Flying High

So, as I write this post I am sitting in first class. I have to say that it’s nice, especially for someone like me. You see I’m a big girl. I take up space. In the past I have always sat in those tiny seats. My ass fitting but scrunched against the sides. Always pulling the seat belt all the way and hoping it buckles. The look on people’s faces when they realize you are sitting next to them. Ugh. It sucks. It’s humiliating. It hurts.

I’ve been a big girl for the last twenty years or so. I know what it’s like to live on both sides. When I was in my early twenties I was so small that people thought I was anorexic. Now people actually have the gall to suggest I eat a salad. Body shaming goes both ways but I digress.

I’m sitting in first class right now and for the first time I actually feel comfortable on a flight. It’s never happened before today. It’s awesome, too bad I had to pay a bunch of cash to finally feel comfortable in this scenario.

Let me tell you about my last experience flying. I booked a flight on Southwest Airlines not knowing that the sooner you check in online the sooner you can get on the flight. The sooner you get on the flight, the better seat you will get. Being a bigger girl, your seat selection is very important. I have, up until this point flown on Delta, American and Sun country. Southwest had only recently started flying from my terminal so I was caught unaware.

When I checked in I found that I was in the very last group to board the plane. When I asked what that meant exactly, the very nice desk attendant explained the procedure to me. The empathetic expression in his eyes is still with me. He knew, this was not going to be a good situation for me. I believe he even said, “oh honey,” in his perfect southern drawl.  I took a deep breath at his news. I tried to calm my racing heart. I had just made an already bad situation worse.

So, I’m waiting at the gate. I end up meeting some other English teachers. We are all headed to the national conference in Atlanta, Georgia. I forget for a few moments that I’m about to board a full plane. I enjoy my preparations for one of my favorite yearly events. I love meeting other English teachers because we always get caught up in talking about books and our students. Before I know it, the flight is boarding. I watch everyone get in line and begin boarding. Dread creeps over me and I can feel the knot settle in my stomach. Finally, they call section C and I stand in line. There are only five other people behind me. This can’t be good.

I walk slowly down the tunnel and step onto the plane greeting the flight attendants with my best friendly midwestern smile. I walk down the aisle and no seats are open. There are only three or four seats in the middle and not a single person moves to allow me access to one of the seats. I see the group I met earlier and one guy shrugs his shoulders. He mouths “sorry” and I turn and walk toward the front. Again no one moves. I stop and ask a woman on the end, hoping for some sympathy and she balks. “I’m not moving, find someplace else.” I can’t believe this is happening. I am full of shame as I walk back up toward the front. I can’t believe not a single person will move so I can at least sit in a middle seat.

I guess I get it, no one wants to sit next to the fat girl.

That hurts. Bad.

I make my way back toward the front and the flight attendant motions for me to join her. I reach her and she says “Wait here, because of the delay those traveling to Boston will have to get off this flight to board another. We’ll get you a seat at the front.” She winks and rubs my arm. I expel a relieved sigh. She nods her head toward the other flight attendant and he makes the announcement. Passengers begin to grumble. They stand and grab their carry-on bags from the over-head compartments. One man, in the front of the plain stands. So, does the woman next to him. Leaving an entire row empty.

The flight attendant waves her hand as soon as they depart and says, “Here you go sweetie, the row is all yours.”

I smile and say, “Thank you so much.”

She smiles back and says, “No problem sweetie. Let me know if you need anything else.”

To this day I am so grateful to flight attendants. They are some of the nicest people I have ever met. Especially since they have to deal with so many, rude people.

I know my story ended happily. I got the whole row to myself and learned my lesson. I checked in early to my returning flight and haven’t made that mistake again. Yet, I will never forget the shame and hurt I felt walking up and down that aisle without a friendly face. People could have moved for me to sit in the middle. Not a one did. I’m sure this isn’t even the worst story another larger person may have experienced. I mean Kevin Smith was kicked off the plane for crying out loud.  Too fat to fly almost became a movement, almost.

Somehow fat shaming is still acceptable. Somehow, we blame the person. All it would’ve taken that day is one friendly face. I will never forget what the flight attendant did for me but I always wonder. What if there hadn’t been a delay. What if no one actually moved. I know I would have made someone let me in at some point. I am a strong-willed female. I would have sat in that bitches lap to make her move but I shouldn’t have had to. I’m hopeful that others sharing this journey find a friendly face rather than a condemning eye. I also hope no one ever experiences too fat to fly.

Horror at the Amusement Park

Anyone with a little extra weight on them knows the horrors that often await us at the amusement park. I have had a few of these horrific experiences. The moment you are about to get on the ride and the operator takes a look at you and you can feel the judgement in this eyes but you defiantly get on the ride anyway. He moves to move the bar over you and for one moment you are sitting there full of hope that it will click into place and you won’t have any problems. As you hold your breath, and suck in your ever expanding gut he pushes and the breath expels quickly out of your mouth but there is no click. He pushes harder and harder, meanwhile you are thinking: seriously I am a person you know and that is still part of my body, OUCH! He lifts the bar up and says “I’m sorry you can’t ride if the bar can’t snap into place” He looks down to the ground as he waits.

