Getting Emotional About Chairs

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.

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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

Beck

Themes That Have Been Running Through My Mind

Don’t praise me.

I know it’s because of my insecurities with my body, but I hate it when people praise my efforts to lose weight. When I come home from the gym and my mom says, “I’m so proud of you for going to the gym!” I cringe and don’t respond. I don’t tell people when I’ve lost weight because I don’t want to hear them say, “Wow! Good for you! I’m so proud of you.” I know it’s strange, but I hate it because it brings attention to my large body and the fact that I need to lose weight. I’ve spent a lot of energy trying to ignore this fact, and a person bringing it up, even in a positive way, bothers me a lot. People generally wouldn’t tell a thin person they were proud of them for going to the gym, so why tell me? Because I really need to go to the gym, right? But everyone needs to be active to be healthy, not just people who are overweight. When people praise me for working out, they think they are encouraging me to continue a healthy lifestyle by recognizing my efforts, but I’m not doing this for them or for their recognition. I’m doing this for me and my future. I don’t need or want their praise, especially if they are treating me differently than others (i.e. thinner people) who are behaving the same way. It’s not that I’m ungrateful for their concern or affection; I just don’t enjoy receiving that kind of attention.

How you spend your day is how you spend your life.

This theme was inspired by me watching the last Hobbit film this week, which wasn’t completely disappointing. After watching the movie, I remembered how obsessed I was with Lord of the Rings when I was in middle and high school. I devoted so much of my time and energy reading and learning about everything that had to do with LOTR and Tolkien’s universe. For what reason? Having an encyclopedic knowledge of LOTR made me happy. It was all I talked about and all I watched; it brought me into a community, it entertained, inspired, and motivated me. But in the end, this obsession didn’t really do me any good besides encourage a love of reading. Now I can’t help but think, what if I devoted the same amount of time and energy to something more worthwhile? Not my career or education, but Jesus Christ? What if I had an encyclopedic knowledge of Him? what He said and did? What if I made Him my inspiration and motivation? joined a community just as obsessed with Him as I was? How would my life be different? It wouldn’t just make me happy, it would give me real joy. It’s not quite as easy as all that. I need to work through my misgivings concerning the church and my own stubborn resistance to Him that we all share. But, reading and learning are things that I enjoy doing, and it’s not so much that I don’t find Jesus interesting as I’ve been desensitized by a lifetime of hearing the same standardized sermons over and over. So that’s where I’ll start, reading.

I need a new job.

On a much more practical level, I’ve been thinking and rethinking my situation and decided to seriously look for a better job. Earning minimum wage is terrible; earning minimum wage in a retail position is not worth it. I had a bad experience last week when I was sick and needed to call out. But even before last week, I applied to a handful of temp agencies in Raleigh. So far, I have not heard anything from them. I’ve also applied and have an interview for an AmeriCorps VISTA position at Fayetteville State University. To be honest, it’s not paying much more than what I’m making now, but it is in my career field and would help me develop my professional skills. There are two things that prevent me from being super excited about this job. 1) It’s an hour away from Raleigh so a lot of time and money would be spent commuting. 2) It requires a one year commitment that I may or may not be able to complete. The job runs from Feb 2015 to Feb 2016, but I’m planning to start grad school in the fall of 2015. I would be willing to defer enrollment for a semester (which would take me to Jan 2016), but an entire year? That’s a long time. Since nothing is set in stone for grad school, I’m going to the interview next week, but I don’t know what to do! My gut feeling, and my Mom, tells me to let this job go and attend grad school this fall, but what if I give it up and don’t get in? At the same time, I can’t stand the thought of working at Starbucks for another eight months before grad school.

I know things will work themselves out. In the meantime, I’ll just bake some cookies.

Merry Christmas!

Beck