Jen

Tight Squeezes and Other Frustrations.

There is this Italian restaurant here in Perth that serves the most delicious authentic Italian cuisine imaginable. The place itself is small and cosy, and the staff are loud and friendly. It’s one of those places that is always full; so full, in fact, that you can’t even make reservations and instead have to wait in line outside. My partner adores their Cannelloni and I am in love with their Tortellini Carbonara. And yes, I always try to force a Tiramisu in as well and every single time, I am defeated and left with more than half of a plate left.

And even though I could eat their delicious food every day of the week, I started choosing other not-so-great restaurants over this amazing place because every time I go there and line up outside, I look into this amazing little restaurant and am confronted by the reality that I am wider than the spaces between the chairs and tables.

When I saw a couple way in the corner finish their meal and get up to make a beeline to the cashier, I was left with a feeling of dread because I was going to have to attempt to squeeze my way between chairs to get to that table; that stupid fucking table that looked like it was a mile away from where I stood.

I hated it most when I had to actually ask the diners to get out of their seat to let me through. There have been occasions where more than a few people have had to stand up and push their seats forward just so I can squeeze past and be seated at my table.

I hated that. I hated being a disruption. I hated disturbing people while they ate. I hated feeling like an actual elephant in the room. And I really really hated how all I ended up thinking about during dinner was how I was going to have to disturb more people when it was time to leave.

Most of these feelings were put to rest when I became part of the FA community. My whole outlook on the situation has changed now. When I have to squeeze my big fat arse between two chairs and apologise for having to ask the diners to move in a little, I realise now that people don’t actually care; their night has not been ruined by the fat girl who needs to get past, and my night is not ruined by those horrible feelings of embarrassment anymore.

I write this entry not to bitch about how unfortunate it is to be fat. On the contrary, I’m loving who and what I am, and I love my body now more than ever. But there definitely are things we fat people have to think about that the thinner population don’t, and that’s what I want to read about from you, the readers of this amazing blog.

What can you think of that is similar to this situation? Do you worry about going on a scuba diving tour and not being able to fit into a wetsuit? Do you worry about going to theme parks and not being able to go on certain rides? What do you do to overcome these feelings of embarrassment or exclusion? Through our collective experiences, perhaps we can help each other in dealing with these negative ideas by replacing them with healthier and more positive ways of thinking.

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  • Fatgirlposing

    two Octobers ago I went to Orlando with my husband and son. My husband was there on a business trip and his boss paid for our tickets into any theme park so we went to several. I can’t even remember which park it was but there were some awesome rides that I just *had* to ride! So the very first one I stand in line for 45 minutes.. i get in the seat (with a pull down harness) and the attendant comes by and locks it into place.. but he can’t. he’s pushing and pushing and god my boobs feel like they’re going to pop like balloons (not even large balloons at that!! my full chest is only 48″ for crying out loud) and he finally stands back and, i kid you not, ninja kicks it into place. It was absolutely mortifying. The next ride had a row just for larger seats so I asked for one.. they put me in the child holding pen and then forgot me there! after several turns passed me by I was finally able to get the attention of someone who seemed to think the situation was funny. 

  • http://blaceyda.myopenid.com/ blaceyda

    I can totally relate to this. Like you, my feelings about situations like these have changed since I’ve learned about FA and started appreciating and loving my body. At one time, a lot of situations might have caused me to collapse in tears, to stay in my house and never emerge. Like the time I had to go bridesmaids dress shopping with my friend, and not one shop had a dress large enough for me to try on. They took my measurements and it’s not a problem getting the dress in my size, it’s just the sample they had didn’t fit me. It was something I was worried about before going shopping. At one time, it would have made me depressed, but I was actually more worried about making my friends uncomfortable – worrying about how they would react, if they would feel bad for me. It was a little awkward as they didn’t really know what to say, but once they saw I wasn’t upset then it was ok. 

