The looks, the stares - I don't care

Hello you!

Happy weekend. I hope whatever you're doing you'll have a great one!

I live in a bubble protected from real life for the most part due to Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which are a bar to me working. I don't go out very often (friendships and my social life have dwindled away in recent years along with my mobility) so I mostly leave the house with my hubby or any guests we might have staying with us at the time. I'm lucky to live in a town where there's a big alternative and arty community so a fat girl walking around doesn't really cause that much of a stir in the grand scheme of things. On the rare occasion I bumble off into town alone I can usually do so without feeling like I have 3 heads. It's pretty cool.

However it's not like this everywhere.

On my recent holiday to Dorset I was the recipient of dozens of incredulous looks and long, violating stares each day which made me feel like I needed to go home and have a long scrub in the bath. I'd go as far as to say that some of the starers were so slack jawed they looked like the wind had changed on them. I was like Moses parting the red sea everywhere I walked but instead of water on both sides it was idiots! I have to say I'm not shy about showing up starers for the ill-mannered eejits they are.

At the start of the week I was getting annoyed by the constant gawping, but by the end of it I was so over caring. I had a major breakthrough.

So what if people stare? I'm a big, fat, glamorous woman with a filthy cackle and (sometimes) a filthy mouth. I have no qualms about tucking into a big fat dinner and enjoying the hell out of it in public, especially if it pisses off some morally outraged troglodyte. I will wear loud colours, bold prints and tight clothing without a thought. I am a spectacle to behold for all the right reasons and I will stare idiots the fuck down if they think gawping at me for any length of time is going to intimidate or shame me.

Let them stare.

You know what, I'm a big woman. I take up space. After this holiday I have no qualms about needing sturdy armless chairs or comfy seats when I go out. My body is this size and that is what I need. I will endeavour to make sure I will be in comfort when I go out (scouting out places with wide or armless chairs, dismissing environments where they have flimsy chairs, fixed seating or tiny booths, etc.) but it's not always possible. We were having lunch one day last week in a small pub which had too many tables and chairs crammed into the space available. Hubby and I got up to play a quiz machine and some OAP girls on a day out sat at the table behind us while we were gone, which meant there was no room for me to get back into my seat (in fact even hubby would've struggled to get back in there as the gap between their seats and ours was so small.) We went and sat down at another table. No fucks given. Up until recently that situation would've made me burn red with shame but now, no. Hell no.

The pub wasn't set up to accommodate big bodies - is that my fault? No. A very tall person would've had just as much trouble in that situation, as would someone in a wheelchair. Would we blame them for their circumstances and their needs because of that? Of course not! (I'm not comparing fat bodies to disabled bodies but I am trying to illustrate how one type of non-normative body is considered 'our fault' and others aren't.) If a shop is so crammed full of stuff that the force field surrounding my arse knocks product off the shelves (Claire's Accessories, I'm giving you side eyes) is that my fault? No, and I can choose not to go into places which make me feel so unwelcome. So FU Claire's and every other place where there's no consideration for ALL their customers. If your profit margin dictates your establishment is hell to visit, I think I'll give it a miss. I think you have to be a ninja to come out of Claire's without knocking at least a few things off, but in my case it looks like the aftermath of a burglary. ;)

There's a pub on the seafront in town. It used to be nice and now it's gone to shit, but that's another story. They got these new chairs in there, cheap fake leather things. The first time I sat down on one of them, my arse would've gone right through if my hips had fit through the frame. I was beating myself up about this chair experience for a good year until last week when my skinny mate (that'll be you Dan) and my hubby both nearly did the same thing when they sat down. It wasn't my fat body which was wrong for the chairs. They have no bottom to them. There's a frame, legs and some thin padding but no SEAT in these frigging chairs. Have you ever heard of anything so stupid?! Your arse literally dangles over padding and thin air. That place is not focussed on their customers.

I was in Store 21 once, another store which piles the goods up closely so only a waif can pass between the rails. I had to unhook a lady in a motorised wheelchair from an entire mobile display as there was literally a foot wide gap between displays and she'd hooked the thing accidentally and was dragging it along with her. Was it her fault? No, no and thrice no. I made a joke about not being able to navigate the aisles either then freed her up so she could continue battling through the aisles. Ridiculous.

Perhaps when we consider how many places aren't catered to ALL OF US we'll realise we're not the problem. They are.

Don't be afraid to take up space, to be looked at, to have needs which will make your experiences more comfortable. Avoid places that don't cater to you or that make you feel like you don't belong. Don't be ashamed to advocate for yourself - either by boycotting places which make you feel unwelcome, by writing letters/emails asking for your needs to be met in future, or by voting with your money and going to the places who do already cater to your needs (and those of your friends/family with non-normative bodies.)

People - of all sizes - next time you go out to eat, drink or shop, here's a little homework for you. Cast a critical eye around. Does the venue cater for everyone? Is there wheelchair access? Is there ample room for all kinds of bodies to get around and be comfortable? Is there room for people with buggies/pushchairs to be there? Are there comfortable seats for fat or disabled people to relax in? Are there trip hazards or objects which will impede the path of a wheelchair or buggy? Is the venue excluding a great swathe of the population by making its environs as harsh and uninviting as possible? Whose 'fault' is that if the venue is unfriendly - the venue's, or the person in the non-normative body?

Hopefully that's food for thought, pardon the pun.

Go out, claim your space, and if you get stared at, own it. Life's a catwalk baby. WERK!

What do you think? Am I just pissing into the wind or do I have something here? Let me know in the comments.

Thanks for reading.

No comments