Desks and Physical Pain
I need to get in touch with my body again.
I think that college, especially overly theoretical education, and sometimes activism can disconnect me from my body. This semester I took classes like Intro to Race and Ethnicity and Comparative Perspectives on the Body, two classes that were emotional as well as very physical experiences. Being in class talking about “women’s experiences” or the “experiences of people of color” or “queer peoples experiences” as the great unknown other allows me to disconnect from my lived experience and my own connection to whatever we are talking about.
When I think back to all of my classes there are the things I learned but also the things I felt, physically. Most notable for me is the experience of chairs in the classroom. As a fat person everyday I squeezed, slid, jammed, and packed myself into spaces to small for me and would often leave class with bruises or welts on the sides of my legs. In some classes with desks on the arm I simply did not fit requiring me to get another desk. Feelings of physical exclusion and social shame are some of my strongest memories. My body was physically restricted and punished through pain and in classes where I required an extra desk my body was put on display as deviant.
Chairs are something I always think about, I’m always scared I won’t fit. I’m scared it will break. But it feels good to name it, somehow I hope it means that the next time someone sees a person of size trying to negotiate chair spaces they will think twice, or when people organize events and conferences thinking about who will be sitting in chairs. For example, if there is a talk in Kohlberg (a building on our campus) I am guaranteed to get only about 75% of whatever the speaker is saying because the chairs are so physically painful.
I also think that, for me, naming the physical pain is important. I went through the first 2.5 years of college (and all my education before that) jamming myself into spaces to small. I blamed myself, and didn’t think for a second that perhaps it was the chair that was built wrong–not my body.
Because since when is a desk chair the decider of what a “normal” body is, a “normal” student. Fuck desk chairs that aren’t designed to fit all our bodies. Fuck classroom materials that are being used to painfully mold fat bodies into thin bodies, disabled bodies into able-bodies.
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