That is one of my favorite quotes from To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, the comedy that put such macho men like Patrick Swayze and Wesley Snipes in drag. The whole thing is completely quotable, especially if you’re trying to develop your own self esteem without the general support of the public at large.
I figure this resonates with me for two reasons. One, I must have been a drag queen in a past life because I’m totally all about breaking out some glitter and singing “River Deep Mountain High” with gusto. Two, I’m an obese woman in a society that, while becoming more and more obese itself, reveres the super thin as the ultimate in beauty.
“Larger than life is just the right size” is only correct if you don’t want to ride in a plane, ride on a roller coaster, or try to “fit” into regular life. If you’re too large in those circumstances, then you get escorted out of those situations humiliated because everyone can see that you’re not “normal”, and generally speaking have no real sympathy for your situation.
This whole thing comes up as the result of director Kevin Smith getting bumped from a Southwest Airlines flight because of his size. The airline itself has a general policy where if a passenger is deemed too large to fit into their seat comfortably, they are going to be charged for two seats. The criteria for deciding who exactly is “too large” is anyone not able to fit between the seats with the arm rests down AND they require a seat belt extender.
Per Smith, he did not fit either of these criteria but was escorted off the plane anyway.
I should probably interject here that the reason this comes up as a blog topic for me is because I love Southwest Airlines and probably fly that preferably more than any other airline because of the way they’ve always treated me as a larger passenger. The flight staff is usually always discreet and I’ve only been bumped out of my seat once because I happened to be sitting on the emergency exit aisle and you can’t be on that aisle if you require a seat belt extender.
And since about 2000 I have.
When this policy became an issue many, many years back I began to realize how much obese people are loathed by other passengers. Not because of who I sat next to, I’ve never had one negative experience flying because of anyone I’ve personally encountered. Generally I’ve always had the good fortune to sit next to friendly, outgoing, accepting people (even a bunch of guys on the way to Vegas once) who engaged me in conversation and never once said anything or did anything to make me feel like a nuisance.
No, that came courtesy of the pages and pages of posts jam packed with vitriol over disgust how “blubber” “oozes” into the other seat and rendering that passenger’s flight completely intolerable. This became increasingly clear with the majority of fliers who “weighed in” on the subject, who not only had no tolerance for bigger passengers, but tended to use negative, abusive language in the situation, which was acceptable as “the norm” by everyone else.
(Even in Kevin Smith’s story, per a tweet yesterday the CNN blog about the subject showed 58% of responders to a poll sided with Southwest Airlines.)
This acceptable hate towards people like me actually became a point of panic for me to the point I really didn’t want to fly.
First of all, I can’t afford the second seat. Flying is expensive and if I can manage to swing a ticket it’s usually on a very tight budget. If I were forced to pay for a second seat, that’d mean I couldn’t go – period. Which is great for the slim schlub who has the great misfortune of being seated next to me, I guess, but nothing I really want to gamble on.
Secondly, it’s made me paranoid about the people I have to six next to. I’m the kind of person who doesn’t like to make waves even if I am drowning, so the last thing I want to do is inconvenience anyone or be the reason they have a bad day. (Unless you piss me off, then all bets are off)
I’m the good girl… the nice girl… the one who will sit as cramped and miserable in her little niche of the world to prevent my own choices from being a problem for anyone else.
I get it, okay? It’s not your fault I’m fat. If you passed me on the street, I could simply offer you look away and that way your life would not be impaired by my unsightliness. But on a plane, we’re both kinda stuck.
This is probably why I always want to fly with someone. People who already love me, blubber and all, probably don’t mind if I “ooze” into their space. And I always usually use them as a shield between me and anyone else on the plane. (This means I’m either a window person or an aisle person, very rarely the person in between).
Third, I’m not big on public humiliation. I was walked off a roller coaster once because of my size (the seat belt didn’t fit) and that was the limit of such experiences I really want to endure in my life. Just hearing Kevin’s story of being walked off a full plane of people who likely knew him already thanks to his screen time as Silent Bob sent terror through me like you would not believe.
And the majority of the responses since then to his story, identical to the ones years ago with SW decided to implement their “customers of size” policy, just reaffirm my original phobia about being fat and flying. To the point I’m ready to postpone flying anywhere until I drop 50 pounds because I want to avoid this painful scenario as much as possible.
The irony in all this is I happen to have two Southwest tickets to fly anywhere I want to go.
Life. Who knew?
But it gives me more incentive to do what needs to be done by June. I’ve pledged 50 pounds lost and that’s what I’m going to do. Not just so I can fly, that’s ridiculous. I’m not losing weight so other people can be more comfortable around me – I’m doing it so I can be more comfortable in my own skin, healthier and live longer.
No, I’m going to lose those 50 pounds because that’s what I’ve promised to do. I figure the first step to an epic life is living up to your promises.
Even with 50 pounds lost I’m still going to be the big lady on the plane who searches the face of every other passenger for that look of dread that says, “Oh no, I’m not going to have to sit by you am I?”
Because no matter how much I’m trying to lose weight and get healthier, when I walk down the street I’m still the fat lady. And believe me when I tell you there is still a bias, a resentment – a literal hatred because of it. And, sadly, it’s universally accepted.
But I’m not going to lose weight for you. Been doing that for years and it’s never worked. It’s only made me hate myself with the same level of vitriol so many have demonstrated in this issue, and that’s never worked either.
I just have to keep in mind the very wise words of advice from our resident sage, Hal Sparks, who answered a formspring.com question thusly:
The average American woman is not in any capacity beautiful by Hollywoods unrealistic standards. As a gentleman and a lover of the female form, give us (the average american woman) a pep talk. Sometimes we need to be reminded that we are beautiful even if
Here’s the only Pep talk I can give anyone about these kinds of things.
No one can make you feel bad without your permission. You set the standards for yourself. If you feel “less than” because of someone else’s standards it is because you agree with them. If you seek daily to live an extraordinary life then these absurd limited notions of beauty will cease to bother you. The choice of how to feel is always ours.
A good many of the women I have found extraordinarily beautiful in my life have been derided as outside that norm. Even fans have attacked some of my ex-girlfriends for their looks. It wasn’t Hollywood that told me my girlfriend wasn’t beautiful… it was other women.. on the internet. “Hollywood” gave Lady Gaga a career and it’s the snark brigade that calls her a man and says her nose is too big.
I have no patience for the fashion industry setting an anemic, sickly standard for women’s bodies that apparently attempts to make them look as much like boys as possible…. but I also am constantly disgusted by the ragging that women give each other about features that are natural while refusing to set healthful standards for their own lives.
Here’s the rules:
You can’t make fun of anyone for anything they can’t change naturally.
And you can’t complain about anyone who sets a higher standard than you being perceived as better than you.
If your self-esteem is diminished by the actions or perceptions of others then that is internal work that You are responsible for.
We are being systematically taught to argue for our own weakness by gauging our worth on the standards of others and giving up when we can’t meet them.
Hum. Maybe I should dress up in drag the next time I board a plane and really give em somethin’ to talk about.