If you’ve ever ridden the New York City subway then you know that it can be a tense trip. Living in the most aggressive city in the world means that you have to be on guard from those grumpy commuters with that, “step on my toes and I will shank you attitudes.” Not only do you have to navigate the piranha invested waters of your work environment filled with social climbers, back stabbers and brown nosers, but if you’ve survived the day you can’t relax until you’ve crossed the threshold of your apartment doors. You look at the ride home as the last stop on a treacherous and slightly dangerous ride. If you can get into the train without getting crushed, cursed out or pan-handled then you count yourself lucky. If you can get the most precious and illusive thing of all, a seat on the train, then that is like offering a commuter a gift straight from the pearly gates of heaven.
I was lucky just recently. I dipped past the dude with the briefcase, ducked around the lady with the three-inch heels and sprinted past the student with the ten-ton backpack. I plopped down into the seat and was so happy I could practically hear crowds cheering in my head. Not having to stand for just under an hour on my ride home was God’s payback for something good I must have done. It was a tight fit but I had just enough space to squeeze myself in between an exhausted single mother and a half asleep businessman whose bobbing head threatened to drop into my lap. Napping while keeping the valuables in my purse was my next objective when right before my eyes closed, my eyes caught the gazes of women on the verge of sliding down the subway doors from exhaustion and fatigue. Some held themselves upright by force of will and others did the, I’m tired and my shoes are too tight shuffle. As I looked around there was an anomaly in the train that day –more than one empty seat! The women ignored this golden opportunity and remained standing. Was it Armageddon and they were preparing to run? My brow knitted in confusion and then I recognized the problem: ‘they were too fat to fit.’ These women who had in their possession what rappers everywhere call a phat ass, couldn’t sit because they had a little too much baby phat. Although having a behind is now considered an asset, in this instance, having too much junk in the trunk was not a positive accessory. Having eaten one cheeseburger too many in my day and by no means a small woman, I felt for these women who had to forgo personal comfort because they were terrified of the grumbling and silent cursing that would ensue if they attempted to squeeze themselves into a seat made for one with a body that had expanded to the size of two. It must have been humiliating and troubling to be limited and trapped by their proportions.
The situation was not unique. Society is now making us pay the price of overindulging. Being big means double fares on the airport, trains and vacation buses. It means being constantly aware of oneself in a society that has no compassion for the excessively large. Big is beautiful but when you can no longer fit into standard seating is that an indication that we have taken the ideology too far? Where do you weigh in on the subject?