Guest Blog by Tamara Brown
Have you ever tried to make yourself small? I don’t know whether it is me because I’m a big girl, or if it’s a woman thing, or if it’s a human thing, but I have always tried to make myself appear smaller than I am. I catch myself doing it at the oddest times too. I was at Stage West one night (if anyone has been there, they know the tables/chairs can be crowded) and I dreaded going up to the buffet or having to go to the bathroom because it was a packed house and I knew I would have to ask someone to move to accommodate me. I hated the thought of it, to the point that I timed myself getting up with other tables just so I wouldn’t have to disturb them, but even then I tip-toed my stomach over the chair so that I wouldn’t move it and “make a scene” to the other tables around me. It seems silly to me now, but the anxiety in the moment was real. I often find myself scouting out the easiest route to wherever I have to go, observing others and how much of a problem they have getting through tight spaces, comparing their size to mine to gauge how much of a problem I’m going to have getting from A to B. I did it at a comedy show I went to the other night, and my best friend caught me and called me out on it. She even told me not to worry about it, that people would move for me just like they were moving for every single other person trying to get through. This kind of stuff happens to me all the time. I constantly try to remain hidden, to remain invisible, and I often attribute that to my size, wanting to appear like I take up less space than I actually do, or wanting to appear like it’s just as easy for me to move through a space as it is for someone that is tinier than I am. I have never wanted to be the big girl that has made someone else uncomfortable because of my size.
So again, I ask you… have you ever tried to make yourself small? This question first came to mind the other night when I was at the Flames game with my aunt. It was Calgary versus Vancouver, and the house was packed. When we first got there, no one was in our row, and I was thanking my lucky stars that no one was sitting on the other side of me so I didn’t need to worry about being jammed into my seat like a sardine. Luck didn’t stay on my side; just as the first period was about to begin, a group of four came and sat down beside us. All I could think to myself was, “Why couldn’t one of the ladies sit beside me? Why does it have to be the biggest, sturdiest guy in the group?”, but I thought whatever, I’ll be fine, I’ll just crowd my aunt because she didn’t have anyone on the other side of her. Until five minutes later when a couple of guys came and sat down beside her. Now we were both stuck with big men on either side of us, both feeling a little squished and slightly claustrophobic. I spent the entire first period pulling myself in, hands grasping my arms to tuck myself in as close to myself as I could possibly get, my legs closed and tensed together to keep them small, and as I’m sure you could guess, completely and utterly uncomfortable.
By the start of the second period, I was dreading having to be all cooped up and closed off again, sitting with my arms crossed or clasping my hands together, squeezing my shoulders towards each other, clenching my butt muscles to keep my thighs tight and shut. Then suddenly I had a thought – why the hell was I making myself this uncomfortable for some dude that wanted to take up my space? Why the hell was I letting him take up my space? Why was I punishing myself just so he could be more comfortable? Breeeeeeeeeeeeeathe. Just like that, I let go of all the tension, all the clenching and clasping and grasping and I just sat. Awkwardly and uncomfortable at first, testing out these new waters of taking up space, claiming space back that was mine to begin with. Then the more I thought about it, the more I liked it, and the more comfortable I got with it, until all I could feel was confidence in my new found freedom of claiming my space. Suddenly I was cheering louder, I was making eye contact with the cute guys in front of me, and I even had the guts to make a couple of comments to them.
Then it was the start of the third period. The group beside us had left their seats and when they came back, the gentleman beside me sat down and it seemed he didn’t like this new confidence I had gained. Maybe it was in my head, but I truly don’t think so. He sat like so many guys do – legs spread nice and wide, claiming all the space that he possibly could, which wasn’t a lot because damn it, I was ready for it. I didn’t move an inch. Not one single inch. You know why? Because I was tired of making myself small! I was going to fight to the death to keep what was mine, to keep my space, to keep my comfort, and to show this guy that he couldn’t infringe on me or intimidate me. It took five minutes. Five minutes of his leg pressed tightly to mine, him shifting uncomfortably a few times, and me sitting there with all the confidence that came with knowing my tribe would be damn proud of me. Five minutes until he half stood up and sat back down again, this time his leg much further from mine, his hip no longer close enough that I could feel his body heat, the rest of him leaning towards his woman. Five minutes.
It took me thirty-three years to figure out that I didn’t need to make myself small for anyone. It took five minutes to prove that I wouldn’t.