Monday, July 10, 2017

The stench of asshole can be very pungent...

By now, I'm sure a lot of readers have heard about plus sized model Natalie Hage, who recently shamed a man sitting next to her on an airplane for posting nasty comments about her on his cellphone.  I heard about this story last week because it was all over the news.  Many people think this kind of a story should not be news, especially "fat shamers" who think they have the right to insult anyone who doesn't fit their definition of "healthy".

In any case, if you haven't come across the story yet, here's a brief rundown.  Hage had purchased a seat in the exit row because she wanted extra leg room.  She ended up being placed in the dreaded middle seat, with two guys sitting on either side of her.

It's often said that the majority of communication is non-verbal.  That's certainly true in this case.  The guy in the window seat made a big non-verbal show about how disgusted he was to be sitting next to Hage.  The guy on the aisle seat laughed when Hage asked if he would switch places with her.  Frankly, I don't blame him for not wanting the middle seat, though I hate that he was evidently rude about it.  So there Hage was, stuck in the middle between two apparent assholes.  Poor thing.  It probably stank to high heaven.

If you've been in economy seating on an airplane recently, you know that there's not a lot of personal space.  If you are a large person, there's even less space.  Hage is large.  She doesn't deny it.

After settling in her seat, she noticed the man next to her furiously texting and trying to surreptitiously take pictures of her.  She managed to peek at what he was typing and it turned out he was posting nasty comments about her.  Hage took a photo of her own of the man's shitty comments.  Later, she confronted him about his nasty behavior and even got the dressing down on video.

Last night, George Takei shared a post on Facebook about this situation.  I made the mistake of reading the comments.  Many people were defending the guy who was making the rude comments, saying that Hage invaded his privacy.  I agree that Hage invaded the guy's privacy.  However, it seems to me that if you are on an airplane in economy class, you should be aware that there really isn't any privacy.  There's literally no room for that, no matter what size you are.  

Sitting next to an obese person on an airplane is uncomfortable and unpleasant for most people.  I can understand why the man sitting next to Hage was annoyed about the situation.  I just wonder why he wasn't able to control himself.   Wasn't he given any home training as a child?  Maybe it was wrong for Hage to publicly out him as an abusive jerk, but in my mind, he asked for it.  He fired the first shot, as it were.  All he really needed to do was sit quietly and get through the flight.  Then later, if he still needed to vent, he could have done so in actual privacy.  I'm not saying I would have approved of his comments, but at least he wouldn't have put himself in the position of being publicly shamed.  I really have zero sympathy for that guy because despite his superior attitude about Hage's size, his shit stinks pretty badly.  The stench of asshole is pervasive, especially on an airplane.

Hage may have invaded the man's privacy by reading and photographing his hateful texts, but I would submit that the guy invaded Hage's privacy first by texting about her.  Was it really so urgent for him to let his friends know about the fat lady sitting next to him on the plane?  Couldn't it have waited until later?  Maybe by then he might have... I don't know... gotten over the temporary inconvenience of sitting next to her?  Maybe he might not have felt the need to spread his nastiness to uninvolved people?  Maybe he wouldn't have been caught being a horrible person who was outed on the news?  I'm sure he never meant for this unfortunate aspect of his personality to be revealed to the world.

What is especially tragic to me, though, are the sheer numbers of people who feel it's okay to denigrate strangers simply due to the way they look.  Yes, I know that many people get fat because they eat too much and don't exercise enough.  A lot of people think that's a valid reason to be nasty to perfect strangers-- they think it's fine to pass a moral judgment.  However, sometimes there are other things at play that cause a person to be heavy.  There's really no way to know why someone looks the way they do unless you happen to know them personally.  I don't understand why so many people feel it's appropriate to be outwardly horrible to someone simply due to their size.  I wonder if these folks have any souls whatsoever... any ability to be empathetic and kind.  The comments on Takei's post were just full of fat shaming vitriol, which I find very sad.

