The first thing I noticed when I walked into this doctor’s office were the chairs. It is not unusual for me to focus on chairs when I enter a room. A quick scan tells me where or how I will be waiting to see my doctor. What was unusual was the sense of relief that spread from my chest throughout my body as I realized that these chairs were different. They were wide. Not just one or two, every single chair in that waiting room was made for a large person to sit comfortably in. I could sit in any chair I wanted in that large waiting area without thinking about whether the chair arms were going to dig into my sides and hurt me. To realize this was freeing. It was like exhaling after holding in a breath I didn’t even know I was holding in. I couldn’t help but smile. I immediately felt welcome. The person who designed this space had the comfort of people like me in mind when they drew plans. This space was made for me. I felt validated and confident. I’m going to be real honest here and admit that there were tears in my eyes. Tears of joy.
Most spaces are not made for people like me to exist in or be comfortable in. I remembered all those times I had to endure pain trying to squeeze myself into a desk meant for a person much smaller than me, turning sideways when making my way down the aisle on the bus, being turned away after waiting in line because I couldn’t fit in roller coaster seats, enduring the stares and the discomfort of being seated on an airplane, not fitting into car seatbelts. Eventually I stopped trying. I stood up in auditoriums during presentations, and stopped going to amusement parks altogether. When people asked why I would just tell them I preferred standing. But in that doctor’s office, I didn’t have to worry about any of that. I could spread out and stretch my legs. I could take up as much space as I needed to without consequences for my body being bigger. It’s such a simple thing, being able to sit in comfort. It’s a shame that this simple thing is denied to people every day just because of their body size.
If at this point you are thinking, “Well, why don’t you just lose weight then?”, I’m going to need you to educate yourself before making a comment. I don’t have time to explain to you how complex a disease like obesity is and how mismanaged it is even by people who have medical degrees. Check your thin privilege.
I’m not talking about how difficult it is to find fashionable and affordable plus size clothes or the fact that even the stores that do sell these items place them in the back of the store or only sell them online (I’m looking at you Old Navy). I’m not talking about the horrible things people have said to me or yelled at me from a moving car. I’m not even talking about how comedians make money by fat shaming themselves or how fat jokes on sitcoms are somehow still acceptable (that’s a whole other blog post). I’m talking about chairs, the essential items we need to work, relax, and function, many of which are not useable by a growing percentage of the population. I’m speaking mostly of chairs in public or business spaces. By not including people of larger body sizes when constructing and designing spaces, it sends the message that we are not important and not welcome. It makes us feel guilty for daring to exist in a space that is too small for us. People shouldn’t feel ashamed of who they are just because of their body shape or size. To be fair, there are a lot of people out there who find larger bodies disgusting and believe that we shouldn’t exist. I don’t have time for those people. I’m used to my presence as a plus size woman of color making people uncomfortable and I’m over it.
I’m here. I deserve to be in whatever space I want or need to occupy. If it costs me some pain and bruising, okay, but it would much nicer if it didn’t and I could #slay in comfort. #byefelicia