Being Fat in SoCal Can Cause Self-Body Hate

Over the holiday weekend, my husband and I spent a few days in San Diego to relax and get away from L.A.. For the most part it was fine, save for the sweltering heat and massive crowds.  But nevertheless, it was a vacation and I’m grateful for it.  

What I did notice, however, was the extraordinary number of very thin, fit people in the city. I’m not sure I saw one fat woman who wasn’t a tourist.  And my experiences in restaurants around the city supported my theory that being fat in Southern California is fucking hard.




One evening, in the Gas Lamp district, we stumbled upon the only restaurant that wasn’t overflowing with drunken fools. So, Thai food on 4th of July it was!  We were seated and I immediately realized that the chairs were so narrow that the low arms were actually cutting into my hips like a vice.  I looked around to see if anyone else in the restaurant looked uncomfortable, but they seemed at ease in their small bodies. 

I was really pissed off, and if I hadn’t been super hungry, I think I might suggested leaving the restaurant.  But I’d been grumpy for a good part of the day, and I felt my husband needed a reprieve from my complaining. So, I ate my noodles and kept my mouth shut.  




But after we left, and got back to our hotel, I wish I’d said something to the management about the chairs not being accommodating for anyone over a size 12.  The frustration I felt when my body was squished into that tiny seat kept me from being present with my husband and enjoying an evening out.  I don’t know if it was intentional, and I’d like to think that they just picked the chairs because they looked cool.  But I couldn’t help thinking that it was my responsibility to say something, so that other fat people visiting the restaurant wouldn’t have to feel the shame and humiliation that I did.  

The next day, while dining at another restaurant, I experienced the same thing on a tiny fucking stool.  The elegant, thick, wood stools were beautiful and made a bold statement alongside the marble communal tables. We sat down and my ample buttocks spilled over the seat and the very low back.  I couldn’t believe this was happening again.  I looked around to see if other types of chairs were available, but they weren’t.  Even my husband, who has an adorably small ass, commented on the discomfort of the seats.    

This is how I felt.


Not a few minutes later, a very tall, fat man came in with his family and I watched as he struggled to insert himself between the table and the stool (which by the way were bolted to the ground, so that adjusting oneself was completely impossible).  It took him a good minute to finally squeeze in, and I felt his pain. Resentment boiled inside me when I realized that I was spending my hard earned money in a restaurant that clearly was not meant to accommodate fatties.  And how dumb is that? Obviously I like to eat, so why not make my visit comfortable.

Was this coincidence or a carefully thought out plot to shame fat people?  



I’m still not sure, but the experiences I had left an indelible mark on my heart.  It triggered me so much that I began to think of diets and how I could lose 50 pounds in a week.  I even asked my husband if he wished I were thin! And that is not something I ever do.  I’m lucky I have an amazing husband who said, “I want you to be you. Besides, living in SoCal is not a reflection of the rest of the world.  It’s fake.”

I realize that I have the advantage of living in a place that has pretty awesome weather year round. But it comes with the sacrifice of being constantly reminded of my size. Whether it’s a billboard for $99 down for liposuction, or teeny tiny chairs in a restaurant — to be a person of size in a part of the country obsessed with thinness, is not a simple task.



I’m back home in my safe space, as I write this.  And though there is still some lingering anger, I know I have a voice and that I can do something about what I feel. No, I’m not going on a diet. I’m planning to call both restaurants and let them know their chairs are not size friendly and suggest they offer different seating options. And I plan to use the power of Yelp to leave my fat mark on their exclusive establishments.  



Signing off for now, until I’m back with another chronicle of my life as a mixed fat chick!

In solidarity,
Pia

www.chroniclesofamixedfatchick.com

  1. I am always so nervous to go to a new restaurant. The FEAR of having to ask for another chair or having the arms dig into my hips for an hour is NO BUENO. It's basic GOOD customer service to make sure that there are comfortable chairs for EVERYONE if you own a restaurant. My opinion, anyway.

