Josephine Parr is tall. She has trouble when she’s traveling via airplane. Not because of the full-body scanner, she doesn’t mind those, or the annoying engines that keep falling off airplanes–she doesn’t even mention those–but because the seats are jammed together. In a recent article in the Regional section of the New York Times, Ms. Parr noted that overweight people have to pay extra for seat belt extenders, and they can diet, but the overtall are penalized and they
can’t do anything about their height.
Before I read the comments, I knew what would happen. Yep, it was free-for-all on fat people. “Sara J” started by protecting the overweight by saying, in part, “Your smug slam of those who are overweight is unappreciated & shows your true lack of compassion for others.”
“Craig” wrote, “#2: It’s neither smug nor a slam. It’s a fact, so grow up and eat a little less”
“Doug” spoke up with, “As a frequent traveler, I have sometimes had to sit next to an obese person and suffer the overflow of humid flesh into my space . . . While I normally consider myself a compassionate person, I have no sympathy for overweight flyers.”
There were additional cruel remarks and very few solutions.
I sympathize with Ms. Parr. There are times when it’s tough to be tall. It’s also true that when you are X, it is easy to turn on those who are Y–especially on an airplane. It’s easy to point to the villain–Parents with children, the passenger who sneaks the pet on board and inevitably sits next to the allergic one. The people with peanut allergies who sit in terror of people opening their peanut packs and imperiling their ability to finish the flight alive. There is plenty of misery to go around.
A friend of mine takes a life-sustaining medication which has the unfortunate side effect of weight gain. Under the glare and careless comments of her fellow humans, she is now considering discontinuing the medication–because she can’t bear attracting so much hate while she is struggling to stay alive.
Another friend has lost 100 pounds, but is still overweight. Does she get applause for her effort? Nope, until she hits some magic size, she will still be the target of “eat less” comments from strangers, who feel compelled to insert themselves into her unknown (to them) life.
If you are overweight, you are familiar with the litany of blame–you break furniture, you dent the floor or lawn with your stilettos, you smell sweaty. That is, only if you are a woman. If you are a 350-pound linebacker, you smell manly and you should have another helping of mashed potatoes and gravy.
As long as we need to find a target for our anger, someone else to blame, deride or diminish so we can feel more worthy, we will remain angry, frustrated and contemptuous of those not exactly like us. And bigger airline seats can’t fix that.
–Quinn McDonald is a writer, artist and certified creativity coach. She is certain there are a lot of people who will find some reason to criticize her for something.