Health

What It Feels Like to Be the "Fat Person" Nobody Wants to Sit Next To

An anonymous Medium piece about the anxiety surrounding traveling as a "fat person" is pushing back against the stigmatization of overweight airplane passengers.

Plane

The author, who goes by the username Your Fat Friend, highlights the stigma overweight travelers face — who are frequently mocked and made to feel uncomfortable.

In the post, the author expresses dread about an upcoming work trip, revealing that the anxiety sets in when he or she buys a plane ticket, and that it gets worse from there:

"The anxiety doesn’t subside once I buy a ticket — it distills, intensifying for weeks leading up to the flight. I think about how to eliminate every other stressor. Passengers hate it when someone takes too long loading their bag into the overhead compartments. I pay to check a bag, so that my fellow passengers won’t have any additional reasons to complain about me."

The writer adds that there's a ton of work to do before even securing a ticket, because airlines often have policies for "passengers of size." The writer expresses fears that he or she will be overcharged and even turned away, an uncomfortable situation to have to explain to a boss, friend, relative, or partner.

ATTN: has reached out to the author for further comment and will update this piece if they respond.

Plane

Overweight Airplane passengers are frequently mocked.

In a 2008 comedy special, comedian Ricky Gervais joked at the expense of overweight travelers, and dismissed the notion that they should be given special accommodations on planes.

“‘Airplane seats, they’re not big enough for someone like me,’” Gervais said sneeringly. “No they’re not, because if they were, we’d only fit 12 fucking people on the plane!”

Ricky Gervais From His 2008 Comedy Special, Out of England

In a 2015 post in the Daily Mail, writer Julia Stephenson bemoans the experience of being seated next to an overweight person on an airplane:

"And on another awful 18-hour flight my gargantuan neighbour polished off his meal, drank a bottle of wine, then fell asleep like a dead tree on my shoulder.

"The stewardess and I managed to prop him up, but he kept falling back on me. I feared I might suffocate.

"So it's little wonder that I find myself agreeing with chief medical officer Professor Dame Sally Davies's recent suggestion of charging fatties more to fly."

Airlines Can Be Unkind to Overweight Travelers, Too.

Noting that actor Kevin Smith was famously thrown off a Southwest Airlines plane for his size several years ago, Your Fat Friend added that United Airlines will "refuse to board [overweight passengers] unless [they] agree to purchase an additional ticket at the day-of price, and who has $600 to spare?"

"JetBlue doesn’t have a policy [for overweight travelers] — which means it is the most unsafe of all," the writer of the Medium post added about airlines. "I flash back to my last flight on JetBlue, when a passenger loudly complained to a flight attendant while I sat next to him, about how he couldn’t be expected to travel like this. She moved him to another seat, switching with another passenger. She wouldn’t make eye contact with me for the entire flight. Neither would the other passengers in my row. I was so big, and so invisible."

Travel

The Anxiety of Flying While Overweight Lingers After the Flight Ends.

"Before the flight lands, I begin thinking of the return flight," the piece concludes. "I try to be present with friends & family, try to prep for my work meeting. I use every tool I’ve got to manage my anxiety, my butterfly beating heart and shallow breath and tight shoulders. Despite that, I don’t sleep soundly for days."

Though overweight people are often dehumanized when they board airplanes, the anonymous writer's post has led to an outpouring of support.

 

I have nightmares about trying to fly. This is pretty much everything that goes through my head when I think about...

Posted by Tales of a Kitchen Witch on Sunday, March 6, 2016

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Read the piece in full over at Medium.

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