  2. I know exactly how you felt and GOOD FOR YOU for speaking out. I love the idea of using Yelp to call out restaurants that aren't size friendly. You're onto something!

  3. As a mother of a young daughter I have a really hard time with living out here and the message that is sent to young women via radio/tv/print about being thin, losing weight or having surgery is about loving yourself. Umm no it's not, it's about money. And loving and accepting each other means we make sure EVERYONE is comfortable at all times and not just the model thin chicks. I think even writing this and calling them makes a small difference and at least takes a step towards directing them toward the light!

  4. First of all I am going to LA and I was thinking this very thing! oh goodness I was worried that the beaches would be filled with very thin not just thin woman and men. I like to eat and I have had my share of uncomfortable chairs. not including the airline chairs. I dont think its fair at all. Those in-between sizes have just as much as a hard time as we do to get into the chairs. even bar stools are not for anyone with a figure. over all u read my mind yelp it and I will tell you that it works. I should be the queen of yelp lol they seem not to get their complaint emails via their website so I hit the social media.

  5. I love the idea of notifying them and posting the review. I'd also consider posting it to Twitter (but be prepared for a few haters). It reminds me of Julia Sullivan's policy that she notifies stores via social media every time they didn't have something in her size. She tells them how much she would have spent if they were size friendly. Perhaps you should do the same with restaurants you don't patronize for the same reason. Tell them what you would have spent and what your normal tip would have been. Money typically talks.

  6. Thanks for posting this. My husband was born in SoCal, and I think his heart is still there, but we're both larger-sized folks.

    He's a filmmaker, so it makes sense for us to be out there, but JEEBUS. That is my primary complaint; it is NOT a size-friendly place. I also am raising a daughter, and don't like the idea of her constantly questioning her validity due to size OR appearance.

    It's good to know that my concerns are valid. And screw sizeist establishments! If we are uncomfortable for any reason at a restaurant, we usually just don't go back. But the idea that we can respond to those issues really puts te power back in our hands.

  7. I just can't tell you how much I relate to this. I'm heavy and I'm from Southern California, but I live in Texas now where things aren't quite this bad. Growing up there has left an indelible mark on my self-esteem, though. I still, to this day, cannot go into a restaurant alone. I can't bear the thought that people are judging me for what I'm eating and need other people for support to feel comfortable. I've lived here for 15 years and I'm still stuck in that place.

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience. You are certainly not alone.

  8. I just can't tell you how much I relate to this. I'm heavy and I'm from Southern California, but I live in Texas now where things aren't quite this bad. Growing up there has left an indelible mark on my self-esteem, though. I still, to this day, cannot go into a restaurant alone. I can't bear the thought that people are judging me for what I'm eating and need other people for support to feel comfortable. I've lived here for 15 years and I'm still stuck in that place.

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience. You are certainly not alone.

    PS. If you get this twice, please delete one. Blogger has been eating my comments recently.

  9. I have lived around the country (Atlanta, Richmond (VA) and suburbs, Seattle/Redmond, and now Orange County.
    I don’t notice the seating much in any of the locations unless it’s obviously small (I am a size 16-18), but I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the tight seating issue is also due to real estate value – trying to cram a restaurant into a smaller space than you might in another location where the rent costs aren’t so ridiculous. Just a potential other factor that has nothing to do with the size acceptance-ness of a community, though I agree with some of the other subtle things you point out (liposuction ads, etc). This also for places that people try to “preserve” such as the gaslight district where you’d likely have to structurally alter a building to provide more accommodating seating and keep up the same capacity, but it is made hard to do that be building codes/regulations trying to preserve the feel of a neighborhood.

    • Thanks for your comment, Arwen! The restaurants I visited were not particularly tight on space, but I do see your point. I still think restaurant owners should have seating that accommodates larger bodies when so many of us in the U.S. fit into that category. It’s just one of many ways in which we big bodies are left out of the equation.

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