alamo Drafthouse theaters. Not only is the awesome to have your dinner at the movies, the few times I’ve seen jerks there, they’ve been unceremoniously ejected to the quiet enjoyment of all mannerly theater goers.

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Lexie March 12, 2012 at 10:47 pm

Not surprised. I am overweight (lost 10kg so far XD) and people find my presence offensive. I’ve had make up counter assistants laugh at me, shop assistants sprint to my side to make sure I (and everyone around me) knows that their sizing doesn’t go up to my size. I’ve had classmates, potential employees, strangers, teachers and family members all comment on my weight and my eating habits.

My response to anyone who makes nasty comments to or about me is to simply look them in the eye and say, “I’m able to lose weight and am currently succeeding. You, however, will always be an unkind person.” Maybe that isn’t the nicest thing to say but it makes people stop and think.

If anything, being overweight has taught me that in general, people are unpleasant and judgemental.

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Agania March 12, 2012 at 11:31 pm

Consign them to a roasting spit in e-hell and occupy your mind with creating your valkyrie speech for the next time this happens. Alas, given the world we live in and the cretins we live with, it will happen again. Gold star to you for being thoughtful of others and buying two tickets for your own and others comfort and arriving early to get the best seats.

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DocCAC March 12, 2012 at 11:40 pm

I am a BBW, and I do mean big (5’11” and big boned but also obese), so I’ve never had people say anything like OP got to my face–I think they think I’d get up and whack them one. Although, come to think of it, I did have a size zero patient come in one day eating a candy bar. She jumped on the scales and looked at me (still munching on the candy bar) and said, “I can’t gain weight no matter what I do, how do you do it?”. I told her God would get her one day for that and He did, but that’s another story. Karma is a wonderful thing.

For the opposite side, a friend of mine who is usually normal size was undergoing chemo and radiation for Hodgkin’s lymphoma, so she had lost weight (I think was also wearing a wig so the thinning hair or baldness wasn’t a clue). She was at a swimming pool and getting dressed when a large woman made a comment to the effect that she wished she could be as thin as my friend. My friend was not having the best of days and fired back, “I call it my cancer diet–chemo and radiation” and walked out. She later said she wished she hadn’t said that, but I told her I thought it would be cold day in Hades before that woman ever commented on someone’s size again.

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Cupcake March 13, 2012 at 3:51 am

OP, you sound like a really considerate person. If you paid for two tickets you are entitled to whichever two empty seats you chose when you got there.

For the posters being criticised for being too thin – I’m underweight, and when a friend asked me “do you even eat?” I said “no, I photosynthesise”. I’m not actually sensitive about it, but if anyone is, feel free to use my answer. I still cop a lot of criticism from the Food Police too (admittedly I do love to eat heaps), and when someone asks why I’m eating a certain food, or so much of a certain food, I just ignore all the implications of their question and say “because [insert food] is awesome”. It’s a perfectly fair answer, and because I’m not making any excuses for myself I think it shows the other person that I don’t NEED to give them an excuse for my choices.

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waitresswonderwoman March 13, 2012 at 3:53 am

OP, you are a beautiful person and my heart goes out to you! My best friend is a BBW and I am very protective of her, as she has one of the best hearts ever in the world. If I had been at that theater, I’m afraid, I would have been sent into the depths of ehell myself as I would have totally gone off on those two boors. And the laungage they used would have been nothing compared to the words I would have said to them!I know it would be coming down to their level, but I don’t think I would have been able to stop myself. As I said, my bestfriend is a large girl, where I myself am completely on the other side of the coin, as it is extremly hard for me to gain weight. In a society where we have, for the most part I find, learned to not discriminate on color, sexual preferance or other such issues, weight seems to be an issue where people still think it is okay to say rude, hurtful comments. I infuriates me beyond words! I’ve seen firsthand how hurtful people have been to my friend. But also in my case, I’ve had people assume I have an eating disorder and one woman even wondered (out loud) if I was a drug addict because of my very slim frame. That was particulary hurtfull, and cried for hours. I’ve never touched a drug in my life and ,yes, I do know a charateristic of drug use is being skinny, so I became paranoid that people though I was a addict (thankfully I had my BBW bestie to convince me how stupid I was thinking). I try just as hard to put on weight as my friend has tried to lose it. It really is a battle for both of us. But it’s almost as if a higher power helped us find each other (we were assigned roommates in college and have been friends ever since, 15 years later). And she has never belittled me for my struggle or rolled her eyes when I spoke of how fustrating it is to not be able to keep weight on like normal people, when most people make sarcastic comments or tell me to stop complaining or get over myself. It really is a problem for me as I have a very high metabolism and have always had a small appitite to begin with. I personally think most women look healther, younger and more vibrant with a little meat on their bones! Actually after all these years we now laugh about our opposite (yet somehow) the same problems with our bodies and help support each other when hurtful comments are made. People really, really just amaze me with how they feel it is okay to comment on such a personal matter as one’s weight. OP, you did nothing wrong here and if anything, went out of your way to unsure no one would be inconvienced. You stay strong and know that there are people who see how beautiful you are. Those are the ones who matter. Still my blood boils to think of what those people said. Even though I don’t know you, if I had been there…..oh, boy!!!

