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Sunday, March 20, 2005

Loving C-21

I took my aisle seat aboard the 757 Boeing aircraft and was astonished how roomy it felt. I wiggled around and my body didn't press on the armrests. I crossed my legs, left over right and back the other way. I put the tray table down and back up. And I buckled my seatbelt and actually had to pull it tight - no more belt extender for me! This was my first flight as a "normal" person and a triumphant moment indeed. I sat silently enjoying my bliss.

Then I saw her board the plane: my former self. She was a very large woman lumbering sideways with a bowed head, afraid to meet the fearful looks of passengers who were praying she wasn't seated next to them.

As luck would have it, she took the aisle seat across from me, seat C-21. I couldn't take my eyes away as I watched her fill the seat and spill over the sides like rising bread dough that's been too long in a warm room. Her seatmate shifted toward the window as her fat spilled onto him. I saw her face go crimson; she was humiliated. She looked at me and I smiled at her, the lump in my throat so large I couldn't have spoken a word even if I had the courage. She returned my look with an empty stare; she must have felt my smile was mocking her. At that moment I knew the woman in seat C-21 hated me. How could she know that not long ago I was the fat woman scorned by the normal people for taking up space in their world? So, silently we sat together, C-21 hating me, and me loving her.

I wanted to talk to her, to tell her there is hope and a way out of obesity's prison. I wanted to tell C-21 about the magical world waiting for her, that she didn't have to bow her head in shame and humiliation. I wanted to convert her to the miracle of bariatric surgery. But I didn't think it my place. A few years ago when I was spilling over my seat I didn't want to hear from a skinny bariatric zealot fanatically pushing her extremist solution on me; that would have angered and embarassed me.

The decision to have weight loss surgery is exceedingly personal, sole ownership of that decision lies within the heart of every obese person looking for hope. When I made that decision it was my own, in my own time at my own pace. How in the world could I assume C-21 was in a place to hear my message?

Never a day passes that I don't think about C-21. I hope she is doing all right. I fantasize she has discovered bariatric surgery and joined the tiny tummy league. I hope today she is holding her head proudly as she boards a plane. I wonder if I missed the chance to make a difference in her life? I will never know.

To C-21: I love you.
Kaye Bailey

Tomorrow we will talk about sharing the bariatric gospel.

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