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Who are these seats for?

Fat Tales: The gripes and good times of fat gloriousness

Photo of airplane seat with Seat Reserved ticket and a Black iPhone face down
Yup...not my phone

So a few years ago, a friend of mine put me on to the “Customer of Size” guidelines Southwest has. It was life changing! I had just flown Southwest for the first time. I didn’t know about the whole first come, first serve nonsense. I got to the gate and felt my anxiety bubbling up like that foam when you’re boiling noodles. I immediately went to the desk at the gate and paid for pre-boarding. Yes, no staff offered me the “people of size” option. Ok, so life changing...right? The thing is that this perk - actually a right that all airlines should abide by - comes with responsibilities. Now you have a sworn duty to claim your additional seat. Now I can be a little conflict-avoidant and passive aggressive. Working at nonprofits will do that to you (it’s labeled professionalism though). However, I’m good at telling people they can have the window seat but the middle (and aisle seat I’m sitting in) are mine. Sometimes, folks question if it’s also my seat or justify to themselves that I must be holding it for someone (and yes! they’re white). Sure. Whatever gets you to keep it moving. I usually end up having someone towards the end asking to sit in the window seat. Cool. I’m peace with that. Now here is my growth edge. The window seaters (let’s call them wws cause ... you know) lay claim to my middle seat. Every. Single. Time. My reserved seat ticket, which looks exactly like a boarding pass, does not repel their inherent spacing taking. Putting my backpack on the floor of the middle seat doesn’t help either. I get legs stretch out in my direction, belongings placed in the chair, and legs crossed making it unable to put the middle tray table down (my tray table comes down so much because airplanes are not made to accommodate my abundance). It is about 4 years since I discovered this disability justice achievement unlocked. I am on a flight with an older white dude taking up all the space (I don’t want to assume sexual orientation or gender identity but I were to ... YEAH ... cishet too). From hitting me with his coat (accidental but we’re talking impact here) to crossing his legs to the point where I laid my backpack down cause his foot was touching it. The catalyst for writing this. Noticing his phone was on the seat, as he smacks his newspaper down and connects with my thigh. I sit listening to my meditation music and reading Sonya Renee Taylor when I see him take a bagel with cream cheese and put it on the middle seat RAW (bagel to chair). As he bites a piece and wipes his hand on the seat, I pick up my iPhone, take a few breaths, and write. I say all this to say the amount of emotional labor needed to exist in this world is taxing. Speaking up for myself is challenging at times. The overthinking. Do I value myself less because I don’t speak up? What am I to do? In my head, I ask him to move his stuff which then turns into a Q&A until he deems my justifications worthy. OR he ignores me and rage ensues. Or would it? Thanks, anxiety! What would y’all do? What are some of your experiences using the Customer of Size accommodation?

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