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A grouping of different chairs with different levels of size and sturdiness.

Sit Down

I walk into a coffee shop and the aroma of freshly brewed java hits me. My eyes look around the room, seeking refuge in a comfortable chair. Wooden, metal, cushioned, or spartan. Each one a potential ally or adversary. I always approach with caution, assessing their sturdiness, their armrests, their width. It’s like a bad guessing game. Is this one going to hold me up? Can I squish my fat into it?

Finding a comfortable chair is like to a bad treasure hunt. Most chairs are designed for the "standard" sized. But what about those of us who defy the norm? We’re left teetering on the edge, praying that the chair won’t break beneath us. And specialty seating? Well, that’s the Willy Wonka golden ticket. The VIP pass to comfort. But it comes at a hefty price.

The price of comfortable seating

The first thing I searched for were the specialty chairs. These are the ones with reinforced frames, generous proportions, and armrests that can be raised. They’re like the velvet ropes at an exclusive club that whisper, "You belong here." But here’s the catch: they’re not readily available in most public spaces. You won’t find them stacked in cafés or lining waiting rooms. They simply do not exist in the vast majority of places I have been.

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Specialty seating costs a pretty penny. Comfort comes with a price tag: a tax on our bodies. Want a chair that won’t creak when you sit? Pay up. Do you need armrests that accommodate your curves? Open your wallet wider. And if you dare to dream of a world where all chairs embrace diversity, well, dream on.

All my life I've squeezed into chairs

I settle into a restaurant booth, my mortal enemy since I have to squeeze in as much as possible. The waiter hovers, eyes darting from me to the booth. "Is this okay?" he asks, his tone apologetic. In the past I would have tried to fit into the booth because I was embarrassed by my weight and the space that I took up in the world. It took many uncomfortable meals, when I was gasping for air with every minute breath, before I started giving the waitstaff the side-eye and asking for a table.

All of my life I have squeezed into chairs meant for half my size. I’ve perched on the edge, praying not to topple. I have sunk into couches with no way of getting out. I have fake sat, too. What is fake sitting? It is sitting without putting your full weight on the chair. It is physically and mentally exhausting. So many inappropriate seats over the course of my lifetime. And all the while, I’ve yearned for a seat that is simply comfortable.

Change is on the way

I would be remiss if I were not to say that things have improved over the decades. Seats often have no arms and the seats are a bit wider. In places like medical facilities, one might see wider benches seated side-by-side with the traditional width seating. As the average American has grown in size, there are more accommodations happening in public and private spaces.

It seems that staff have also been trained to be more polite when finding seating for larger clientele. I have been discreetly led to tables rather than a booth. I have been given a different chair that is more sturdy. Am I 100 percent comfortable plopping down anywhere? No! And, I try not to plop anyway. Plopping is one sure way to wind up on the floor with a broken chair. Ask me how I know.

You, too?

I'm sure others can relate

As I finish this article, I imagine you nodding in understanding. I doubt I am the only person who has experienced this. How many times have you gone out somewhere only to find that the chairs are too narrow or not sturdy enough. Do you recoil at those very pretty, but very dangerous contemporary chairs with thin wire legs? I know I have had taken my chances with those. One of which ending my chance taking with acrylic seating. Even in my own home I have chairs that are just not for me, but I do not have the luxury of just getting news. We are all seekers of comfort and a seat at life’s grand table. A seat that is comfy and safe.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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