By Jeff Jenkins
If you are introverted or self-conscious, one of the worst things that can happen to you is being the center of attention—being stared at can be nerve-racking to unforeseen levels.
Living in a predominantly fat-shaming society that considers being bigger than average a mark of disgrace means, sadly enough, that most chubby folks will be self-conscious about their body and the attention it receives.
And as most introverts will know, one of the worst things that happen to the self-conscious is being the center of attention.
This is why the fear of looking bad or being judged by strangersis considered the top apprehension fat people might have about traveling: we know people will look at us, mock us and shame us for being fat and daring to—gasp!—have fun.
I wish I could tell you this isn't true, but sadly it’s an inherent part of our lives as plus-sized people—while some countries and societies might not give us a second glance as we walk down the street, some others are not exactly used to big folks, so they might stare at us as we walk by, decorum be damned.
But what if I told you it isn’t always to mock us? That those stares do not always hold disdain and judgment?
When you travel far from home—particularly to a non-Western culture—odds are that you will be the exotic one for them. Different. And people sometimes act pretty weird when faced with someone different from them—not to mention that being different is the antithesis of blending in with the crowd.
Chances are that, if you are anything like me, you’d rather just be left alone—you do not want to be treated any differently or be handled as a rarity or a spectacle to behold. But sadly, this is not always the case.
This is why we have to be at peace with the possibility of being the center of attention—in many cultures we stand out due to our size, and we will be stared and addressed because of it. Does it mean discrimination? Not exactly—most of the time, it is curiosity.
It’s unfair, and we have to work progressively towards changing the way the world is… But for now? It’s healthier to assume it as an unavoidable part of traveling if only so it won’t sour what should be a sweet experience.
And hey, sometimes that curiosity is due to good things.
Some countries are open about considering plus-size as a sign of beauty and success, instead of the negative connotations the West has. Myanmar, for example, is known for not considering being fat offensive—just a physical trait. Jamaican men, on the other hand, seem very into plus-sized womenand consider them beautiful.
So, why bother trying to decode the intentions behind their glances?
You’ll be stared at, and it could be both positive and negative—who cares?
Enjoy yourself instead—show-off that body with a smile, give them something to really look at.
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