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waitresswonderwoman March 13, 2012 at 4:44 am

I remember years ago, my BBW friend walked into a store with me that catered to smaller sized customers. A woman shopping there commented very loudly, “What is SHE doing shopping in here!” Well, I’m afraid to admit, but I lost it and had a few very choice words for the woman. My fabulous BBW bestie looked directly at her and said, “I’m so sorry, my friend can be so rude sometimes. I can’t take her skinny butt anywhere!” The woman’s jaw hit the ground and the look on her face was pricesless. We still laugh about it to this day.

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lkb March 13, 2012 at 4:57 am

OP, I am so very sorry you were treated like that. You did everything right and did absolutely nothing wrong. I am also very sorry for the people who treated you that way — imagine, so-called adults berating a person to tears, in a public venue yet. As people said earlier — karma will get ‘em sometime, I have no doubt.

May this never happen again.

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Lynda March 13, 2012 at 5:00 am

I am definitely oversized and when I used to fly to France on vacation, I would book two seats. I called the airlines that offered the direct flights and found out I could request two seats together for
‘medical reasons’, nothing from a doctor required. Later, I found a wonderful travel agent who not only would handle the double ticket but always got me a great deal (with my favorite airline) so I would end up paying as much for two seats as the regular (non-sale) fare for one…
I did run into people on the plane who wanted me to switch with them—since I spoke French well enough I was able to make my point to whoever asked me: ‘I need two seats for the legs–the circulation, you know? I pay for two seats. These seats are reserved for me by the agent from the start. Perhaps you need a better agent so you can sit together next time.’
The cabin personnel for this airline are the most courteous I have ever found (it is the national airline of a country where some people are extra sized, so they are not as size-concious as others it would seem) and they don’t approve of people trying to leapfrog assigned seating so if necessary they will step in if necessary (and sometimes with pleasure).
It has been my experience that with a double seat, you still only get the one baggage allowance.

I had one experience which told me a lot about why some people overobject to the obese–I had applied for a job and went for the interview. It was arranged during the person’s lunch hour, so I arrived, no one was at the front desk so I sat in the waiting room. The woman came out, stared at me, asked me what I was doing there and when I told her of my appointment, she said I should have called to let her know when I was downstairs (on the way). I replied I would have done so if those had been her instructions, I was sorry to inconvenience her, I didn’t feel it would be polite to call out loudly to indicate I was there.
I had my interview and I could tell that I wasn’t going to get the job (someone else had scheduled it) and since I have experienced anxiety in the past myself, I am often aware of it in others. She kept staring at her very short, manicured fingernails. She kept talking about how much work she had, how many interviews she had to do–on and on with nothing about the job, not even looking at my resume.
In all other ways she was professionally dressed–those fingernails and her anxiety…I thought: she wants to chew her nails–that’s why she keeps them cut so short—and something about me is driving her anxiety into overdrive.
She has a weight problem–that is, she has had one, controls it now but when she looks at me it brings back all the fears and negative emotions attached to either being reviled for her weight or for reviling someone else (a parent?).
Someone had to be the grown-up so I stood, told her I understood that I was not a suitable candidate for the postition for which I had applied and I did appreciate the time she took to meet with me. She was barely able to respond to me and just kept holding on the the file folder my resume had been in and looking at her nails. At that point I feel real pity for her.
I think many people are so hung up on their physical image and work so hard to be attractive that they can feel threatened by someone who doesn’t subscribe to that approach. I know that and I feel sorry for them as well because no matter how well you take care of your body and skin, you will age and you can’t be young and have the beauty of youth forever.
But that experience on the job interview—made me see that there are people who are so affected by the presence of a larger person.
I really think the way people treat overweight people is more a symptom of an appearance-driven culture that places higher values on appearance (and not just in body types) than in real values. I also think society places many stresses on people and the result can be people who are primed to be angry about almost anything, anytime. Whether it’s color, origin, language or body size, those categories are all fair game to be a target for the angry person. Of course there are laws against discrimination for some of the categories…which makes body size that much easier to pick.
But I think the biased person does know it’s wrong even if they won’t admit it to themselves…so they have to defend themselves so they’ll tell a friend or two about ‘this woman who…’ which perpetuates the myth of the fat person who makes others lives such a bother—if only they would lose weight or just not be around…
One final comment: I was waiting in line to check in a woman behind me was talking to the person next to her (I guess they were travelling together)–quite loudly, saying something about ‘that woman ahead of us….she’s so large I hope she doesn’t make the plane overweight…’ later, when we were all waiting to board I heard her again make a comment (she was close enough so she knew I could hear)..so I turned to her and said, well, if the plane goes down, just remember fat floats on water, so while you and your skin and bones are sinking, I’ll be floatng on top of the water waiting to be rescued.
Sometimes being skinny isn’t the best survival tool. Besides: there are fat people all over the world. You’re probably in the minority. Get used to it, get over yourself. (this was a flight returning to LAX and she was from LA…).
Sometimes it’s worth the effort to fight back, other times no–but don’t let anyone get away with trying to control you by taking away your dignity. It really is verbal abuse and no one has the right to subject you to it. Try saying “End of discussion. You’re boring me. Please go away”. then call an usher if needed. Remember the term: Verbal Abuse.
It took me a lot of years to come to the point that I rejected their criticisms…and thank you for bringing up the top so the discussion is now out in the open. I can see a lot of people reading this column and thinking about all the people they wish they could forward a copy to…

