In Writing

I have a running list of “things I wonder about” written in the Notes section of my phone. Fodder for blog posts, random thoughts, things that irk me which somehow feel better written down.

I fly a lot, and on my last flight I added to my list: “why do men always take the arm rest?” There is one shared arm rest between two seats and if I’m seated next to a man, I know to kiss it goodbye all the way to California.

This is how it usually goes: I’m already seated in my aisle seat (chosen carefully because I need at least the illusion of escape options). A man walks up and glowers wordlessly at me, by which I’m supposed to divine that he’s got the seat next to me. I get up, let him in. He plops down and starts spreading out. His backpack mysteriously doesn’t fit completely under the seat in front of him so it’s got to crowd into the area designated for mine. He’s got stuff – important man stuff – that intrudes into my seating area. His coat is big and its sleeves end up by my neck. And then… he claims both arm rests, left and right, like a king sitting on his throne. No negotiation, no sheepish apology. Oh, and then he manspreads. Manspreading is the phenomenon whereby men feel the need to sit legs so akimbo they appear to be in sumo wrestling training.

I understand. You have testicles and they need to breathe.

Once, I even had a fully grown strange man fall asleep and rest his head on my shoulder like I was his mommy.

Here’s the thing: I really am compassionate about size differences. If you’re taller than I am and you’ve got 50 pounds on me, I feel your pain. And airlines do completely suck. I hate how they pack us in like sardines. But here’s the thing: I’m uncomfortable too. I too would like to stretch languorously and air out my privates. Besides the fact that society has taught me that is not ladylike, I have also picked up on this little thing called courtesy. My needs are not more important than yours, but neither are yours more so than mine.

Yes, if you’re six foot five (male or female) I’ll make accommodations for you because we’re all in this together. But, five foot eight dude sitting next to me, you do not automatically get the arm rest just so you can spread out your Y chromosome on it.

Now, lest I be accused of man-hating in my rant about manspreading, let me also acknowledge that I’ve been on the receiving end of oodles of airplane courtesy from some men, particularly older ones (the most egregiously entitled manspreaders tend to be young men). I’ve had my carry on lifted into the overhead compartment for me by a man who watched me struggle, I’ve had newspapers shared with me and plugs reached on my behalf. But there’s no denying that there’s a culturally-based sense of entitlement that often informs the distribution of space in our world.  Never once have I had a woman lady-spread into my space, no matter her girth.  Women are taught to be soft-spoken, pleasant, and take up less room. Men are taught that the world is theirs for the taking. Since conquering the neighboring tribe is off the table for most modern men, they take the next best thing: the arm rest.

Women of the world, you know where the revolution must begin.

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