Grateful

Sometimes, living in a small city with a small airport is great. Today, my taxi came at 2:10 pm. I was sitting in my seat on the plane at 3:10 pm. It’s not everywhere you can do that.

I was ready to leave Ljubljana. It’s been a great summer, but it’s time to move on.

I boarded the plane and took the seat that was indicated on my boarding card, which happened to be in the back row. One of the flight attendants came up to me and asked if I needed a seat belt extension, which I did. She said she’d have to move me. People with special needs/limited mobility are not allowed sit in the rows nearest emergency exits on a plane. Being fat is one of the categories that excludes you from sitting by the exit.

The plane was full and I watched as the flight attendant went from seat to seat asking people to move. Every time she asked, the passenger would ask her why, and she would say that there was a “gentleman with limited mobility” in the back row and that was against the rules. So humiliating. She was about six rows up the plane when she finally found someone willing to move. After we had swapped seats, she brought me a seat belt extension, trying to be sensitive at last, carrying it in both hands so no one could see what it was and then slipping it to me like it was a bag of coke and I was a Columbian mule.

I had an hour in Paris before getting on the plane to Dublin. I had to walk through the Business Class seating in order to get to my Economy Class seat. Every single person in Business Class was a man in a suit. Even the ones not in suits were in suits. They were in their “casual” clothes – beige chinos, pastel shirts and corduroy blazers. Vom. If I had the money to travel Business Class, I would spend some of that money on rhinestones, not on beige chinos.

I was sitting near a young man. I kept an eye on him, because he was kind of hot. Then he leaned forward and took his shoelace out of his shoe and started playing with it. Then he leaned forward again, unlaced the other shoe and started playing with both laces in his hands. Why would anyone unlace both their shoes entirely? And why was he choosing to play with his laces? And that’s when I turned into the worst racist ever. He “looked Middle Eastern”. He was clearly going to hijack the airplane by garroting me with his shoelaces. It was the only obvious explanation.

 I really should know better. It was the Irish who were judged like this when I was a child. In fact, when I was in New Jersey in the year 2001, I was introduced to an Italian-American priest who asked me if I had brought any semtex explosives with me from Ireland. That was literally the first thing he asked me when he heard I was from Ireland.

Needless to say, my plane wasn’t hijacked. I arrived in Dublin Airport, ungarroted.

My bag was still in Paris. I made my way home suitcaseless. The first thing I noticed when I walked into my building in Hall was a list of new Assistant Wardens on the wall. I’m no longer on the list. It was like being stabbed.

That said, nothing can bring me down. I’m in a stupidly good mood all the time. I’m excited to be home.

It’s been a great summer. I can’t really believe it. I remember last November, feeling that I was going nowhere. I didn’t really think I’d ever finish my PhD. I couldn’t see a future beyond Hall and beyond college. I didn’t think I would ever be able to lose any weight again. I didn’t think I’d ever have sex again.

I’ve proved myself wrong. This year has been extraordinary. I started the year by losing two stone in ten days and beginning to believe again. Since then, I’ve written 50,000 words of my PhD, given notice on my place in Hall, accepted a job in Vietnam and had a wonderful summer romance.

I’m particularly grateful for what I did in Ljubljana. I had my last visit to SaunaLand yesterday. I’m so much more comfortable in my own body now than I was two months ago. I used to feel guilty for being around other people and polluting their visual environment with my disgusting body just by being near them. I still feel that a little, but nothing as much as I did. And just sitting in saunas and pools was good for my body. Remember when you’re with your overweight friends that they’re probably in constant pain. The break that being in water gave me from my otherwise unrelenting joint pain was a joyous celebration. And my body confidence led me to a naturist weekend.

And it led me to my gentleman friend.

I was sorry he’d been less communicative for my last week in Slovenia than he had been before. We couldn’t meet because his boyfriend was around. I KNOW. Your jaw just dropped. He has a boyfriend. I was the other woman. Being desired is one thing. But being the bit on the side makes me feel even more alluring. Again, I’m like Shirley Valentine when she sees her Greek waiter wooing another Englishwoman. She can laugh. She got what she needed from him when he kissed her stretchmarks. And I got everything I could possibly have needed from my gentleman friend. My normal state is happier and braver than my normal state was two months ago. I am a new person. And in the end, he wrote me a lovely message, apologising for not being able to meet for goodbye hijinks, because he “wasn’t alone”, saying he was grateful we met. And I’m grateful too. Ever so grateful.

Meep!

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