Thursday, August 27, 2009

Chair Fear

Being obese is fraught with fear. You're afraid that strangers and children will make fun of you. You're afraid people are silently judging you. You're afraid you're going to die earlier than everyone else. These are some of the "big fears", but there are also little ones that degrade your quality of life in small, but meaningful ways.

One of those fears is a fear of chairs with arms. That's right. If you've never been obese, it may not occur to you to even think of this, but very fat people are afraid chairs that they won't fit into are going to be the only seating option. I won't go to movie theaters, restaurants, etc. because of my chair fear. Unless I can predict that the seating will be sufficient to accommodate my expansive ass, I'm terrified of being put in an embarrassing situation. A famous opera singer who had bariatric surgery and lost a lot of weight commented that she no longer had to worry about chairs in addition to all of the other things she was no longer worried about. She was the first person to ever mention this point which has dogged me for much of my life.

Of course, the ultimate chair fear is reserved for airline seats which have now become a source of anxiety for fat people everywhere. The average width of an airline seat is 17 inches. The fact that I know that should tell you something about my fears. I've actually investigated the size. With new policies being implemented which require one to buy two seats if one is over a certain size, the stress is two-fold. You have to worry about fitting into the seat, but also about having to pay double for the same ride. In my case, the last time I was on a plane, I "shared" my husband's seat as needed so no one suffered for my increased size except him, and he was more than willing to offer up some of his arm rest space for me.

However, I've been reading more and more often that such an option ("sharing" space with my husband on a plane) will no longer be possible as many airlines are adopting strict guidelines about weight and asking people to try a test seat and forcing them to buy two seats if they need an extender or can't fit with the arm rest down. Even if I wouldn't be putting out a stranger, I'd still have to buy two seats. This is all the more motivation to succeed in my weight loss endeavors.

However, I honestly think that the airlines should adjust to the customers, particularly in America where the chances that people are going to change any time soon are so low. It's a sure sign that fat bias is fully supported by a culture when the customer can be bullied and humiliated instead of accommodated. I think that a better solution would be to create a new class of seating for 150% of the current price and to offer 150% size seating. In essence, make overweight people pay more in accord with increased need, but not double.