You nod, sigh, and move to get out of the damn ride. Even worse, he stops you and points. He wants you to go back the way you came. Really, you want me to walk all the way back down through the line with all of those people. You shake your head but he shakes his back and points. Head down you turn and go back the way you came. Something inside you has died a little at the prospect of walking through the crowd but you do. Head still staring at the ground the entire walk as you can feel each person’s eyes on you as you walk. You can’t bare to look up and meet any of them in the eye. The pity you could see would be the last straw. The pain in your throat is familiar, you’ve held back tears before today. These people will not see you cry today.

The amusement park is supposed to be a place for fun. You just wanted to ride a few rides and have fun with your friends. Now all you want to do is go home and start in on that pint of Ben and Jerry’s you have in the freezer. For a moment you understand that those thoughts might be the reason you’re in this situation but you know it will make you feel better for at least a little while, then worse. It’s a never ending cycle that I know all too well.

I have many of these same experiences from my visits to the amusement park. Not all of them have been quite this painful. One instance I remember quite clearly because it was only a couple of years ago. I went with my cousins to Wisconsin Dells. I love it there. My family used to go there almost every summer when I was a kid. It holds some of my fondest vacation memories. Well most of them.

My cousin got a good deal at Chula Vista resort and so we were staying there for an extended weekend. I had decided that I didn’t care what others thought I was going to enjoy my vacation, cellulite be damned. So there I was in my suit with my younger cousins enjoying the lazy river. I mean it felt like the perfect “ride” for me. Nate and Tony were about to head to the water slides to go down together. Naomi wanted to go to but she didn’t have a partner.

She looked to me and said “Please Danielle, will you go on the slide with me?” she was so cute.

I responded “of course I will go with you.” I am a sucker for anything my younger cousins want but shh don’t tell them.

So we grab a tube and begin the climb up the towering flight of stairs to the top of those slides. I am already regretting this decision but Naomi looks so happy and expectant that I follow her up the stairs as she giddily says “come on Danielle.”

We are about half-way up when I notice a sign that reads, weight limit 250lbs. I halt instantly. I think to myself: wait, I weigh 250 lbs and there are two of us. I look to Naomi who is thirteen at the time. I know she has got to be close to a hundred herself.

Oh shit. I think to myself.

I ask Naomi, “How serious do you think they are about the weight limit is on this water slide?”

She turns and says “I don’t know” then continues walking.

I follow still questioning the sign and whether I should still be climbing these stairs. It would suck to get to the top and be denied and have to walk all the way back down. Would they be able to tell by looking at me that I exceed the weight limit? Would they ask me when I got to the top? All these questions roll around in my mind as I continue to trek up the stairs. As I’ve mentioned before amusement parks have not always been that great of an experience for me and they usually make weight limits for a reason.

As I climb the last few steps I resigned to go on the damn slide, I mean I’ve already climbed all those damn steps. So, we get to the front and the guy holds the tube for us to both get on. Naomi is in the front and I straddle my legs around her in the back and flop into the tube. The minute I hit the tube it sinks in the back and it takes a bit of effort to get us to the entrance of the slide. One last heave by the worker and we are dropping down the tube. Water splashing around as we fly around each curve. I tell you what the added weight made us fly down the slide.  We both scream out in glee at each jutted curve the tube takes.. My worry about the weight limit has disappeared and I am having so much fun.

Suddenly, we enter this round opening that reminds me of a toilet because the hole that we will go down is in the center of the bowl.  The minute we hit the floor of the bowl we stop immediately. We both jerk forward with the abrupt halt. There isn’t as much water rushing through the bowl, definitely not enough to keep us going around the bowl to the center where we would continue our descent. I panic and look around to see what I can do to rectify this situation. The sign instantly flashes in my head and I put two and two together I realize the reason for the weight restriction. I try to get some kind of leverage and lift myself enough so that water can go back under the tube but that doesn’t work. We still weigh to much and are sitting like a rock as water rushes around us. My legs are on the tube on either side of Naomi and I can’t seem to move too much or lift myself enough to make any difference, we still aren’t moving. My breathing increases as the inability to move us sets in.

Naomi says “Oh my God we’re stuck.”

“I know, I know” I respond.

“There will be other people coming behind us any minute” she says.

I look back quickly, “I know that too” I said rushed.

I arch my back to press against the back of the tube and reach both hands behind my back and begin to attempt to push us forward as fast as I can. My hands are able to just barely reach the bottom and I push as best I can against the slick surface. I can feel the water part the tube as I continue to push as in hurried bursts. This is all I can do short of getting off the tube altogether. I frantically push over and over trying to push myself further back as best I can. We move mere inches with each push. I try to lift myself more to scoot further back in the tube so I can get more traction with my hands. I push and push and push but I am running out of breath.

