So, I’m going to be honest, I had originally planned on writing about something completely different for today’s blog post. However, there has been something that has been weighing heavy on my mind this past week or so and I just needed to vent about it. Today, we’re going to be talking about taking up space.
I’m going to start off with why this topic has been at the forefront of my obsessive mind this past week. Coming up in May, I’m supposed to be going on my first ever vacation with two of my girlfriends. Now, I’ve been on family vacations before, however it’s never required me to fly to a destination. In fact, I didn’t even have a passport until a few weeks ago. Because of this, I never really had to consider my plus-size body interfering with my travel plans. However, when I looked up “plus-size travel tips” just for the hell of it the other day, I was met with dozens of YouTube videos, blog posts, news stories, even a recent Instagram post from an influencer that I follow, all about the woes of travelling as a plus-size person.
I’ve heard plenty of times how squished airplane seats are, so at first I assumed it was probably just some tips on where to sit, what to wear to be comfy and complaints that seats should be more accommodating. Unfortunately, it was not that simple of an issue. Yes, there were tips on where to sit and plenty of requests for better accommodations, however I was met with a whole new set of obstacles that I hadn’t even considered before, like how the length of the seat belt can be drastically different from airline to airline, how certain airlines require you to fit “comfortably” within the two armrests before takeoff in order for you to be allowed to fly, how certain airlines have kicked passengers off the plane leaving them frantically trying to reschedule travel plans, or how different airlines are far more accommodating to plus-size bodies than others.
Panic quickly set in, and my first thought was to bail on this trip. Once I quickly realized that I was in too deep to cancel, my mind kept racing and I started digging for answers on the internet. I was looking up anything and everything that I could; average seat belt sizes, average seat belt extender sizes, found the exact measurements of the seats on the exact flight I’ll be taking to and from my destination, I measured my office chair and chairs at home to see how they compare to the width of the airplane seat, I looked up Instagram pictures and YouTube videos of the plane I’ll be on to see if I could gain a relative perspective of “yeah, I’ll be able to squeeze” or “well, looks like it’s time to start dieting”, I looked up “people of size” policy for the airline I’ll be using and read countless online forums on the subject “I’m a size ___ , will I fit on the plane for my upcoming vacation?”
However, in my anxiety-fueled research I was informed that, not only did I have to worry about the technicalities when it comes to flying as a plus-size person, I had to worry about the reactions and acceptance (or lack thereof) of fellow passengers. My heart sank as I read story after story of plus-size individuals having to face cruel treatment and uncomfortable interactions while travelling.
I was actually surprised to see a story involving an influencer I have followed for quite some time now, Natalie Hage, where she was ridiculed by the man she was sitting beside on a plane. I came across countless stories similar to Natalie’s and very quickly the internet began to ingrain into my mind that a body like mine apparently takes up too much space to travel, and unless I want to jump through hoops or risk total humiliation I should probably just avoid it all together.
Here’s the thing, in a way I understand where these disgruntled interactions are stemming from. Hear me out, I’m not trying to justify rudeness or insensitivity by any means but, when looking at flying for example, it’s already a tense and not-so-enjoyable situation to begin with, so I understand people not wanting their comfort to be jeopardized, especially if it’s for an extended flight. However, the thing that bothers me the most is that there is no one more aware of the space that I take up than me. There is also no one more sensitive and apologetic about the fact that I may need some accommodations made because of my plus-size body than me. I just wish that people would take that into consideration and avoid becoming immediately aggravated and cold-hearted. And, fun fact, because I am so hyper-aware of the space my body takes up and because I am also very aware that there are people out there who get very heated about the space I occupy, I am more than willing to work with you on how to make the situation as comfortable as possible for the both of us, even if that means slightly jeopardizing my physical comfort.
Throughout my deep dive of plus-size travel experiences, I’ve come across so many plus-size individuals talking about booking a second seat on a flight even if they can’t necessarily afford it or squeezing their arms and legs together as tightly as possible to try and compact their plus-size bodies as much as they can when there is no other option than to sit beside a stranger on a flight. Don’t get me wrong, I also came across some stories regarding plus-size travel where there were instances of compassion and understanding. However, more often than not, I was slapped in the face with the hard reality that my plus-size body isn’t “ideal” for this type of situation and can apparently have quite the negative affect on other individuals.
I’m not going to lie, this has all really brought me down and has caused me to feel really negative about my body. It’s brought on those negative thoughts I’ve fought so long and so hard to free my mind of; that I’m an outsider, an eye-sore and a burden to those around me. Slowly those toxic thoughts of not being worthy or deserving of certain life experiences have begun to creep back into my mind. As much as I have been trying to shake these feelings off, as much as I’ve tried to mentally prepare myself for the potential embarrassment and backlash towards my body on this trip and as much as I’ve looked to some of the most uplifting influencers I follow for words of encouragement and empowerment, I can’t help but feel weighed down by this new obstacle that’s being added to the lengthy list that already existed when it comes to my plus-size body. It’s reminded me yet again that I’m a plus-size girl living in a “straight size” favouring world, even though the average American woman is now a size 16 to 18.
This also had me reflecting on other situations in my personal life where the amount of space I take up has been avoided or focused on by others. For example, when I was still in school and had to take public transit, I can’t even give you an estimate on how many times people avoided sitting beside my plus-size body. You might think that’s ridiculous and that I’m reading too much into it, and there were plenty of times I tried to convince myself of the same. When someone enters the bus, and there is only one seat left beside yours truly, and they decide not to take it, that decision is still open for interpretation; maybe they rather stand, maybe they don’t like sitting beside anyone and only like seats to themselves, or maybe it’s a really short ride for them so they figure why bother? However, when someone gets off the bus and that same person that declined the seat beside me jumps at the chance to take the newly open spot beside someone else…I feel like there isn’t much left to interpret.
Or, roles reversed, there have been plenty of times where I grab a seat beside someone on the bus, and their first reaction is to lean away and distance themselves as much as possible from my plus-size body, like it’s contagious or trying to swallow them whole. Another example is when I’m grocery shopping, and I catch passerby’s looking from me to my cart, analyzing the contents to either justify their opinion of “who is she kidding?” or “yeah, that makes sense”. This has become so common, that I sometimes catch myself organizing my cart in specific ways, making sure it is an equal representation of healthier items and junk food to draw a neutralized reaction from others. Now you probably really think I’m crazy. But, no matter how many times I repeat it to myself or preach it to others, it can sometimes be so hard to embrace taking up space or to live your life without worrying about the opinions of others, when the loudest opinions are often from those who spew the most hate.
I’m not sharing all this with you in the hopes that I’ll get sympathy or a flood of validating positive comments. In fact, I’m almost scared for the opposite; I’m scared for the potential of “it’s not the world’s problem that you’re fat” or “if you’re worried that you can’t fit on a plane, then travelling should be the least of your concerns”. I honestly just needed to vent and get this off my chest in hopes that I can maybe take some weight off of my mind.
Like I said in my very first blog post, I’m hoping to be as real as possible through the content I create. I hope to be authentic in my achievements and my moments of empowerment, showing others that progress can be made and confidence can be gained. However, I also want to be authentic in times like these, the times of doubt; showing others that life isn’t always peachy and self-love is a never ending uphill battle against the most opinionated opponent out there, yourself. If you happen to have any travel stories, good or bad, feel free to share them with me either on this post or privately through email or Instagram. Also, if you happen to have any plus-size travel tips, I’m quite desperate to hear them.
Thanks for reading, friends. I’ll talk to you next week.