Natalie Hage paid $70 (£54) to secure a seat with extra leg room when she flew to Los Angeles on American Airlines this month. But, when she was seated in the middle of a three-seat section, she says she immediately began to feel anxious.
The plus-size model sat “crumpled into a ball [and] trying not to bother anyone”, making a conscientious effort not to encroach upon anyone else’s space. And yet, despite her thoughtfulness, she says she soon noticed that the passenger next to her was behaving incredibly rudely.
“He began LOUDLY huffing, sighing, and readjusting himself in his seat,” she revealed in a post on her Instagram account.
Hage then went on to reveal that she noticed that the passenger – who she chose not to identify – was texting furiously, while turning his phone away from her. So, of course, she looked.
“The texts were about me and I’m almost positive he took photos of me,” she said, alongside photos she had snapped of his alleged conversation.
“Not only were the texts about me, but they were really mean and ugly, with even the recipient named ‘Linda’ chiming back with shaming retorts... someone who can't even see the situation.”
i'm shaking right now. i'm on a flight to LA right now on @americanair. i paid almost $70 extra for this seat i'm in because i know i need a little extra leg room. i'm extremely flight anxious but there were only middle seats available so i had to take what i could get. as soon as i sat down, the gentleman on my left began LOUDLY huffing, sighing, and readjusting himself in his seat. i see him furiously texting and then purposefully turning the phone away from me. so, naturally next time he texts, i take a look. the texts were about me and i'm almost positive he took photos of me. not only were the texts about me, but they were really mean and ugly, with even the recipient named 'linda' chiming back with shaming retorts...someone who can't even see the situation. if you can't read the texts, it says 'hopefully she didn't have any mexican food' and his response is 'i think she ate a mexican'. then he proceeds to say he's leaving a 'neck mark on the window' because he's so smashed against the wall. from the photos, you can see i'm not in his space. he's even taken over both arm rests on purpose, coming to my space and digging his elbows into my side...which is in my seat. his next text to her was 'if the news reports a DFW airbus a321 leaving the runway without rotating, that would be my flight.' another i see later? 'if these seats don't hold, it's not going to matter.' and that's just a few of them. there were several more. i didn't do anything to him. i'm in my seat, completely (see photos). i am crumpled into a ball trying to not bother. i'm just so upset. i asked the other man to my right if he'd switch me and told him what the man was saying about me and he said laughed and refused. that's fine, it's not his issue. this is a fat person's daily reality and not just on a plane. this is on a bus, standing in line at the grocery store, at a concert, on the internet. you can be completely in your own space, not bothering anyone, and people will still fuck with you and try to hurt you. all you can do is know you haven't done anything wrong just by existing and to move on. this just makes me a mixture of enraged and super sad.
Hage went on to expose the content of the texts, some of which can be seen in the picture, explaining: “It says ‘hopefully she didn't have any Mexican food’, and his response is ‘I think she ate a Mexican’.
“Then he proceeds to say he's leaving a ‘neck mark on the window’ because he's so smashed against the wall. From the photos, you can see I'm not in his space.”
Hage added that the man even took up both arm rests and dug his elbows into her side, despite the fact she was not in his personal space at all.
So, inspired by the support she received on Instagram, she decided to confront the fat-shamer about his rudeness – and she made sure to film the encounter, too.
Hage opened the conversation by asking him about the text messages, which the man denied ever sending. But, when she quoted them back at him, he laughed sheepishly and apologised for his behaviour.
“I’m sorry, I was drinking,” he said.
However, clearly embarrassed at being caught out, it wasn’t long before he went on the defensive. And, within moments, Hage found herself being asked if she truly believed that she was the right person to sit by the emergency exit.
“When they ask if you’re willing and capable to assist people in getting off the airplane in an emergency, do you honestly think you are?”
After informing the body-shamer that she works out five times a week, Hage calmly told him: “My body is none of your business...don’t ever treat anyone like that again.”
The guy seems to, come the end of the video, finally learn his lesson.
In fact, after apologising again, he even had the balls to ask Hage out to dinner to make up “for the trouble” – an invitation which she, of course, turned down.
While Hage has been praised by many internet users for her response to this fat-shaming incident, she went on to reveal that this is not the first time that a stranger has felt the need to share their opinion about her body – and she doubts it will be the last.
“This is a fat person's daily reality and not just on a plane,” she said. “This is on a bus, standing in line at the grocery store, at a concert, on the internet. You can be completely in your own space, not bothering anyone, and people will still f*** with you and try to hurt you.
“All you can do is know you haven't done anything wrong just by existing and to move on.”