Camouflage (Solo) Travel: Female and Fat

by Ann Santori

Don’t worry who’s looking. Image from

This Fourth of July, the Boyfriend and I headed to Lisle’s Eyes to the Skies hot air balloon festival for the perfect combination of fireworks and flight.  And, as is the nature of festivals, the good ol’ American tradition of food stands plying their greasy, deep-fried goodness was alive and well.

Grabbing my fried chicken on a stick (Yup, that’s a thing apparently.) with a side of rice (because rice makes it healthy, right?), I reached for a plastic fork from the box on the condiment table.  But, germaphobic senses peaked at the sight of the utensils lying haphazardly in the box, I walked away and proceeded to sit at a nearby table where, under the cover of darkness, I ate the rice like a dog from a bowl — face first.

Now, while the Boyfriend certainly got his fair share of laughs at the sight, I didn’t notice that I was garnering any funny looks from other festival-goers.

For the past couple of months, I’ve been tossing fellow columnist Ariel Goldberg’s “Fat Girl Travels: An Intro” around in my mind.  Like Ariel, I’ll confess to you, dear readers: I’m fat!  And sometimes I wonder if my particular type of fat body shape — big tummy and small breasts — actually insulates me from unwanted attention of many types.

Avert your children\'s eyes from . . . THE FAT!
Carrying your size in contentment. Image courtesy of Ann Santori.

I’ve never been heckled (for my size or otherwise), and apart from a few minor incidents, I’ve also not had to face sexual harassment or assault while traveling.

They seem somewhat mutually exclusive, right?

If I’m not attractive enough to “merit” sexual harassment, then shouldn’t my transgressions against the feminine beauty standards be “punished” with verbal harassment?  Is it because my top half is tiny enough to somewhat camouflage my real size?

Oftentimes, I feel like a Lady Hester Stanhope, dressed in men’s clothing to infiltrate the most dangerous pockets of the Middle East.

Like a man, I simply refuse to apologize for the amount of space I occupy in this world (though I do make the usual, polite concessions on public transport).

Like a man, my body is not the first thing on display when one encounters me.

The youngest  shooting victim listed is 17.
Image courtesy of Ann Santori.

And, like Lady Hester, I feel safe when I travel.  I’ve walked through Times Square and the streets of Chelsea past midnight. (Don’t you dare tell my mother!)  I’ve lost my direction on the way to a St. Louis #1 cemetery tour and ended up in the Tremé neighborhood next to a church mural commemorating the shooting deaths of dozens of locals.  (Mom knows about that one.)

Perhaps my sense of safety is all just foolishness and naïveté.

But perhaps, as any self-help guru would insist, I’ve ‘thought’ my way to safety.  I’ve assumed that since I don’t fit (literally) into the beauty standards of Western society, no one is looking at me and, therefore, I can do and go whatever and wherever I like.

And though I certainly occasionally fantasize about exotic men falling at my feet, in awe of my beauty, I already have a hometown man to perform such adulation.

And besides, my self-esteem is strong enough to know that I am beautiful without outside confirmation . . . other than the periodic admiration of my Zooey Deschanel-esque printed dresses (Thank you, eShakti!).

What about you, Go Girls?  How does your body travel with you?  Is the size (No pun intended.) of its presence comparable to that of a checked bag, or is it merely a carry-on? Do you feel it wherever you go? Does that matter to you?

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