“You should have bought two tickets,” man tells obese woman taking up too much room in a plane seat

Mary Duncan

*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events as told to me by a friend who experienced them firsthand; used with permission.*

Like one of my heroes, Bridget Jones, I am always going to be just a little bit fat. Ever since childhood, I have been overweight - one of the pudgiest girls in my grade, and inevitably one of the last to finish the required mile run for the state’s physical exams. I took some pride that I was never the very last girl to finish, but at the same time, the pity I felt for her was right up there with the pity I had for myself for being just ahead of her.

As I have gotten older I have continued to struggle with my weight. I’ve always technically been obese, but I grew even larger after I had my daughter. For the last decade or so my weight has hovered at around 220 pounds on my five foot, four inch frame, and the last time I went to the doctor I was told my cholesterol was too high and I am borderline diabetic. I am very motivated now to change my ways, but a small part of me feels like my humiliation should be more of a motivator than my health to change.

You see, a few years ago my sister was nice enough to buy us a pair of tickets to go see Hamilton at a theatre in our capital city. The show was in the dead of winter and we arrived too late to find parking in any of the designated garages so were forced to park on the street blocks away and at the bottom of a large hill. I huffed and puffed my way up the hill to the theatre with my heart pounding and struggling to breathe once we got there, only to be led to a seat that I barely fit in.

The theatre was old, the seats hadn’t been renovated in decades and were made of hard wood with impossibly tight armrests that didn’t move to allow more space. I was squeezed in so tightly it was actually hurting my hips and thighs to sit there, and I was so embarrassed. However, that is nothing compared to what my friend Lauren endured.

I met Lauren in a writer’s group and we became fast friends despite her being over a decade older than me. We had an interesting dynamic because she was much more overweight than I was, but she was always pushing me to go on walks and exercise together and I always declined.

After a few weeks of not seeing each other, Lauren had returned from a trip to visit her parents in the midwest and had a horror story to tell me about her time on the plane home.

Lauren got into her seat, an aisle seat that she always requested so she could have the most room to lean out into the aisle, and then a man in a suit came and sat in the middle seat to her right. Shortly after that Lauren and the suited man had to stand up to let an older woman in their aisle get to her window seat.

The plane took off, and a few minutes into the flight the man next to Lauren started sighing deeply, then huffing and puffing with more annoyance and frequency. Lauren was acutely aware of the flesh on the right side of her body spilling over the armrest and pressing into the man next to her and had a feeling that was what was bothering him. She was right.

A flight attendant came by with a drink cart and asked if anyone needed anything and the man shouted:

“Yeah, I need a new seat! I can’t spend the next three hours wedged in here, this is ridiculous.”

Lauren was mortified but didn’t know what to say. 

“I’m sorry sir, I’ll see if we have any open seats,” the flight attendant said. 

“I shouldn’t even have to complain,” the man went on, then turned to Lauren.

“You should have bought two tickets for yourself, you obviously take up two seats on a plane!”

At that point, Lauren was crying uncontrollably, humiliated by the spectacle the man was making. The flight attendant put her hand on Lauren’s shoulder and leaned down. 

“Ma’am, please come with me,” she said in a gentle voice.

The flight attendant guided Lauren to the front of the plane and directed her to an empty seat in first class.

“I am so sorry for that man’s behavior,” the flight attendant apologized profusely. “I’ll get you a menu, you can have whatever you want.”

Lauren calmed down and settled in for the rest of the flight, ordering herself a gourmet sandwich and a few mimosas since she could, and laughed to herself when she heard a man back in coach yelling and making a commotion, knowing it was her old seat mate complaining about her.

How would you have reacted if you were Lauren? What about if you were the man sitting next to her?

Hi, I hope you enjoyed this story! I am a freelance writing single mom trying to create a better life for me and my daughter through words. If you enjoyed this, please consider leaving a small donation: https://ko-fi.com/maryduncan

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I write about the weird complexities of relationships to make a better life for me and my daughter through words. https://ko-fi.com/maryduncan

Connecticut State

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