occupying appropriately sized public space


I got the train home last night. Well *nearly* home, I actually got on the wrong train which took me to the middle of nowhere and left me standing on the platform phoning my husband in high state of distress to be picked up. But anyways, my complete doolalliness wasn’t the point of this story and I digress. Last week was the first time in some months I'd taken the train. It was reasonably full with only a number of individual seats left, but instead of trying to squeeze myself into one of them I chose to stand the entire way. I didn't want to encroach. Didn’t want to feel like a blob.

Last night, to my relief, the train was half empty. I saw two free seats next to the aisle and was very pleased I’d be able to let my weary bones sit down and relax for the entire journey without risk of sitting on someone’s lap. Right enough I had heaps of space either side of me, but I hadn’t accounted for my rather ample backside pushing me so far forward my knees embarrassingly wedged right into the knees of the perfect blonde sitting opposite me. I spent the entire journey tensing every muscle in my lower body trying to lift my backside and my knees away from her personal space. Ani the blob.

I hate that feeling. Of just wanting to shrivel up to nothing. Ashamed my excess flesh is so out of control it infringes on other people. I pine for a time when I will be within ‘appropriate public space’ size limits again. 2007 was the first time in my entire adult life that I could fit comfortably within a “standard” seat on a train or bus. For just a brief few months of my life my thighs didn’t spread over the seat edge or even worse crush up against some poor uncomfortable bystander’s own thighs.

During that time I remember catching a bus from a client’s back to my office and down near the front was a young woman about the size I would have been at my largest. Watching her was like watching my former self. Perth bus seats are all doubles but no one would sit next to her. I could see her awkwardness. I remembered how that felt, wishing you weren’t such a repugnant prospect as a bus buddy, knowing that no-one wants to sit next to you because you’re so fat. Irony is, as soon as I was small enough for people not to be offended at the idea of being my neighbour, I’d also relaxed enough to realise I’d actually really rather no one sat next to me after all. Eventually, after half the aisle standing room had filled up, someone sat down next to her. For the next 15 minutes I watched as she tensed every single muscle in a fruitless attempt to make herself occupy less space. I felt such empathy and affection for her. I wanted to catch her eye but I feared my caring glance would probably be misconstrued as pity, I didn’t want to patronise.

It got me thinking, now that I’m back to being where she was, I wonder how I would have felt towards her. Would I have seen her and her discomfort as clearly now that my vision is again clouded with my own feelings of inadequacy and discomfort? It’s funny how the way we view other people can vary in reflection to how we view ourselves at the time. As I lost weight and got to near ‘normal’ sizes, one of the big differences I noticed was that I stopped seeing the world through fat goggles. I stopped internalising everything and assuming the worst on the basis of my self-perceived defectiveness. I’d accept social invitations because they’d be fun, not just because I thought I *should* go or because the person was clearly feeling sorry for me. I stopped double thinking everything OK not “totally” stopped, once an over-analyser always an over-analyser I started seeing life closer to how it really is.

There are many genuine health and logistical benefits to losing weight but we’re generally persuaded against believing that being slim will be the answer to our other problems. From my brief glimmer into slimishness I know that it IS the answer - for me. Take away the fat and I take away my justification for not living and for not being the best version of me I can possibly be. I’m sure there will be those who'd tell me I should learn to adjust my mind, not just my body, but I don’t know how else to remove the self-doubt and self-disgust without removing the very object of that disgust. That's one of the biggest reasons I'm doing this, as well as being able to relax on public transport of course.


Cammy said...

I know that feeling. It happened to me on a flight from NY once. Horrible.

I understand what you're saying about the desire to be slim, and although I *wish* for you to feel better about your now, past, and future selves, I wouldn't presume to tell you that you *should* think that way. It's a tough row to hoe, as the saying goes, and I still battle it on any given day.

For me, knowing that I'm "in control" of my behaviors is what helped more than any physical change. But that's me, and that's now. (And even then, it's "now" only _most_ of the time. *g*)

Wishing you peaceful, happy thoughts...

kathrynoh said...

The worst thing about losing weight is having ppl sit next to you on PT. I hate it. Even at my biggest, if the only seat on the train was in a row of three and it was the middle seat, I'd sit there. Screw it, I'd paid for my ticket.

Planes are the worst though, that look ppl get when they have to sit next you. And I'm not even going to think about the tray table...

Elsha said...

oh my goodness, I feel the same way! I hate anyone sitting next to me....(unless it is my hubby) and luckily we get the train together. Bus seats freak me out even more because they are even smaller....

JanetM97 said...

Good (moving) post!

I haven't experienced the seat thing (and having someone sit next to you IS over-rated! ;)), but I think we've all felt the occasional self-loathing. We're our own harshest critics, eh?

I hope you love and embrace all the Ani's in all her different, shrinking sizes. I'm trying to cut Janet a little slack, too- even though her slow progress and yoyo dieting is uber-annoying. :)

HopeFool said...

I so agree with you. Losing weight didn't solve all of the problems that got me fat in the first place, BUT it stopped the day-to-day compounding of those problems. It gave me a break from the ultra-over-analyzing and vicious cycle of critical self-scrutiny I was living in.

The first time I lost my weight, I didn't take advantage of the break in the mental anguish. I just lived my life and had a blast and didn't think about myself for a change.

This time, I'm trying to change the negative thought-cycle that got me fat in the first place.

Nice blog entry. It made me think. Thanks!

ani pesto said...

*shudder* airplane seats - that's a whole post all of its own.

@HopeFool - you captured just what I was trying to say (in my usual over-wordy way). It might not fix the problem but it stops compounding the problem. In hindsight, I didn't take advantage when I lost all my weight the first time around either. I hope I've learned my lesson now.