Yesterday, I ordered an Uber so I could bring my daughter home from school. This is something I have done virtually every day since my kid began school in August. It’s not my favorite part of the day. Not only is it expensive ($15 to $20), but it's uncomfortable to deal with strangers and the anxiety if no cars are available.
That said, it all began with the standard anxiety of my afternoon Uber trips, but it quickly devolved into horror. The driver pulled into my parking lot and as I climbed into the backseat with the travel booster, I explained that I needed to pick up my daughter from school and come back home.
It was a small car, and I found myself struggling with the seatbelt.
We were two blocks away from home when the driver asked if I had my seatbelt on.
"I'm working on it," I said sheepishly. I didn't know how to actually say the words that I was too fat for it. I wondered if I was going to be kicked out of the car.
"I'll pull over. Take your time." Oh my God, no. I was positive that the seatbelt in this car was never going to fit me. It must have been two inches to short. And I still didn't know how to simply say it.
I am too big for this seatbelt. Too fat. Oh, fuck my life.
Just when I thought I couldn't handle another moment of fumbling with the buckle and getting nowhere, the driver said he would help. Wait, what? How many times can I be horrified on one Uber trip?
We were about to find out.
The driver got out of his car and opened the other passenger door so he could lean in and try to buckle me up himself. It was humiliating beyond words. I don't think I've ever been so ashamed to be fat. And at the same time, I pretty much felt like, Well, this is my life. I am officially too fat for Uber.
The driver could not make the seatbelt fit me either.
"I'm so sorry," I said. Damn it. Why am I apologizing for my body?
The Uber driver finally relented and sat back down into his seat. He didn't kick me out, but that didn't really make me feel better about it either. Props to him because he wasn't a jerk about it, but again, he was oblivious enough to try to buckle me into the restraints as if I was a child.
At least we were finally on our way.
When we got to the school, I showed the driver where to wait and got out of the car to go get my daughter. As the teacher opened the door for me, I saw my child in tears at the end of the hall behind her.
"She didn't want to eat her snack during aftercare," the teacher explained. "But now she says she's hungry."
Ah. The joys of parenting a 5 year old.
It took considerable effort to get get my kid out of school and into the Uber car. "Hey, uh, mom?" The driver interrupted my daughter's sniffles. "I think we were using the wrong buckle. Try using the one that's facing the back of the seat."
I groaned inside. This ride wasn't quite halfway through.
After buckling my daughter up (with ease), I sat back and girded myself for the failure ahead. Once again, I tugged at the seatbelt and my mind scrambled to make sense of the whole damn thing.
Of course, I knew the seatbelt wasn't going to fit. It was never going to fit. This other buckle was even futher away, which made the whole endeavor impossible. We sat there in front of my daughter's school with my face flushed in humiliation.
I was going to have to call it.
"No," I said feebly. "I can't make it work." And then I think I apologized at least five more times.
That ride home felt like an eternity. It’s far from the first time my body has embarrassed me. But in a strange way, I'm used to it. I am used to this body housing all sorts or betrayals, setbacks, and limitations.
There's something about being so heavy that has made me settle for a life less lived. And I'm just used to it. I'm used to sitting in the backseat. Or on the sidelines.
But it never feels like a good kind of normal. Obviously.
The good news is that my days of Uber should be over soon. I’ve finally got my first car, and I'm taking my road test to get my driver's license in two days. Forty-eight hours and I'll know.
As a practically forty year old woman with autism, I've still got a lot of anxiety about driving. I’m nervous about the test. But, getting my driver's license means my days of needing Uber are nearly behind me.
This discomfort with strangers is nearly behind me.
I can't help but wonder how it is that I could be so comfortable with my discomfort. I do think things will slowly get better beginning on Friday. Assuming I pass my road test, I'll go out and get a gym membership. I’ll start taking more ownership of my life.
Is the whole, I'm too fat for seatbelts experience a rock bottom thing? Because it seems like it should be. Instead, it just feels like my life. And of course, as embrrassing or shameful as the whole thing is, it's not like I came home having lost the urge to binge eat.
Experiences like this make me come home... empty.
But maybe that will change too.
I'll be in the driver's seat soon, and yes, the seatbelts in my car do fit.