I just got back from a lovely couple of days in NSW where we've been working on The Big Plan with two groups of people in Taree and in Coffs Harbour. It was very tough spending my day at the Surf Club in Coffs Harbour...the views were very beautiful. A crystal blue ocean...whales to be spotted occasionally...white hot heat from the sun but the ocean breeze making it cool and pleasant...the lucky country...
(if I ever figure out how to post photographs here...probably next week's challenge...the photograph I took this morning will be the first to go up)
Anyway...that was Coffs Harbour...
I get to work in some lovely places and have encouraging, affirming experiences with fantastic people. It's not a bad job...
The one thing that mars these experiences for me is that in order to get to Coffs Harbour I have to fly...2 planes there, 2 planes back.
I HATE flying.
I'm not afraid of flying but I find it almost unbearably stressful. I'm a big woman in the confined space of an aircraft cabin, squashed into the even smaller space of my seat. I am ultra sensitive to this situation...super aware of any potential encroachment into other people's space...somewhat haunted by previous experiences of deep sighs, rolled eyes and raised eyebrows. I've heard enough jokes about the fat girl on the plane and the awfulness of having to sit beside her and the absolute affront she is to humanity...how gross...how disgusting...how FAT!
Mostly I can hold my own against the fat fascism that exists in our society but on a plane my defences are seriously compromised. I compensate for that by being ultra organised around flying...always early (yes...you read it right)...having everything I need...frequently purchasing two seats for my 'personal comfort' or flying business class if that's anywhere near an affordable option...(there's just more room)
However, yesterday it all fell apart. I misread the time for my flight to Coffs...ended up running to the gate while hearing my name being called over the P.A. system. By the time I got on the plane most people were seated.
I would have been quite a sight...red-faced, sweating in a very unattractive way and probably looking extremely uncomfortable. I could see the people with empty spaces beside them hoping desperately that I wasn't going to be sitting beside them. I was imagining their relief as I passed...actually, I don't think that I was imagining it...it was palpable. Eventually I got to my (2) seats and got settled and then found myself in tears. I'd just felt...shame...as I'd walked through the plane and the grounds of my shame were my size. That was all.
I'm much bigger than average. I'm not typical. I am noticeably different. And the way in which I am most different has been judged by the society I live in to be a 'bad' difference...not a source of pride for my unique presence. But a source of shame for my failure to conform.
I cannot imagine that I'm the only person who has ever felt that. I know many people whose difference takes the form of a disability or impairment and who run the gauntlet of this kind of judgement EVERY DAY. That they continue to engage and participate is testament to their courage...
Yesterday, with my defences down, if the people on the plane had said that I should get off because I affronted them I would have thought that they were right and it was the least that I deserved.
Here...in Perth...in my own house with my (also noticeably different ) husband who loves different me...I don't think that's right. I just don't think it's right.
So...where does all of this take me? I'm not writing this for some kind of 'fat liberation' cause. I don't want people to feel sorry for me or spring to my defence. I don't want to petition the airlines for bigger seats and I don't want to hear the arguments that fat people should be weighed at the airport and charged excess baggage...
I DO. NOT. WANT. DIET. OR. EXERCISE. ADVICE.
I don't want any kind of advice or any sort of judgement at all.
I'm just asking for a bit of pondering. I suppose I'm really just asking a question that I heard Pete Ritchie ask about 10/12 years ago...'Why is it so difficult for us to be at ease in the presence of difference?' Does difference always have to carry either positive affirmation or negative judgement?
Can't it just be...different?