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LilyG March 13, 2012 at 6:01 am

I’m tall and fat as well. I was visiting a Deaf friend out East one time and we were at a Ruth’s Chris Steak House. She, her husband and I were signing away in ASL and I ordered the chocolate cake for dessert. As I dug in, a woman at the next table said in a loud voice, “No wonder she’s as big as a house; look what she’s eating!”

I was just as impolite-I whipped around and said just as loudly, “I can hear, you know!” It was very satisfying to see her blanch and wilt to the laughter of the restaurant.

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--Lia March 13, 2012 at 7:12 am

Another thought, and this has nothing to do with size issues. What’s the bit about not being allowed to save seats? Of course you can! As long as the ticket has been bought, there’s no reason one person can’t spend extra time at the concession counter or bathroom while the other saves the seat. Even entering after the movie has started is fine as long as you do so quietly and without disturbing anyone. Where did this couple get the idea they can make up the rules?

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Brian Katcher March 13, 2012 at 8:38 am

Not many people would have paid for an extra seat. You stood your ground, and if people want to be jerks about it, that’s their fault.

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Gracie C. March 13, 2012 at 8:49 am

@Emmers – your system only works if the movie is not sold out.

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Wink-n-Smile March 13, 2012 at 8:58 am

Cat said: I have one thought that I hold whenever I meet people who behave as these two did, “Thank You, God, that they are not my relatives and will not be coming for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.”

Oh, wow! That made me laugh out loud, for real!

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Wink-n-Smile March 13, 2012 at 9:15 am

Spike said: People do the same thing in regards to scooter or wheelchair users who retain some mobility. It’s unbelievably ignorant.

You have that right. People sometimes assume that a person is in a scooter because they are too lazy (usually pronounced “fatnlazy”) to get up and walk. It never occurs to them that they could be in the scooter because they are in physical PAIN, and walking just makes it worse. Nope. Couldn’t possibly be something like that. Couldn’t possibly be because they were injured, or on medications, or had some disease or something like that. NO. There is only ONE explanation in their eyes – laziness.

Heaven help those people when they are injured or sick and have to take a scooter.

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Wink-n-Smile March 13, 2012 at 9:17 am

Emmers – 57 – If you’re in a situation where seating is limited, the only way to ensure that you can give people extra space is to purchase the extra space.

I’m with you, though. If there is room, I prefer to sit one or two seats away from the other people, so we all have our elbow room. That is not, however, always an option.

Kudos to OP for being proactive about it.

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The Elf March 13, 2012 at 9:22 am

First off – thank you OP for buying two seats. Having been the “squished” person from spillover, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Spillover is uncomfortable for both of us! It doesn’t matter why you require two seats – that you recognized your needs and purchased two seats is enough.