    I worry all the time about aeroplanes. Usually, the seatbelt will fit, but I am really afraid of how I’ll handle it if/when a flight attendant thinks it won’t, pulls me from the queue etc. I think I’d be ok asking for an extender, but I’m considering buying my own just in case they didn’t have one on board. 

    Navigating busy restaurants and cafes are something I have to think twice about, but then it always was, even as a thin teenager, I’ve always been accident prone and bump into people, tables and hot cups of coffee very easily! 

    I also have a guilty secret: I use the disabled access restroom whenever possible, as they are generally larger than the trend for very narrow cubicles in my city in general and my workplace in particular. I find it difficult to squeeze myself and my bag into the toilet cubicle, plus there is a problem with most of the sanitary disposal units being wedged between the toilet and the wall, and often rising higher than the seat.Let’s just say I need a lot more room if I am going to stay hygenic and avoid sitting on the disposal unit.  I feel so terribly guilty about this, and live in fear of being confronted about using the disabled access cubicle/restroom as I am not visibly disabled. Every single time I rehearse this little retort in my head, which goes along the lines of ‘just because you can’t see a reason why I might need to use this cubicle, doesn’t mean there isn’t one.’
    Every single time I use the restroom this floats through my head. I wish it wouldn’t, but there you go.

    There are a ton of other examples like this. Right now I’m just glad that I’m not hating my body, that I’m not crushed by all of these things. At one point in my life, as I said above, things like this made me depressed and reclusive. But not anymore :)  

  • T.

    Right now, I am trying to figure out who to talk to at my new college about the fact that the desks in 2/3 of my classrooms aren’t large enough to accommodate my body without causing me discomfort and making it impossible (or nearly impossible, depends on how I can wiggle myself) to write while in class (essential for taking notes and writing exams). I’m lucky in that right now, one of those two rooms has a random table and chair I can commandeer for my own purposes, but one classroom does not. I’m not even sure which office to go to about such things here, and I don’t know my professors well enough yet to feel comfortable bringing it up with them. I live in a state that seems to have pretty intense anti-obesity feelings — there used to be some super-offensive commercials on TV sponsored by the state board of health but I haven’t seen them in a while — so that just makes me even more nervous about bringing it up to anyone.

    I had to ask for seatbelt extenders on the plane for the first time this past summer. Fortunately my mother was with me, so that made it a little easier, but now that I know I have crossed the line into seatbelt extender territory it just makes me even more nervous about flying. I already hate flying, but I love the places I can go on a plane so I try to suck it up and just deal with it.

    And like blaceyda, I have started using the disabled access stalls in public bathrooms. I hate doing it. I’m convinced that someday I will walk out of the stall and see some little old lady with a walker waiting for the stall. But at the same time, I simply don’t fit in the other stalls anymore and it’s really nice to have a place where I can do my business and be hygienic without winding up in competition for an Olympic gold medal in gymnastics (or, you know, cutting my leg on the teeth of the toilet paper dispenser, which I have done at least once). 

  • plaidcoat

    My issue with planes is I always feel like I am holding people up. I always try to find a seat the day before departure where there is an open space between me and everyone else, at the front of the plane, but it doesn’t always happen that way.

    I’ve never been pulled out of the queue, thank goodness. But I have had the bad luck of people re picking their seats at the same time I did, and being wedged in with people that knew each other. A flight attendant very quietly and tactfully asked if I knew the couple I was sitting with and I was like “Ermmm… no not so much” And asked if I’d like to move forward. I wound up getting an extra leg room seat(which I would have normally paid an extra $200 for!), and a buffer seat.

  • plaidcoat

    My issue with planes is I always feel like I am holding people up. I always try to find a seat the day before departure where there is an open space between me and everyone else, at the front of the plane, but it doesn’t always happen that way.

    I’ve never been pulled out of the queue, thank goodness. But I have had the bad luck of people re picking their seats at the same time I did, and being wedged in with people that knew each other. A flight attendant very quietly and tactfully asked if I knew the couple I was sitting with and I was like “Ermmm… no not so much” And asked if I’d like to move forward. I wound up getting an extra leg room seat(which I would have normally paid an extra $200 for!), and a buffer seat.

