Note: This article contains coarse language some readers might find offensive.
Natalie Hage, a plus-size model, recently boarded an American Airlines flight to Los Angeles for a photo shoot when she couldn’t help but speak up to the man sitting next to her about his rude behavior.
As WTVD reported, Hage had just taken her seat in the middle of the row when she noticed the man sitting next to began making audible noises to express his discomfort that she was sitting there.
Then the man took out his cellphone and began texting.
Hage posted about the encounter to Instagram, claiming the ordeal left her “shaking.” She had paid $70 for the seat with extra leg room but already dreaded sitting in the middle because of her size.
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.
Then she noticed the man purposely trying to shield his phone from her.
Hage suspected the man might be writing messages about her, so she was inclined to take a peek the next time she could see his screen. Her suspicions proved correct, as she wrote:
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…
The man, uncomfortable with Hage seated next to him, texted about her size to the other person on the phone who joined the ridicule:
‘hopefully she didn’t have any mexican food’ and his response is ‘i think she ate a mexican’.
Hage wrote that the disdain didn’t stop with cruel text messages — the man allegedly took over both elbow rests and dug his elbows into her throughout the flight.
The young woman asked the man seated to her other side if they could switch seats having explained what was going on, but he just laughed at her and said no.
Distressed, Hage took photos of the man’s messages to share with her social media followers:
She captioned the photos of the incident in part:
and that’s just a few of them. there were several more [texts]. 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.
However, while some might be deterred from calling out a perceived injustice — especially in front of other passengers on a flight — Hage felt as though she had to speak up.
She posted the exchange to her Facebook account, in which she told the man everything she saw him write:
She captioned the video in part:
you should have SEEN his ‘holy s**t’ face when i called him out… he tried lying, but when i started quoting him, he knew i was for real.
At first, the man denied ever having written anything. He then apologized to Hage when she quoted his text messages. The apology took a turn when he asked if she believed she should have sat in the exit row, given that her size may be hindrance to helping other passengers in the event of an emergency.
Stunned, Hage argued that she works out five times a week.
By the end of the exchange, the man again apologized and offered to take Hage to dinner. In a followup post, Hage thanked her social media followers for the outpouring of support.
Many commenters, however, thought Hage’s actions were just as violating and questioned if the behavior was worth drawing attention to:
One commenter wrote:
You invaded his privacy in a way that is much crueler than him joking about your size to a buddy. So sad that you need all this attention that bad.
Another said, in part:
I’ll be the first to say that all people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect no matter whom they are or what size. There are two flaws that I see here. First, you had no business taking pictures of his phone or any of that. Who is to say that this is actually real? You draw the line at filming his face but aren’t afraid to take pictures of his texts. His texts were insensitive but they were his…
You really have the audacity to look at his private messages and then play the victim afterwards when you see something you don’t like…
Invading someone else privacy is not glamorous and should not be pampered to. Sick
In an interview with “Today,” Hage explained that although the incident made her feel like she wanted to “disappear,” she had to say something:
“If I didn’t say something, I’d regret it forever. I’d be a hypocrite … I’ve made a platform to make people feel good about taking up space in the world, and this dude wanted to make me feel bad for existing.”
So far, the video of Hage’s exchange with the man has been viewed more than one million times. Reactions to it remain mixed.