For many people the holidays are coming, which can mean lots of gathering with family, friends, co-workers, people you don’t know that well but who invite you and put out a good spread etc. If you’re helping to plan an event at the holidays (or, you know, anytime) here are some tips and tricks to help make sure it’s welcoming to fat people.
I really can’t say this enough, but I’m going to try. Seating. Seating. Seating. Seating. Seating. Seriously. Sturdy armless chairs, benches, and loveseats. Try to avoid seats that are super low (using a footstool as a seat seems like a good idea until you have to get up,) or super high (climbing up into a stool like a spider monkey and then trying to balance once you’re up there is also the worst.) For more on fat people and chairs, check out this post.
If you’re planning an event, make sure that they provide sturdy seating – armless chairs, bench seating (in restaurants you’ll want to make sure that the tables in the booths can be moved to accommodate larger bodies,) etc. For outside events (if, like me, you live in a freaking place that stays freaking warm all the freaking time) make sure to double and triple check because outdoor chairs tend to be some of the least accommodating.
It’s best to call or e-mail the venue, but you can do some preliminary research by checking out the venue website and/or a site like yelp (beware though, seating can change and many venues get new or different chairs before the holiday rush, so definitely confirm with the venue!)
Need to buy some fat-friendly seating? The Fat Lip has you covered!
Space is to seating like mac is to cheese – you’ve got to have both for it to work. All the armless chairs in the world won’t make a difference if fat people don’t have room to actually move around (and while this piece focuses on fat inclusion, it’s important to also think about having space for those of all sizes who use wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, and other mobility aids.)
If you’re setting up a buffet that people will be moving through, make sure that there is enough room to move without – I want to decide between shrimp puffs and crab puffs not if I’d rather have my stomach or my ass knock the mashed potatoes off the table.(Also, obviously I’m getting both the shrimp and the crab puffs, that question was only for the example.)
If you’re setting up chairs for a concert or other viewing event, understand that butts may be wider than seats and leave some space between the chairs. If you have several tables set up, make sure there’s plenty of room to move between them.
If you have a small bathroom, do your best to create as much space as possible. If the toilet paper holder sits right beside the toilet (so that someone with wide hips might run into it,) consider moving the toilet paper temporarily to a shelf in front of the toilet or to the vanity. If you have a garbage can taking up real estate next to the toilet, consider moving that as well. Just create as much space as you can.
Skip the Diet Talk and Body Shaming
We have every right to make the rules in the spaces we create. So we can throw a body positive event (in the true, original, radically fat-accepting meaning of body positive,) an event where the expectation is that guests will not engage in negative body talk, diet talk, or food policing.
The invitation could say something like “This is going to be a party where we can all be comfortable, and part of that is stepping away from all the harmful culture pressure around food and body size. So there won’t be any negative body talk (including about ourselves!) and everyone is free to eat or not eat whatever they choose – and we’ll skip the explanation for why (unless it’s about a food allergy, of course!)”
Get the Word Out
My Best Friend is the inspiration for this post. I talked to him earlier tonight about because I’ll be visiting him soon and he is planning some get-togethers. I wasn’t worried about anything because I know that he wouldn’t put me in a situation that isn’t fat-friendly, but even so, after he told me the names of the restaurants he made sure to let me know that he had called ahead and that they all have armless chairs and lots of space to move around.
And that’s the final step. If you’ve done the right thing and made these arrangements, make sure that people know that. Fat people get put into a lot of shitty situations by people who should know better, including professionals (hostess who tried to sit my fat ass in a tiny booth with an immoveable table, I’m looking at you,) so sadly we can’t just assume that someone has thought of these things.
This can be subtle – a flyer for your work party that includes the line “comfortable seating for people of all sizes,” or “plenty of space and comfortable seating to accommodate everyone” etc. Trust me when I tell you, fat people will clock this immediately.
It’s also helpful to note anything that might be an issue, like “there are two stairs into the house” or “parking is hit or miss and can be pretty far away.”
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