Sunday, February 19, 2017

My Rule Book

We headed over to the theatre with some real anticipation, we were looking forward to seeing "My Night With Reg" at a theatre just down the street from where we live. We are very familiar with the seating plan and, even though they insisted on taking us to our seats, we found our way easily. The theatre was filling quickly and people were pouring down the aisle. The accessible seats are at the very back of the house so after we were settled we just watched the crowd arrive.

Then beside me was a woman, a really large woman, with a really bid walker, appeared beside me. She got to her seat, which was at the end row, an aisle seat, just a little ahead and to the right of us. She got into her seat with some difficulty and an usher folded up and took her walker away for her. The seats are small and she looked uncomfortable, but she was in and seated, I knew what that felt like.

A moment later, the barest moment later, two women came who had seats in the same row as she was sitting in. She looked up at them with the question, "What happens now?" on her face. They pointed to where there seats were and she said, "Okay, but you'll have to climb over me." They abjectly didn't want to. After a long pause, she said, "Well, I could get up if that's what you want." 

The two women looked at each other and then gamely tried to slide by her without her getting up. She was very, very, big and there was no room. The amount of body contact between them all was considerate. I had to look away. When I looked back up, the two women were in their seats and it was almost time for the lights to go down.

I discovered, in myself, that I have all these rules for how to be fat in public and how to be disabled in public. These rules that I live by. Without question. I live by them. They exist to make me comfortable but also, to an even larger extent, to make people without disabilities feel comfortable with me being in their space.

This woman broke almost all of those rules.


I felt embarrassed for her.

I felt the shame that I thought she should feel.

I had empathy for those getting by.

I had, well I don't want to tell you what I had, for the woman at the end of the aisle.

I discovered, again, as I do over and over and over again, that I have deeply buried prejudices in my heart and soul. I have a judgemental vein that robs me of the ability to be compassionate or understanding or even a little bit forgiving.

When it was over, Joe and I waited until the aisle had cleared. Another rule I follow. She didn't, she got up as the usher unfolded her walker, leaned on it, stopped the flow of those exiting to join in and head out. Finally, it was our turn to go.

We turned north out of the theatre to head home and as we did I noticed the big woman walking alongside the two women who had climbed over her. They were all amicably talking about the play and what they had thought about it. Friendly strangers chatting about what was important, what they'd seen, not how they were seated.

Thank God those women had bigger hearts than I did.

Thank Heavens they had a softness in their soul that I lacked.

But me, I've still got my rule book. I can't help it, but I do. I'm not giving it up, I worked to hard to write it. I just want to realize that it's MY rule book.

And mine alone.


Unknown said...

This was a tough post for me to read... I feel very strongly that no one should feel like they have to apologise for themselves to make the rest of the world more comfortable. That you feel you should do anything to make others more comfortable "being in their space" saddens me. It is no more "their space" than it is is everyone's space, and no one has a greater right to that space than someone else.

ABEhrhardt said...

It is SO easy to look down on fat people. We occupy as much space as several other people. How dare we!

But it's the same "at least I'm not..." impulse which makes us better - by comparison with someone inferior. At least I'm not as fat as her, whatever else I am. At least i'm whiter than he is. At least MY clothes don't smell like his...

It's built in - and those who are different give us such obvious props.

Which is why Jesus said, "whatever you do for the least of my brothers you do for ME."

Unknown said...

mmm...hard to read....very honest....i sometimes have similar thoughts...i think it comes from the reflexive caregiver part that wants to be sure nobody has their feelings hurt or needs to have an angry anticipatory reaction of dread for the blowup that seems to me inevitably about to occur right in front of me...
in your situation, seated where you could not move away or not see, I likely would have been thinking similar thoughts about the woman on the end of the aisle, about what she 'should' have done.

you shone a light on one of my own dark corners....
and knowing that the outcome was NOT what I was sure would happen when I began reading, does challenge me to look again/longer at that reflexive (and bossy) caregiver who is really about her own fears and not about the needs and rights of others.

Rosemary said...

I am very fat. I smile all the time, fooling myself that people will see my smile and not my body. ( as if). I am so glad the ladies entering the row of seats were kind and not judgemental. I am crying. I don't know where I am going with this comment, I just needed to express my emotions.

Purpletta said...

Dave, So nice that this woman seemingly felt comfortable being part of life exactly as she is. Those of us who were taught through our life experiences that we are not worthy have a lot of un-learning/re-learning to do. For me, when I find myself in situations similar to this, I realize that my upset with someone else, such as this woman, is really my own left-over disgust with myself. I have to use people like this woman as a reminder to replace some of that left-over deep-down feeling with self-love...

Rosemary... (((hugs))) Glad you share your smile with the world :) That's something I need to do more of.


Purpletta said...

PS - Dave, I hope your rule book is woven with self-love

Rosemary said...

Purpletta, thank you. xxx