  • Eselle

    Yep.  In Los Angeles there is a restaurant called The Original Pantry.  It serves American food and is famous for its steaks and cole slaw.  The Pantry is open 24 hours a day 365 days a year.  They claim they don’t have the key for the front door because it is never, ever closed.  There is a line outside all the time, day or night.  The patrons range from people in grubby work clothes all the way up to formal dress all seated in close quarters at tiny tables.  Once, I was seated near Andre The Giant and his entourage. (He was at the communal table which was taken up by his group.)

    EVERY time I went there I was worried about seating because the tables are very close together and there is only one narrow centeral aisle.  Eventually, I got to be too large to navigate these small areas so sadly I had to stop going.

  • Eselle

    Yep.  In Los Angeles there is a restaurant called The Original Pantry.  It serves American food and is famous for its steaks and cole slaw.  The Pantry is open 24 hours a day 365 days a year.  They claim they don’t have the key for the front door because it is never, ever closed.  There is a line outside all the time, day or night.  The patrons range from people in grubby work clothes all the way up to formal dress all seated in close quarters at tiny tables.  Once, I was seated near Andre The Giant and his entourage. (He was at the communal table which was taken up by his group.)

    EVERY time I went there I was worried about seating because the tables are very close together and there is only one narrow centeral aisle.  Eventually, I got to be too large to navigate these small areas so sadly I had to stop going.

  • http://purewhitewave.org Jen

    I went to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter just 5 weeks ago and, while walking up to the line for the Hogwarts ride, I was stopped by a really polite girl who asked if I had been on this ride before. When I said I hadn’t, she asked if I wouldn’t mind trying one of their test chairs to see if I would fit (they also had one of those pull-down harnesses that locked into place). I was carrying a tiny little bag with me which was enough to prevent the harness from locking in place. 

    I was rather upset, since I had to muster a lot of courage just to decide to try the Hogwarts ride (I am NOT a thrill seeker; I HATE rollercoasters) and my little sister encouraged me to come in anyway, stow my little bag into the lockers and just line up with her and try again. 

    So I did. And right at the front of the line before you got on the ride, there was another one of those test seats and I asked the man to test me to see if I would fit. And I did! it was definitely a squeeze, but it totally worked. 

    The FA community has really helped me to accept myself these days, so it wasn’t at all embarrassing for me to be stopped in front of everyone and asked to test the seat. But I can imagine how uncomfortable that ordeal would have been for someone who was not accepting of their body. I don’t see why they have those test seats out in the open for all to see.

  • http://purewhitewave.org Jen

    I totally get the aeroplane stress. I always ask for an aisle seat because I would rather have to get up and out of my seat for people than for me to have to ask them to move. 

    Most seatbelts will fit uncomfortably so I always ask for a seatbelt extender. I am not embarrassed anymore about asking or about putting it on in front of people. I personally think that if a car seatbelt still fits me just fine, a plane seat belt should too, so it’s a design flaw rather than a problem with my body. :D
    The one thing that bothers me is the tray table in front of me. A lot of times, they juuuuuust fit. But it means I have to sit really upright and can’t lean over my food so there’s a good chance I’ll spill food all over me. 

    Speaking of bathrooms, oh my god I cannot explain how much I hate going to the bathroom on aeroplanes. And it’s even worse when – forgive me for being slightly graphic – you need to change your tampon. I had one leg on the sink and accidentally knocked my elbow hard into the wall which tripped an alarm of some sort that alerts the flight crew that someone may have collapsed in the bathrooms… all because of my period. I had a flight attendant banging on the door asking if I was ok. Ridiculous. 