I have experienced the same kind of hostility Hage did.  Over the course of a week during the summer of 2009, I took several bus tours through Edelweiss Lodge in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.  Because I was traveling alone, several different people sat next to me, all of them strangers.  One day, I sat next to a very large woman.  I am myself a lot larger than I'd like to be, but she actually dwarfed me.  It was hot and somewhat uncomfortable, although she did introduce me to a handy lever that allowed us to move the seats horizontally a couple of inches, which made things more bearable.  As the day passed, I ended up talking to her and she was a pretty nice person.  By the time the tour was over, I had much more positive feelings about sitting next to her.

Later that week, I sat next to a guy who was obviously military.  His hair was long enough that he might have been retired, although he didn't look old enough to be retired.  He was vacationing with his family.  Due to his failure to plan properly, he arrived too late to sit with them.  He got stuck sitting by me because the empty spot next to me was the last one left.  Although he didn't say anything to me (at all, actually), I did notice his body language.  I could tell that he found me repulsive, for whatever reason.  And... you know... I couldn't help but return the sentiment.  The stench of asshole was very pungent in that guy.  I wondered why he bothered to take the bus tour, since it was clear he'd rather be driving in the comfort and privacy of a car where he could be with people more to his liking.  I wondered if he realized that, as obviously horrified he was to have to sit next to me, I was equally mortified to have to sit next to someone who had so little self control over his boorish behavior and was oblivious to the smell of his own bad conduct.

That guy didn't know that I have a husband who adores me and friends who appreciate me.  Hell, even some of my family members like me.  He didn't know that I have a pretty singing voice and a good sense of humor.  All he saw was my outer appearance, which was, without a doubt, not to his approval.  All I saw was the disgusted expression on his face, his rigid and uncomfortable posture, and the fact that he was late getting to the bus, so he had to endure sitting next to someone who clearly disgusted him.  And because my husband was in a conference and couldn't travel with me, I had to endure the unpleasant stench of his asshole behavior.  I would say that was a lose lose situation for both of us.  The difference is, I got to the bus early and didn't impose my negativity on someone else.  

I did notice during that day that the guy was kind to children.  A little boy was trying to climb into the bus and he was nice to him, helped him out, and even called him "buddy."  But to me, he was very hostile and outwardly rude.  He didn't even know me and obviously didn't want to know me.  At least he didn't sit in his seat and obviously text nasty comments about me to his friends and family.  Maybe he would have if he'd had access to the technology.  I wonder how he would have reacted if I had asked him if he had a problem.  What if I'd simply started crying softly?  Would he have softened up, or would he have been even more obviously hostile?

Maybe he felt I should just sat there in shame, sorry that I was ever born because some strange guy on a bus was so chilly to me.  You know, I could have lost a lot of weight prior to that bus trip and that guy still might have found me utterly repulsive.  There's no way to tell what size is appropriate to every other person on the planet and it's impossible to please everyone.  Too many people think it's perfectly fine to be mean to others whose situation they don't even know.  Too many people think their opinions about another person's body are important enough to share with others.

Count me among those who think egregious fat shamers deserve to be publicly humiliated when they act like horrible people.  Seriously... fuck that guy who sat next to Natalie Hage and the guy who sat next to me.  The guy on the airplane had no sense of decency or self control and he got exactly what he deserved.  And, you know, I think it would be poetic justice if someday, his body balloons and he has to put up with shitty behavior from "normal" sized people who think they have the right to comment on his appearance or, even worse, his health.  Good for Natalie for taking back her power.  I hope that guy and other would be shamers learned something from this story.  Obesity may be unhealthy and unattractive, but it's obviously not going away despite our best efforts.  If you act like a jerk, you might just find yourself publicly called out for your bad behavior.


  1. Had he been able to surreptitiously text without hurting her feelings, it would have been rude but no real harm would have been done. Once he's trying to take her picture, however, nothing makes it OK.

    I've only seen you in photos, but your weight doesn't seem to be all that extreme. Not everyone looks anorexic.

    1. I'm not as big as Natalie Hage is, but I am definitely not thin.

      Apparently, the dude was being very obvious about his feelings toward her. I would say that texting about a seatmate on a plane is a pretty dumb thing to do. If you must vent, do it when you are not within ear or eyeshot of others.


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