As a fat person, the thought that I’m already taking up too much space and that it would be selfish to ask for more is always in the back of my mind.
I’m in my water exercise class, and it feels amazing. I have enough room to fully extend, stretch, and flex. I’m swinging my arms back and forth while jumping when a woman joins the class late. She chooses a spot right next to me — uncomfortably close — even though there are a ton of other places for her to stand. With her next to me, I no longer have enough space to extend my limbs. I adjust my movements so that I don’t hit her in the face or any other part of her body. I feel cramped, inhibited, and the joy of movement is starting to evaporate.
However, instead of asking her to move so that we both can have more space, I say nothing.
“Don’t make a fuss. Keep your annoyance to yourself. Who are you to ask for more?” my inner admonishing voice says on repeat. It’s part of my trying to be a good fat person, being too polite, and not recognizing my needs.
As a fat woman, the thought that I’m already taking up too much space and that it would be selfish to ask for more is always in the back of my mind.
It isn’t just space that I can’t ask for more of — it’s everything: love, time, help, and money. I stayed in the same job underpaid for years because I couldn’t bring myself to ask for a raise. Now, as a writer, I get so excited when someone wants to pay me for my writing that I rarely raise my rate. When I do, it’s after a lot of heart palpitations, sweating, and nail-biting. If I’m out for dinner and order something where I can eat as much as I want, such as a salad bar, unlimited (insert your favorite tasty food here) deal, or buffet, I’d starve rather than ask for more.
I don’t want anyone to think that I have no control, especially when it comes to eating.
In the classic movie musical, Oliver, the title character chooses the equivalent of the short straw and must request more food. Slowly, Oliver walks with one foot in front of the other, empty gruel bowl stretched out in front of him, until he reaches the magistrate in charge, Mr. Bumble.
Oliver: “Please sir, I want some more.”
Mr. Bumble: “WHAT??”
“Please sir, I want some more,” Oliver repeats.
“MORE??” Mr. Bumble explodes in rage, and all Hell breaks loose.
This reaction is exactly what part of me expects to happen if I should request seconds, a raise, or anything additional. I sometimes feel that I’m already too much and, if I ask for more, I’m just being greedy and ungrateful. Because I’m fat and a woman, I’ve been assigned (from whom, I don’t know) an allotted amount of things, and it doesn’t matter if I need more, once I’ve reached that invisible cap, I’m done.
However, if I’m already being charged more for things like pedicures, extra seats on an airplane, and health insurance because I’m a woman of size, doesn’t that give me the right to get more if I need it?
The truth is I don’t need a reason or an excuse to ask for more — it’s my right as a human-being to take care of me and get what I need to live a good life.
No matter what size I am, or anybody is, we all struggle with the idea of more, and many of us aren’t demanding that we get it. We accept the crumbs we’re given and act like it satisfies our hunger.
I want more.
I’m worthy of more.
So, I need to start asking for more.
The next time I’m at the pool, the same thing happens, only, this time, a different woman is sandwiched up against me. I consider moving, but if I do, I won’t be able to see the instructor. After I go through every possible scenario in my head, I finally pull up my big-girl swimsuit bottoms.
“Could you move over a little? That way we’ll both have some extra room, and neither one of us will get hurt. These moves can be dangerous,” I say with a smile.
I wait for the Oliver-sized explosion, but all she says is, “Sure. You look like you know what you’re doing.”
Today, I asked for more at a water exercise class. Tomorrow, I’ll ask for more help with my website, and the next day, I’ll ask for more money for a new project.
I learned that it’s all right to ask for more; in fact, it’s a good thing, and we all need to do it as often as we can. The more we ask for, the more we’ll get, and if we don’t ask for more when we need it, we aren’t taking care of ourselves. Sometimes, you’ll even get more than you asked for in the first place.
Christine Schoenwald has had pieces in The Los Angeles Times, Salon, Purple Clover, Your Tango, XoJane, and is a regular writer for Bustle. In her spare time, she performs in spoken word shows all over Los Angeles.
This originally appeared on Ravishly. For more, check out Face To Face With My Own Fatphobia, I Feel Pretty, Not Delusional, and Are Formerly Fat People More Fatphobic Than Other People?