There are 23 buttons on my favorite green dress, and I often leave the bottom six or eight open. Since I made the bold move to start wearing shorts (has it only been a year ago?) I've learned to love my thighs, and they've grown rather fond of being seen together in public.
I assumed that exposing my 40" thighs and the rolls of fat on the sides of my knees would bring more than my fair share of disapproving stares and sideways glances. To my great amazement, hardly anyone even notices them. Perhaps it's my air of self-acceptance that keeps people from thinking, or at least voicing, their feelings about me and my thighs. Or maybe it's that look I have. I'm beginning to think I've got a look that stops traffic.
No, really. If you don't believe me, just ask the man on the motorcycle riding alongside my car. I slow down, he slows down. I look over, he's looking at me. I stop, he stops. I know what he's thinking. It's the same message an anonymous secret-admirer gave me recently in a very brief phone call- "God, you're so fat."
I'll bet he never imagined that watching a fat woman eating a sandwich in rush hour traffic could be so.... so... dangerous. Yes, dangerous, because in addition to slowing down and stopping when I did, he also moved forward when I did. And that wouldn't have been so bad, if the car in front of him hadn't been stopped. All I heard and saw was the crunch of metal against metal, and biker hitting pavement, as his motorcycle read-ended and slid under the car in front of him.
Speaking of stopping traffic, it happened again just the other day, only it was an airplane instead of a motorcycle, and this time my beholder wasn't an attractive leather-clad biker, or even a lusty voice on the phone, but a petite, neatly-dressed elderly woman in an airport, whose icily judgmental gawking spoke volumes.
"God, you're so fat." I know that's what she too was thinking as she sat there, disgusted at the very sight of me in my favorite green dress. Not in the mood for confrontation, I moved out of her line of sight to wait for my boarding call. Besides, I had more immediate concerns. The plane was packed, which meant I would have someone sitting next to me.
"I'll need a seatbelt extender," I said as I passed the flight attendant on the way to my seat. I don't know who designed the seating and spacing on planes, but comfort couldn't possibly have been a concern. I cannot even walk down the aisle without turning sideways. Flying isn't all bad though. My flying thrill is the strangely erotic burst I experience when the plane is leaving the ground. Go figure.
I found my seat, raised the arm between my window seat and the one in the middle, and squeezed in, trying to make myself as small as possible, so my seat-mate wouldn't be too terribly crowded. It's not so bad, I convinced myself, but I'd be much happier with about two additional inches of seat.
In just one instant, every plane horror story I'd ever heard from another fat person became reality for me as I saw her again, but this time she was standing in the aisle, looking at me. "I will not sit there," she pronounced pointedly, carefully enunciating each and every word. My heart was in my throat as I spent the next few minutes waiting for one of my worst nightmares to unfold.
I wondered if this woman would have felt differently toward me if she had known that just three days earlier I was standing across from Independence Hall in Philadelphia, surrounded by three bus loads of my fat and thin NAAFA allies and a myriad of reporters, holding a sign demanding an end to size discrimination, and cheering wildly as Ben Franklin (or someone who looked just like him) spoke about freedom and liberty for all-even fat folks.
A flight attendant appeared, bringing me back to reality, asking me to put the arm down between the seats. when I told her I couldn't, she indicated that I would likely be put off the plane. A few moments later, two airline employees, looking very official in their red blazers and holding communication radios, made their way to just past where I was sitting and then turned and walked back to the front of the plane.
Not another word was said to me by anyone, but in a few minutes the woman's husband came back and sat in the aisle seat, the seat between us vacant. I wondered briefly what had happened to his wife. The evil side of me imagined they had put her off the plane, since she was the one with the problem.
Once we were safely in the air, I breathed a sigh of relief and thought about the whole incident. I looked at her husband, a kind-looking man of average size, with the exception of his round tummy. If he'd had an inch and a half more stomach, he wouldn't have been able to put his tray down. How would she have felt had he been judged for that, or for his hearing aid, or advanced age, or the bottle of whiskey he kept pulling out of his pants pocket to empty in his soft drink?
I have flown many, many times without incident, and I have no intention of letting any narrow-minded person stop traffic for me. I do have a few choice words for her though, and I regret I wasn't able to deliver them in person: I can only wonder why you, a woman filled with the experiences of a long life, do not have the compassion of the twelve-year-old boy from Ireland who, on an earlier flight, found himself in the same seat you would have occupied, and engaged me in an animated conversation. It was most definitely your loss. Shame on you for being so small minded. ß