  • http://purewhitewave.org Jen

    Oh my goodness, I totally understand the stress of those stupid chairs and tables. I was studying last year and one of my lectures was held in a room that looked like a theatre and all the seats had a little table that swung over the arm. The seats themselves were absolutely uncomfortable and the table only just fit. I felt so big and out of place on them that I started sitting on a spare chair. I hope you find someone you can talk to about this. You’re there to learn – not to have to stress over stupid things like this. :( x

  • http://purewhitewave.org Jen

    :( Is there any way for you to call ahead and reserve a specific table? I’m sorry you have to miss out on eating at a place you enjoyed. 

  • Eselle

    I should go again sometime and see what it is like inside now.  It has been years since I’ve gone and I know they have expanded into the space next door.  It may well be more size friendly these days.

    As an aside, if you’re into cole slaw you can find the recipe on their website.  It has been printed in newspapers over the years and is supposedly world famous.  It is good; and I don’t like cole slaw as a general rule.

  • Bri

    Yes I do worry about these things (not fitting). I try to just do the things I can do and, if I am up to it, see if there are ways of working around the things I ‘can’t’ do. Whether that is practical things or educating/informing people etc.

    I didnt realise you were from Perth, Jen. I am looking at doing a course based in Perth (at Curtin Uni) and it has on campus residential sessions for off campus students (which I would be). I have some questions about getting to campus etc and was wondering if you would mind me asking you? If you are willing, could you drop me an email please? That would be awesome.

  • Jan

    Hi Jen

    As I read your post I was nearly cringing in my seat as this is something that happens to me. Or I should say used to happen as I don’t go out nowadays. I hate being seen so I have a long way to o before I can fully accept myself. For many years I would have to mentally plan how I would access certain places, knowing that there would be issues. I would have someone scope out the venue prior to me attending. Some places were never even attempted. I missed most of the kids graduations and concerts, rarely attended sports carnival days.
    I would even have to take my own chair from home that I knew would hold my weight. I was so ashamed. Luckily my dear husband would carry it for me. I usually had my time wrecked worrying about the time when I would have to get up and leave. One time I was at the far end of a table and needed to leave early and this required me to move past 10 people who all had to leave their positions and step back into the room just so I could pass. Talk about red faced, I couldn’t get out of their quick enough.

    Anyway, when I was going out or at work I was forced to speak up, if I needed certain chairs, room etc. better to sort before the event. The other issue, is toilets. Oh my god, the times I have been caught out. They are mostly very small cubicles or too far for me to walk, or they are right near a pile of tables or I just cant get into them. When I was in Fremantle last year had to go with urgency and found some near the museum, struggled to step up into the block then the door wouldnt shut, had to get hubby to help me. Not good.
    So now I stay home it is easier I have what I need here. But I do miss life outside the home.

  • David

    I had so many, “OH MY GOD, YES!” moments while reading this post and the comments, because OH MY GOD, YES!

    The most recent example I can think of that relates to this post: going to Outback Steakhouse. It’s kind of become the go-to place for a couple of my friends and I when we’re going out to dinner, because of the Bloomin’ Onion (which basically single-handedly stopped me from being a disliker of onion) and because the cocktails are nice and relatively cheap.

    Problem being, the seats in the stalls are both low and a tight squeeze. I’m fine once I get in there, but I’m tall and large, so getting in there is always a bit of a worry, especially since the floors tend to be a bit on the slippery side. It’s basically a feat of acrobatic skill for me to fold myself into the right position and hope not only that my feet don’t slip out from under me while I slide across onto the seat, but that I’ve positioned myself well enough to not hit the table with my stomach. And Outback Steakhouse is actually one of the easier restaurants in this respect.

  • Xoch

    You should be able to bring it up with your professor (in fact, at my university professors were required to add something to the syllabus basically saying if you needed extra assistance with anything in the class, ask the professor. I think this was meant for disabled students, but it would have totally worked in your case as well). If you don’t want to talk to them before/after class because of other students, try their office hours. Otherwise, you can try going to the Accessibility Department at your college since they can probably assist you with that as well. Hope that helps. <3

  • http://blaceyda.myopenid.com/ blaceyda

    Talk to your professors. I’m a professor, and if someone asked me about this it would be no big deal – pardon the pun :)  
    At the very least, your professor will know the system in the university and should be able to point you in the right direction. But they should do more than that. Let us know how it works out. 

