Nine times out of ten, theme parks are my worst enemy. I’ve been humiliated too many times at fairs and theme parks to ever truly love them. When you’re fat enough that you can’t fit onto a ride, it’s a terrible feeling. It’s the same feeling as having to ask the flight attendant for a seatbelt extender and hope against hope that your seatmate isn’t going to stare daggers at you for daring to take up too much space. I’ve lived my life encouraging my thinner friends to do the things I wanted to do when I wasn’t able to do them. It’s messed with me so much that I don’t know if I’ll ever go to a theme park without that hum of anxiety in the back of my head.
In January, I went to Disneyland with my girlfriend. With nearly every ride, I was terrified of having to encourage her to just go on without me, I’d be fine, I wouldn’t mind the wait. I looked up articles on doing Disneyland while fat, and while a lot (a lot) of the hits on Google were about how the food was making people fat, I found really helpful articles. I read about other fat people riding these rides and having a great time and telling me to just go for it and do the same.
My girlfriend is loving and kind and has always told me that I’m beautiful. Most of the time, I feel beautiful around her. And on those days, I felt like normal. We went on a ton of rides together without a hitch. We sat together and held hands and screamed (okay, only I screamed) on the rides. It was amazing and I wasn’t turned away for anything.
When we went on the Dumbo ride, I was overwhelmed with fear that I somehow weighed so much that I would snap off our arm of the ride and send us crashing into the concrete below. I didn’t say anything about it, I just freaked out quietly in my head, but I didn’t regret going on it for a second. And, you know, none of my fears came true, so that too.
We rode Thunder Mountain, and though she was nervous about how the lap bar was so far away from her legs, she told me afterward that she hadn’t been worried at all while actually on the ride. I hadn’t killed her with my massive body.
I took up space and it didn’t terrify me. I didn’t cringe into myself and try to become nothing. I stood tall and held her hand and smiled. A lot.
I don’t know if it’s the park itself that helped me feel okay or her, but the part that matters is that I did feel okay. I was never once humiliated or put down for my body. I didn’t feel like an intruder on society.
Now, here I am, in the thick of a culture hell-bent on losing every spare pound before January ends, and I’m okay. Kind of messed up about a lot of things still, but I’m going to be okay. I’m still trying to heal myself from years of self-hatred, but I know that I’ll be okay.
I’m a wannabe scientist, writer, and resident of beach towns. I intend to pursue a graduate degree in marine biology and maybe actually publish a story one day. I write historical fiction and personal essays, mainly about body image (and other stuff, promise). You can follow my adventures on Instagram and Twitter.