When I first moved to London, I was unprepared for the crush of the daily commute. The sheer number of people here is astounding and space is at a premium on trains and busses. Seats are small and stuck right together. Ventilation isn’t great. People can be stinky, cranky, loud, rude, and volatile. I’ve seen more than a few fights break out on train platforms at rush hour.
I fit in a single seat but there’s not a lot of wiggle room. And like any formerly-bullied fat girl, I was hyper-aware of that awkward feeling of having the only empty seat on the entire bus be next to me. For the first couple of years, even when I got on a completely empty bus, I would habitually crush myself up against the window, hunch down, fold up my arms, and try to make myself as small as possible. It was physically uncomfortable and emotionally stressful and frankly ridiculous given the aforementioned fact of an EMPTY BUS.
Over time I started watching others — manspreaders, people who sit on the outside seat and fill the other with their bags, youth who hang their legs over the sides — so many entitled people feeling zero shame about taking up not just what space they literally need but also as much space as they possibly can — without apology.
I thought about the moral judgments that get placed on me for simply existing in the body I have, no matter how thoughtfully – and how none of that applied to people who intentionally made it as difficult as possible for other people to be comfortable. And then I thought – to hell with it.
I will take the space I need. No more, no less. Kindly, respectfully, but without apology.