  • http://purewhitewave.org Jen

    Hey Bri! I’ll try to answer any of your questions… send me an email at jenpitch at gmail dot com and I shall do my best. :)  

  • SteakCharmer

    If you had been slightly larger and the ride attendant had been unable – even with the ninja kick – to secure you in the seat, would you simply accept not fitting on the ride, or do you think the amusement park should provide seating for people of any size? Or generally, do you think society should be expected if not forced to accommodate people of all sizes in situations like these? I have read of heavy people being denied access to activities like skydiving, bungee jumping, paintball or even air travel due to safety concerns related to weight – should a line be drawn that says if you are beyond this weight or exceed these dimensions, this is not for you, or is that never a legitimate? The more I think on it I am torn between logistics and the ugliness of “thin people only”.

  • NotBlueAtAll

    When my husband and I went to Hawaii, I had really wanted to take a helicopter ride around the island. I have an intense fear of heights and I’d convinced myself that this would somehow cure it (it did not). The problem arose when the weight issue was brought up. They weigh everyone before boarding the helicopter. Reading this I decided to email the company before buying tickets. I didn’t want my weight displayed for all to see and I was uncomfortable with the idea of having to be kicked off or buy an extra seat “just in case.” Hawaii being the fabulous place it is, full of diversity and larger bodies, the woman who replied was beyond helpful and said that my weight wouldn’t be displayed and I didn’t even have to look/know if I didn’t want to (Nice!). I did have to buy an extra seat, and it worked out perfectly for me. I am so glad that I did it. My poor husband sat in front next to the pilot and was quite motion sick. Too bad, I enjoyed every moment. It felt better than any plane I’d been in. It was like floating! Well worth the ticket price!

  • Maggiemunkee

    i would see if your campus has an office for students with disabilities. if you can produce a doctor’s note stating your needs (ie, table and chair), they should be able to provide one for you in each classroom you use.

  • Heidi

    I’ve started using the disabled stalls in public restrooms (and at work) also.  My feeling is this: those restrooms exist to provide additional accommodation to people who need it.  Generally, I need it.  I have the luxury of NOT being disabled but I do need additional space because of my size.  If it were between me and someone with a visible disability (or someone asking for the disabled stall), then obviously I would take a smaller stall that I needed to squeeze into, but I feel like my size, and the discomfort/difficulty that can be involved in using a very small stall, merit using a disabled cubicle.

    No one has ever commented.  I’d be surprised if they did!

  • Derpyderpapants

    Elephant in the room ahahaa

  • S.a.

    to T. – unless your professors all happen to be huge assholes, they will help with what should really be a non-issue. (And it will be easy for them – teachers asking for furniture in classrooms takes one email and has a turnaround time of 30 minutes if need be.)
    We have lecture halls with chairs that swivel, but are o/w fixed to the ground, and honestly, I never really thought about the seats. But I recently sat in these for a faculty meeting, and dear god, my back did not forgive me for a week! Point being – if you need another chair, it’s the chair’s problem not yours. We will find movable chairs for people with broken legs, broken arms, bad backs, bad eyesight, why should your concern be treated any differently.

    The odd thing about all these stories is that you don’t even have to be that big to experience these problems – the tables in restaurants or the bathrooms. The privilege if you are not fat is that the world will tut and agree with you that circumstances are just unacceptable. But if you above some arbitrary size threshold, suddenly ‘you’ become the problem. WTF.

  • Brissievegan

    What strikes me about the description of this restaurant and other “only the slim may pass” places is that they are very poorly designed for general diverse human use.  Not only do they not allow for larger customers, but how would you get a wheelchair through the crowd or someone who is older and needed a walker or to lean on a companion? How are they able to be evacuated in an emergency?

    Designing for the fat would also mean designing for everyone who needed a bit of room to pass through a crowd.  It would simply be good and courteous design.

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