Reader Jodi, talking about the post on Eating While Fat, brought up another aspect of the EWF experience: “Of course, when I go into a restaurant, I first have to decide whether or not I will fit in a booth made to fit only skinny people or will I have to sit at a table. I have been in many embarrassing situations where the host doesn’t ask, and I go to sit in the booth, and I just can’t breathe… then have to ask to be moved.”
Asking for accommodations can bring up a lot of emotions – stress, embarrassment, shame, fear, anger, guilt. I think that one massive problem is that we’ve been told that asking for accommodations is asking for some kind of favor or special treatment above and beyond what everyone else gets. Also, as fat people, we are told that we are responsible for our fatness and therefore should simply get thin so that we don’t need the accommodations.
Let’s examine the situation: There is plenty of evidence to show that people are a variety of sizes for a variety of reasons which are not necessarily within their control and that we have no proven method to change size over the long term. More importantly, it doesn’t matter why I’m fat or even if it was possible to be thin. I have every right to exist in my body as it is and I don’t owe the world a body that fits in a restaurant booth. The same goes for people who desire or require accommodations due to physical or mental illness, disability or any other reason.
Asking a business for an accommodation is not asking them for special treatment. It is doing them a favor, and one you shouldn’t have to do. You are granting them the courtesy of pointing out something that they probably should have thought of already, or at least should be grateful to know about now. The people who opened that restaurant know that fat people exist and eat out, so why didn’t they make sure to have chairs that fat people can fit in? When the hospital opened to provide healthcare to the community they were aware that the community includes fat people; so please don’t act all surprised and inconvenienced when my fat ass shows up and needs a bed that fits me, you should have ordered that bed when you ordered all the rest of them. If people on the plane who aren’t fat have a seat they can fit into, then when a fat person asks for a seat they can fit into they are not asking for special treatment, they are asking for what everyone else already has.
So what can you do about accommodations? First, realize that you shouldn’t have to ask for them and that if you do you aren’t doing anything wrong or asking for anything special, you’re doing the business a kindness. They should be embarrassed. Second, you get to decide how this works. Let’s use restaurants for example: If you want to be confrontational you can go into the restaurant and ask for a chair without arms and if they don’t have one then ask for the manager, raise loud hell, start a letter writing campaign etc. Or, if you’re not up for a fight today you could call the restaurant ahead of time and ask if they have chairs without arms or pick a restaurant that you know works for you. (I would love it if you would share your strategies for this and other situations in the comments!)
You can tell the host/ess “Three for a table please” to avoid being seated at a booth. Is there a policy that parties of less than four have to sit in booth? Well, that policy is for other people – how about we cruise on over to that six top so that I don’t have to eat with my boobs resting on the top of the table and my spleen being compressed, you can take away the three extra chairs. Obviously this isn’t just for fat people – maybe you need a seat out of the sun or close to the entrance, somewhere to park your scooter, a table that works with your wheelchair, a place to sit in your class that is not a tiny chair with a connected desk, to not have to sit at a long bench with your table super-close to strangers. You are paying this business money so making you comfortable should be a primary goal for them, not an inconvenience. If it’s not, then you get to choose what to do. It turns out that fat money spends the same and so if a business isn’t interested in attracting and keeping me as a customer then I take my money to one that is.
I believe that one of the best ways to get businesses to accommodate us is to hit them where it counts – in the wallet. I’ve long wished for a resource where I could go to find a fat friendly business. So I am starting a simple website to rate businesses in the LA area. It will be totally free and participant=driven so you can include fat friendliness, disability friendliness, mobility aid friendliness etc. If you are in the area and interested in being part of the beta group that works on the site then just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org (Please e-mail rather than just leaving a comment, comments are really hard of me to work with when I’m doing projects) If you want to start a similar website in your area and would like some support then e-mail me, it’s pretty simple, doesn’t require a lot of computer experience, and I’ll be happy to share all the information that I have and do whatever I can to help you get started, either way I would love to know about your site or other sites like this so that I can link to them. I think that we deserve a resource that helps us know which businesses clearly want and deserve our money.
Like the blog? Check Out the Book. The E-Book is “Name Your Own Price”!
I wanted everyone to be able to afford Fat: The Owner’s Manual – Surviving a Thin-Obsessed World with your Health, Happiness, and Sense of Humor Intact so it is now available in soft cover and e-book which is “name your own price
Get Special Deals from Size Positive Businesses
I do size acceptance activism full time. A lot what I do, like answering over 5,000 e-mails from readers each month, giving talks to groups who can’t afford to pay, and running projects like the Georgia Billboard Campaign etc. is unpaid, so I created a membership program so that people who read the blog and feel they get value out of it and/or want to support the work I do can become members for ten bucks a month To make that even cooler, I’ve now added a component called “DancesWithFat Deals” which are special deals to my members from size positive merchants. Once you are a member I send out an e-mail once a month with the various deals and how to redeem them – your contact info always stays completely private.
The regular e-mail blog subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is always completely free. If you’re curious or uncomfortable about any of this, you might want to check out this post. Thanks for reading! ~Ragen