Sunday, March 2, 2008

Fat People Are Allowed To Travel, Too

Here's a fantastic article. Some rather impolite person wrote in to "Miss Conduct" to ask about overweight people on public transportation:

Frequently I've seen overweight people insist on squeezing themselves into subway and bus seats that are too small for them. This results in their arms and legs landing on top of the people sitting on either side of them. This is very uncomfortable for the riders being squished, who often just get up out of their seat because it's too awkward to say anything to the person with the weight issue. Nobody seems to know how to handle this. What do you suggest?

[Gag me] <-- That's my response. Miss Conduct's? Much more eloquent:

A subway or bus token buys you the right to a ride, not to a seat or an enjoyable experience. As a short person, I don't like having my face stuck in some basketball player's armpit when I ride, but such is the case at times. As a person with a bad back, I don't like having to get up and surrender my seat to an elderly person, but this happens, too. I don't like hearing secondhand rap music from a neighbor's ear buds or shrieking drunken dialogue, nor do I like smelling Axe body spray or last night's Mad Dog 20/20. But when you take public transportation, you need to develop tolerance and detachment. If you can't handle contact with the flesh of strangers, public transportation is not for you.

As a rule, subway riders shouldn't sit where there isn't enough space, unless they have a compelling reason to do so. If someone is impinging on your space – because of obesity, a puffy coat, a pregnant belly, a laden backpack, or an infant in a Snugli – you can say, "Excuse me. You're in my space," or you can get up and move. Neither option is particularly awkward; they just reflect the realities of crowded public transport.

If my tone seems brusque, I apologize. But I know the kinds of letters that will be waiting for me on Monday morning because I dared not hate fat people in this response. Do you know that every time I suggest courtesy to the overweight, I get not just letters disagreeing with me, but actual hate mail? The general theme of which is, invariably: "But if we treat overweight people with dignity, they will have no motivation to lose weight, and will continue to be fat at me!" Miss Conduct is not at home to that line of reasoning.

Here's the thing about fat people, folks: They exist. And they have a right to do so. And a whole lot of them wrote sad, funny, insightful things to me when I posted this question on my blog, and you can read some of their responses yourself at Go read, go learn.

(All emphasis is mine)

I will tell you, I get some looks on the subway. When I go to sit between people, I get the "oh no, you are not squeezing that thing in here" look, which of course makes me want to really plop my booty down. Also, people don't sit directly next to me. I guess they're scared that they can catch it? Kidding. They probably assume that my girth will infringe on their space. Plus, if I dare to snack on the train or walking down the street, I get those "why can't the fatty wait to eat" sorts of looks. Like I'm not rushing from one place to another trying to have my lunch on the fly just like they are. Nope, the lardo is just too hungry to wait and can't control herself.

I don't let it bother me. Really. It doesn't stop me from sitting where I want or eating on the fly, it's just sad and a little annoying that people still find these kinds of perceptions acceptable.

As long as someone is healthy there's no reason to judge based on size. Seriously. But most people assume that if you're fat, you're unhealthy. Even if you eat well and exercise. But someone who eats fast food garbage and never gets off the couch is "lucky" if they are thin. Yeah that makes sense.

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