Finally, we’ve just about reached the hole to drop down the center. I breathe a sigh of relief and take a moment to look behind us. Two teenage boys in their tube just entered the bowl. They are moving at record speeds and I know that they are going to hit us before we drop into the bowl. I try a few more times with my hands to push us to the hole without luck. They slam into the side of the tube and we end up going down backwards with the two boys staring at us as we descend down the last of the twists and turns in the slide. When we shoot out the bottom they are right behind. I go to get off the tube and flop oh so gracefully into the water, belly first. I stand quickly, grab the tube and walk toward the stairs, trying to save any dignity that I have left. I don’t look back. I don’t want to see the looks on the two boys faces. I smile and head toward the bar and Melanie.

Naomi turns and says “Do you want to go again?”

My bottom lip drops and I gape at her. She’s got to be kidding right? I answer after I close my jaw, “No I think I’ll just hang out at the bar for awhile with your mom.”

“Okay” she says and runs for the line again.

Yeah it will be a long time before I go on that damn slide again, I think and continue my approach to the bar. I’m ready for a shot after that adventure.


So we all know that feeling. That burning sensation you feel when you’ve walked a little too long in a day. You chose to wear that skirt or jeans or whatever, not thinking anything of it, you wear them all the time right? You keep walking around, everything seems fine, maybe you’ve walked a mile, maybe five and everything seems okay. That’s until that all too familiar fiery pain begins with each glide of skin on skin contact. The burning pain that can only come from the friction between the skin on your all too filled out thighs. In an attempt to stop the pain from getting worse you begin to walk like a penguin straining to keep your thighs from touching. But let’s be real, they are going to touch no matter how far you try to spread your legs while you walk. Or you might have figured out that if you take smaller steps your legs won’t rub together quite so much.  You attempt to walk by only moving your leg from the knee down which doesn’t really work. This is that moment when you really understand what it means to be chafed.

Many of us know all too well what it means to be chafed. Well some of us do. The ones who’ve never experienced the novelty of the “thigh gap.”  The feeling you get when your legs have rubbed together for hours and you are now waddling hoping above all else that salvation will soon come in the form of a chair, if only to rest your legs long enough to stop the terrible burning you experience from the friction between your thighs. But you know that once the chaffing has begun it will only get worse. .

I am quite familiar with chafing. My first memory of this phenomena is a family trip to Valley Fair. I wasn’t super heavy then, only about one hundred and eighty pounds. Which for me being five feet eight inches wasn’t too bad, really. I had chosen to wear a pair of jean shorts. I hadn’t even thought about it at the time because I hadn’t really realized I didn’t have the thigh gap that I’d had my entire childhood. By mid afternoon I knew, my childhood and the gap between my thighs was gone.

My favorite ride was Thunder Canyon and I had finally talked my family into going on it. I was so excited watching us each get drenched in turn. I even laughed as I got off the ride and couldn’t wait to run around to go again. I hadn’t thought about the consequences of beginning the day soaking wet. It was summer who would’ve thought about anything besides getting cooled off by the refreshing waters from the ride. Of course that wasn’t enough. We continued on, riding the flume, the wave and anything else which could keep me soaked all day. Oh man what was I thinking.

I was walking by the pirate ship, off to the next ride when I noticed a slight burn between my legs. At the time I shrugged it off ready to venture toward the next ride. My brother loved roller coasters and so we were heading to every one. Walking from one side of the park to the next, But as I walked the dull burning began to worsen. Turning to a full on throbbing pain. I had to stop walking, I couldn’t go on.The friction caused by each new step fueled the fire, I didn’t want to take another step. I begged to stop walking, pleaded, could we just take the train back to the entrance and my salvation, the car. Within the hour, I was walking with my legs so far apart that a Saint Bernard could have walked comfortably under me. I could’ve been riding a horse with my legs straddled so far apart. Seriously I must’ve looked ridiculous. I complained to my mom but her only response was “I told you not to wear jeans.”  She was of course the expert on chafing. She had known better.

Here I was walking with my legs as far apart as I could get them so that my thighs wouldn’t touch and we were all the way on the other side of the park. We had still planned to be there for hours, HOURS!  My brother was running and dancing around us because we were walking so slow. He was excited to go on more rides. I, on the other hand, just wanted to go back to the car. I couldn’t believe just walking could hurt so bad. I thought that I would never recover.

But of course I did recover. My parents finally agreed to go back to the car and we went home. I rejoiced in each step closer to the car, knowing that I wouldn’t have to endure this agony for much longer. I celebrated when I reached for the handle of the car, knowing that it would be at least a whole forty minutes until I would have to walk again. Oh the relief of being able to hold my legs apart, stationary for the entire car ride home.

When I reached my house I waddled to my bedroom to assess the damage I had done to the innermost part of my thighs. I thought I had to have worn the skin clear off. But to my relief I had not. My skin was bright red with purplish tinges. Some of the skin had begun to flake away at the center most part of where my legs touched. I tried to rub lotion on the skin but that only made it burn more, I couldn’t believe it.  I laid in my bed with my legs spread wide across the mattress. When I fell asleep I cringed every time the skin on my thighs touched. I vowed to never wear jeans to Valley Fair ever again. But this kind of memory fades and of course I would wear jeans again not realizing what was to come until it was too late. Experiencing that all too familiar pain caused by the friction that accompany my fuller thighs. So I begin my story Chafed.