The movie patron was rude. Especially after noting that you bought two tickets, she just should have moved on to a different seat. The explosion of insults and cursing is beyond the pale.

I used to be very thin as a teenager (I’m not anymore by a long shot). I don’t mean typical teen thin, I mean that the school nurse called my mother to talk about anorexia because I was so thin. FWIW, it wasn’t an eating disorder. It was just a combination of factors that went away with time. Anyway, I used to be shocked (and humiliated) when people would point it out in public, especially total strangers. Sometimes it was “Good Lord girl! You need to eat more!” Or, “You took so much from the buffet! You’re not just going to throw it up, are you?” Other times it was envy about being so thin. Yes, I can completely see reasons to envy being able to count my ribs at distance or never finding the right size clothes! Changing in far corners of the gym locker room is loads of fun to avoid the inevitable teasing! Taking in training bras because the smallest band size was still too large (and having to wear a AAA cup at 16) is just the boost my teenage self-esteem needed! My friends called me “stick chick” as a joke. My classmates voted me most likely to fall down a storm drain. What the bullies called me was far, far worse.

Comments about size are always inappropriate. The only exception is if you are very close to that person and have health concerns. Everyone else should just keep their comments to themselves.

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Wink-n-Smile March 13, 2012 at 9:23 am

Lonelyhound 59 – I’m sorry about your airplane experience.

If it’s any consolation, he might have been outraged that he paid for 3 seats, so he’d have the space, and then was told he’d have to squish up and let you sit there, in the seats he paid for, and without any offer of reimbursement for the money he spent to ensure he, and other passengers, had their requisite room.

Airlines are notorious for over-booking flights, and if they see an empty seat, they’ll fill it, regardless of whether or not it has been paid for, or if the person next to it is spilling over into it.

I recently took a trip, and was very nervous that the same thing might happen to me, as the flight was full. However, I was fortunate and no one tried to bump me. Still, I was nervous until take-off.

Then I was nervous ABOUT take-off, and then nervous about the flight, and landing. I finally relaxed about an hour and a half after I arrived.

I’m not excusing his behavior. I’m just offering a possible explanation, if that will help to put your mind at ease. Don’t judge all fat people harshly because of his behavior, please.

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The Elf March 13, 2012 at 9:37 am

Regarding non-fat spillover….. My husband is one of those big, muscular, broad-shouldered men. He’s not fat at all, but he doesn’t fit into a regular airplane seat either. He makes do on flights by reserving our seats together (usually costs extra but is worth it), so he can safely “spillover” into me. He also gets an aisle seat so there’s room in the other direction. That, combined with some twisting and hunching gets him through the flight. But if he were any more broad-shouldered, like a football player or wrestler, I think he’d have to fly first class in order to even fit.

We got a lesson on that the hard way. We bought tickets at the last minute, so there was no reserving seats. He ended up in a middle seat next to a very large man and a very elderly woman. He only had about 2/3 of his seat due to the large man’s girth, and being big himself he needed every inch. He wasn’t about ready to spillover to the elderly woman’s seat; she appeared very frail and he was afraid he’d accidentally hurt her. So he stood – for an entire five hour red-eye flight. The parts of the flight where he needed to remain seated, he sat sideways. The flight attendant commented, but physics doesn’t allow for two objects to occupy the same space and she could see that standing was the only reasonable solution so she let it go.

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Wink-n-Smile March 13, 2012 at 9:41 am

On the topic of giving a fat person “tips” about how to lose weight, or what they should or should not eat:

Do you think we just came out of the womb this morning, and haven’t heard all that stuff before? That we don’t KNOW that ice cream has calories and that salad is high in fiber? Come on. Don’t treat us as if we’re too stupid to live.

Likewise, don’t tell thin people that they should choose ice cream over salad. For all you know, they had ice cream an hour ago. Some people are naturally thin, and try very, VERY hard to gain weight. I have a friend how celebrated when she finally reached 100 pounds! She was thrilled! She’d been trying for YEARS to hit triple digits. And being told to eat fatty foods, rather than healthy foods, did not help. Sure, fries and ice cream will help you gain weight, but for some reason, my friend also cared about cholesterol and preserving her arteries. Go figure.

In other words, the information is out there, and we already know, so don’t tell us, as if we’re ignorant fools. “Wow! I always thought ice cream was a healthy meal! I had no idea! Thank you SO MUCH for setting me straight. What, pray, is your opinion of pizza? Health food? I mean, there is all that tomato sauce, and that’s good for you, right?”

This subject really hits close to home.

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