Open Letter to the Guy in 17D

Dear Stranger,

We were flying from Oklahoma City to Atlanta Friday night.  You were in 17D, and I was across the aisle, 17C.  And you noticed me struggling with my seatbelt - it was just a fraction of an inch shorter than I needed it to be to get it fastened.  It was just not cooperating with me, and I got flustered, and of course, the more flustered I got, the harder I struggled.  At some point, you got up and when you came back, you told me in a very friendly way that you had let the flight attendant know I was unable to buckle up and that she'd bring me an extender here in just a minute.

And I was so shocked and humiliated, I actually thanked you.

The flight attendant came up looking for the lard-ass who couldn't fasten her belt, and looked kind of surprised when it was just me.  Ok, we all know I'm not thin, but I also don't look like the kind of girl who needs a belt extender.  What's weird is that 36 hours earlier, on the inbound flight to OKC, I had no trouble buckling in. Nor have I had trouble on any of the 50 flights I've done all year.  So... is it me, or is it the belt in 17C?

She passed me the extender like a 7th grade girl would pass her friend a maxi pad after she had bled through her jeans.  Compassionate, but embarrassed to be an accessory to my shame.  I thanked her, too.  Because I may be a dumb fat girl, but I am polite, dammit.

Chagrinned, I connected it, and had to ratchet it down all the way so that it wasn't at my knees.  I texted my best friend to get some kind of words of comfort, then I shut down my phone and buried myself in my Kindle to try to drown out the berating self-monologue in my head.

Then, about ten minutes into the flight, you had the nerve to ask if, since I was alone on my side of the plane, you could take 17A so that your seatmate wouldn't be crowded in.  I said fine, and fiddled with the fucking extender to get up and give you room.

You called me "young lady".  That was a little irritating and overly familiar.  You tried to make small talk about my older model Kindle, and how I should upgrade to a newer model like the one you have.  I remember that detail now, now that I have had some time to process.  Is it any of your fucking business what kind of Kindle I have?  Think about that question, we'll come back to it.

Several times, I thought about explaining to you that I had lost my father earlier this year, and had found eating to be my coping mechanism.  Instead, I just spilled my guts by scribbling in the margins of SkyMall.  I do that, sometimes.  It comforts me.  I also didn't get peanuts or cookies.  I just had water.  You had a diet Coke and two packets of cookies.  How nice for you.

At the end of the flight, I neatly wrapped up the extender, and handed it to a flight attendant as I left the plane.  I don't know if Atlanta was your final destination, it was not mine.  I didn't look to see where you were going. 

Once I turned on my phone, I found several messages from my best friend, assuring me that you were out of line, and that I've had a hell of a year, and that 2015 was going to be so much better.  About your behavior, she said, "Who does that?"  I wondered if, perhaps you were an Air Marshal. 

To quote my friend, "Fuck the FAA, and fuck seatbelts".

I sat in the B Terminal waiting for my next flight and felt sorry for myself.  Why had I let it get this bad?  Why was I such a failure?  Why did I eat a huge bowl of pasta for lunch?

I got on my second flight and held my breath while I tested the seatbelt - it closed with room to spare.  I started feeling a little better.  We landed and I got my bag, and got in the car, and cried a little.

I decided I wouldn't tell anyone about what had happened.

But then, this morning, I told Matt.  And he wasn't mad at me, or embarrassed, or upset.  He thought you were kind of a weirdo.

And then I told my friend Colby, who didn't think I was a monster, or a failure - but he thought you were out of line.

So, the consensus is this:  what were you thinking?   Yes, I am a larger woman - but I'm not Orca Fat.  I was struggling, but I'm not an idiot.  I could have easily covered the belt ends with my scarf and kept my diginity intact.  Sure, I would have still berated myself the entire flight, but at least it would have been on me, and not between me, you and the flight attendant.

If in fact, you were an Air Marshal and were doing this for the safety of America, you need some fucking sensitivity training.  Alert the flight attendant so that she can discreetly handle it - you've done your job, but I don't feel icky.

What I suspect, though, is that you're just a do-gooder idiot.  You're nosy and you thought you were helping me out.   You thought you were rescuing a damsel in distress.  And then you tried to make nice by also telling me my Kindle is old.  Here's the deal... I don't need a knight in shining armor.

There is only one person who can save me, and she was sitting in 17C, fighting back tears and wishing she could hide, possibly in a large warm loaf of bread.

But you woke her up, and you pissed her off.  And whether she loses 20 pounds or gains another five, she's not going to let you or anyone else make her feel bad for who she is.

She may be fat, but she is fierce, and loyal, and funny and kind.  Her good qualities won't fit in the overhead bin, and she thinks you should take your polite banter, and your new Kindle, and take a first class flying leap.

So if I need an extender again, I'll ask for it.   But I'll also keep skipping the cookies, and drinking just water.

And if I decide I want a shiny, sleek new Kindle, I'll get one - but my clunky old one with the battered green cover works fine for now, and I'll thank you to mind your own fucking business.

Safe travels,