Miscellany: A tale of first-class flying, a new Fatcast, and a Huge game-changer.

By | June 24, 2010

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On our flight back from Los Angeles, a red-eye arriving in Boston at 5AM, I wrangled a couple of heavily-discounted first class upgrades. For the past, oh, six years or so, I’ve only flown Jet Blue, an airline so delightfully egalitarian that it does not have a first class. For this flight we took Virgin America, because the airfare was markedly less expensive. So here I am to report on flying-while-fat on Virgin America. In coach, it is just okay. The seat pitch — that’s the space between your seat and the seat in front of you — is heinously ungenerous. The flight out to LA was pretty dire for this reason. Also, our plane was really warm, and loves, I’m here to inform you that the one place you don’t want to be overly warm is crammed into coach seats on a six-plus hour flight. A positive: the arm rests on the aisle go up, so I was able to give my long-suffering middle-seat-taking husband a little more space by curling up sideways and letting my prodigious ass encroach into the aisle a bit.

That was the coach flight out: cramped, hot, and in the pinnacle of ridiculous complaints, the in-seat TV channel selection was terrible. Do I need four channels of ESPN? No. You give me E!, but not the Discovery Channel? Bad form.

The first class flight back was a different story. This first class experience was one of the silliest and most self-conscious traveling exercises of my life: the amount of privilege first class passengers get is cuckoobananas. You get your own security line, away from the plebians flying coach. We weren’t checking bags, but I understand first class passengers get to check two for free, and the weight limits are higher. You get to board the plane first, at which point your own special first-class flight attendant starts plying you with free food and beverages approximately every twenty seconds. Then you get to relax and resist feeling smug while all the coach people file past you to their seats, peering at you curiously like one might at a goldfish in a really luxurious fishbowl. All the on-demand movies that coach passengers have to pay for are free (and you’d better believe I watched the first thirty minutes of three stupid movies just to feel like I’d taken full advantage of this). But let’s get down to brass tacks on the coach vs. first class debate, shall we?

Coach people fly like this:


And first class people fly like this:

First class!

Marianne and I have recently (and humorously) talked about the unpredictability of seating standards and the randomness with which they are applied. I may have made a completely offensive analogy in which I asserted that a skinny person “wasting” seat space whilst a fat person suffers hip bruises and/or public humiliation is like someone taking a plate full of delicious freshly-made food and throwing it in the garbage in front of a starving homeless person. (See, if you listen to Fatcast, you get to hear the hilariously inappropriate and/or problematic things I edit out of my writing here.) So while all the other privileges and entitlements of pretending to be rich were amusing, I was mostly interested to experience the difference in seat size. For awhile now I’ve suspected that airlines aren’t truly interested in anyone’s comfort. And why would they be, as companies concerned with turning a profit, people’s comfort is not within their purview. Airlines are, in fact, invested in skating the very edge of the amount of discomfort a person will tolerate and still continue to patronize their business. You can see where they’re constantly testing boundaries — charging more for exit row seats, checked bags, and so forth. Thus, the “extra” space of the first-class seats would not be ultra-luxurious in any other context; it’s simply that we’re so accustomed to suffering varying degrees of discomfort on a plane that first class seating looks like a night in the Honeymoon Suite, comparatively speaking. Was I more comfortable? Absolutely. Would first class be worth the full price of the ticket? Not to me, not unless I had money to burn, or my airfare was being paid for by someone else. The thing is, I neither need nor want all the frou-frou perks of first class flying. It ain’t my scene. I’d just like a little more room at my seat. How difficult is it, airlines, to allow folks a little more room at their seats?

On the subject of travel, there is a new Fatcast, long overdue, and it’s part two of our conversation about fat travel, in which we discuss other travel-related topics including packing, being photographed, and the fat-friendliness of a travel destination particularly close to my own heart. Earlier this week we recorded an episode about exercise, and we are done being out of town for now, so hopefully we’ll get back to the regular release schedule.

On a related note, remember those Fatcast promotional flyers I mentioned here a month ago? There’s a printable .pdf version available here, in case any of y’all want to spontaneously form a Fatcast street team. If we had merch, I’d promise you some. Hmm. Maybe we should have merch.

I was pointed at this Q & A with Huge star Nikki Blonsky by a Twitter follower, and it’s inspired my expectations of this show to upgrade from Blunt Cynicism to Cautious Optimism. One quote from Blonsky about the show:

“Huge” is groundbreaking because it has never been done before. I don’t think there’s ever been a full cast of plus-size people before. Now there is and kids can tune and say, “Hey, those people look like me and they’re going through the same issues I’m going through.” In this show, we don’t just deal with, “Oh, let’s go jogging and swim 20 laps and lose 30 lbs.” It’s not about that. I mean, eventually as you watch the show, you’re going to forget it’s about a weight-loss camp. You’re just going to get so invested in the characters. We deal with everything from eating disorders to body issues to sexual orientation to everything that every teenager is going through right now.

As I’ve recently noted, shows featuring casts with multiple fat people are extremely rare, and that’s probably the aspect that interests me the most about this show. But I am also impressed with the self-awareness above — the acknowledgment that hey, this is pretty unique, and by extrapolation that a show about exercise and weight loss exclusively (cough) is less interesting than a show about characters.

But that ain’t all:

There’s been some chatter on blogs about the fact that everyone on “Huge” in plus-sized. From my point of view, as a blogger, I see people wondering if the show is going to stereotype women of size. How, as someone on the show, do you make sure you’re not perpetuating stereotypes?

The thing is, everybody forgets plus-size people are just people. We’re people! We. Are. People. We have the same feelings, we deal with the same issues that people who are a size 2, a size 4 and a size 6 are. We go through relationship problems, we go through friendship issues, we go through everything. Breakups, make-ups. Every single issue skinny people go through, plus-size people go through, too. We’re all human beings and we have to remember that our looks are something that are only with us for a certain time. It’s our spirit that people will remember us for as time goes on and we grow older.

I’m actually looking in the mirror right now and I know that in 10 years, I won’t look like this. I’ll look 31, not 21. So I think people will just become so invested in our characters and what’s going on in the show and what’s going on in the characters. They’re not going to really even be noticing that we’re plus-size, other than the fact we look more like your neighbors or the people you go to school with, rather than the fake facades of what Hollywood has said everybody should look like. Nobody really looks like that, unless you have the means. Most of America doesn’t have the money to have a trainer 24/7 and a meal service to bring you meals, because if they did, we’d all be a size 2. And that would just be too perfect.

I think this show, you’re really going to see the heart of America. I think that’s what TV is lacking and I’m so glad we’re going to fill that void.

Huh. How about that. You can read the rest of the interview here.

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