Yes, YOU, who doesn’t fit the Barbie mold nor her wetsuit.
You’re not alone.
I’m not averting my eyes pretending not to see you. I’m not gracing you with a sympathetic half-smile … then secretly patting myself on the back for being so charitable as to make you feel welcome.
Yeah, I know you recognize both those actions. I know this because I can’t count the number of times I’ve been on the receiving end.
I recognize them and want to flail my arms around and scream “Yes, I am here. I am this size. I dive. I don’t need your permission or your sympathy!”
But we don’t ever do that, do we?
No, we feel compelled to reciprocate that close-mouthed little smile. As if it were how everyone smiled at each other all the time. But it’s not. It’s not, and we recognize it deep down in our gut.
We take a breath and go on. It happens too often to do anything else.
We just want to get on with it and get underwater, where weight no longer matters. Where we can move our bodies gracefully and become lithe. Hovering and twisting and taking it all in.
Where, for an hour, judgment doesn’t exist and our body is an efficient tool for navigating a wondrous world.
Where it is no longer a reason to try to shrink upon ourselves and take up less space. (God forbid we touch the person sitting next to us on the boat or airplane!) Seating is one size fits all. Except it doesn’t.
We just want to get to the one place on this planet where we’re free. Just like every diver is blessed to experience. But they can’t ever know the multiplying effect on our joy, as we escape not just gravity but the weight of other people’s judgment.
They don’t ever have to forego comfort and warmth because there is no wetsuit available that actually fits.
We deal with all these things because when we slip beneath the surface … when we’ve achieved perfect neutral buoyancy … when we’re free of the worry of encroaching on others space … free to move only by breathing … engrossed in the wonder of the symbiotic nature … it’s all worth it.
It’s worth the extra trouble. The sideways glances. The embarrassment. Yes. Yes, it is. It so is.
But just because it’s worth it, doesn’t mean it should stay that way.
I’m telling you: you are not alone.
Nearly 70 percent of women in the U.S. are plus-sized (classified as anyone who wear a size 14 or larger.)
So why do we continue to quietly accept the attitudes of the well-meaning but ill-informed? Certainly the crude, the snide commenters who think we don’t hear and that the laughter doesn’t hurt – certainly they should be called out.
But we don’t because we feel alone. We’ve bought into the same rhetoric they have. That we are less than simply by being more than. That we are gluttonous, lazy people and should feel shame.
If we take a moment and ask ourselves how many of the other people on that boat are perfect, what happens?
How many of them over-indulge in alcohol? Gluttony is gluttony after all. How many have ever called off work when they just didn’t feel like going? Lazy is lazy, right?
This isn’t to marginalize them the way that we have been. It is to say that nobody is perfect. Some imperfections are visible and some are not. Differences and quirks are celebrated nowadays– as long as those differences aren’t old or fat.
So I’m here to tell you that you are most definitely not alone. I’m right here, just like you.
I’m also here to ask you to be that person for the next disenfranchised diver.
Be part of the chain long enough to reach the woman so embarrassed she is contemplating canceling her next dive trip. The woman whose last dive was dampened before she could even enter the water.
Let us banish the stigma together. Let us tell our fellow divers that we have more in common than we do differences. Let us show the community that we are an asset, not a burden. Let us tell the industry that we’re here in numbers, buying gear and booking trips.
Let us begin a movement of inclusion and kindness.
Let us be us.
Stand up. Join the community.
Laura is an avid scuba diver, business owner, mother, enthusiastic champion of inclusion, lover of words, and hater of soup. She finally heeded the call of ocean and left NY for southern Florida six years ago. Since then she’s had the opportunity to ask approximately 164 dive buddies “Do you know where the boat is?” Since she doesn’t have the option to go big or go home, she just goes big. Big into education, conservation, and laughter.