Thursday, January 3, 2008
I Experienced Sizeism, as an Outsider, Last Night . . .
Hoping to send my parents back to Groton, New York with the best possible impression of Wichita, Kansas they could possibly leave with, we decided to take them for a "last supper" at a very unique eatery that you can ONLY partake in here in our beloved Wichi-Wichi (and almost 100 other locations in 42 states nationally) . . . P.F. Chang's.
The upscale Chinese eatery prides itself on family style Chinese food in a family friendly environment. Last night did NOT disappoint (the 'rents or the Sean, Joy and Ava Amores). I dined on a partial order of the Shanghai Cucumbers and two steamed shrimp dumplings and I was in charge of keeping Ava's plate full (she whoops it up at P.F. Chang's so it is no small time commitment to keep her culinary options open and stocked).
We had a lovely meal but a weird thing happened on the way to the check . . . our waiter laid down some sizeism - right in front of me.
He was ABOUT to tell a story about how he was once at the airport and he saw a very heavy woman walking up behind him at the ticket counter and he got scared that she would be in his row on the flight BUT Joy (God bless and protect Joy) stepped in and helped gently persuade him to instead make his story about how he felt bad for her that she would have to get on the very small planes that typically service the Wichita Airport. The weird thing is that between my parents and myself - there were three pretty-heavy people at the table (we were at a booth that sat above our bellies so maybe we looked smaller than we are to the standing waiter) and the weirder thing is that we all were uncomfortable from the first word of his story (DISCLAIMER - I got up and left the table with Ava because I felt my forehead getting sweaty and my heart was starting to race a little so Joy had to tell me what he actually said after the fact).
The waiter talking reminded me of the shame that I've felt for the last decade of my life when it was time to fly (for work or for pleasure) and the equal shame I felt in thousands of day-to-day scenarios and situations during that time as well.
Our waiter's insensitive chatter also made me realize that people no longer see me as "that guy" on the plane . . . I'm no longer the threat that looms in the seat next to you. I'm no longer the spill-over on the arm rest or the huffing and puffing behind the belt extender for the whole flight. I'm not the guy you can't share a seat with on the airport shuttle or the guy you have to pull your suitcase closer to you in the terminal because I can't possibly see your luggage laid out on the floor in front of me, etc. etc. etc.
So . . . is this the next phase for me? Will I become a regular witness to OPEN sizeism (versus the years and years and years of witnessing it subtly by being a victim of it)? And do I have an obligation to be polite and endure it as I always have or is my larger obligation (which I feel is much more likely) to defend the larger people in this world that I still very much feel are my peers and are my equals?
After all, I'm still a very heavy man by most people's standards and I hope my mindset never becomes "skinny" in any way.