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Katy Byrne
What's Up With That?
Katy Byrne

Sit on it

This has been a heavy, challenging few years for us all. I thought some laughter might be needed here, but not much seemed funny these days. Then, I realized that we all might be sitting on it right now: chairs.  Ever notice how they make us cave in, leaving us looking like the Humpback of Notre Dame, causing hemorrhoids, making us slouch over or with protruding stomachs?  We kerplunk onto our computer chairs, on sloshy TV chairs, or go out to eat on stiff, steel or unsupportive plastic ones. Do they really support our well-being? Whose idea was this?  The topic soon rolled into a bigger emotional hairball. Dysfunctional infrastructure surrounds us and inhibits our wellbeing. In Eric Klinenberg’s book, Palaces for The People, he explains the importance of surroundings. “People forge bonds in places that have healthy social infrastructure – not because they set out to build community, but because when people engage in sustained recurrent interaction, particularly while doing things they enjoy, relationships inevitably grow.”  Stiff, weak, tinny chairs don’t help us socialize at all, they contribute to wimpy gluten muscles, sphincter issues, and bad backs. Is it time to take a stand? Constantly gazing at our laptops with our heads pointing forward can be a pain in the neck. And “sitting down so much is literally changing the shape of your butt,” Galen Cranz writes in The British Guardian. “Back pain of all sorts, fatigue, varicose veins, stress, and problems with the diaphragm, circulation, digestion, elimination, and general body development…” all of this is affected. In The Tyranny of Chairs, Cranz adds, “We design them, but once built, they shape us.” Hunched over, our knickers in a knot, stomachs nudging the last meal through our esophagus and GI tract, salads, breads, sandwiches, apples, struggling to transport through our intestines, belly pushing roughage finally out. Stool softeners just aren’t enough. We need supportive infrastructure – stable, solid chairs. The thingamajig we perch on, called the chair, is an important part of our lives. They hold us in place while we maneuver constant change and chaos in the culture. Do they reflect a deeper problem? As David Korten writes, “We must organize around what makes communities most healthy rather than what makes corporations most profitable.” And Eric Klinenberg adds in his latest research that “most policies that aim to reduce crime focus on punishing people rather than improving place.”  (Excluding Rittenhouse…. he’s free.) So, why do manufacturers build chairs that make us cower or crouch? The entire globe seems to be perpetuating our powerlessness. We are giving our power away while large organizations save a nickel on our watch! Why aren’t we the people refusing to sit down for this? Sure, there have been attempts by designers to reinvent sitting, kneeling chairs, bouncing balls, caved-in stools with skinny legs, standing desks, but the bottom line is we have been dethroned. Too many products brought to market were designed to be appealing or novel rather than useful. And we buy into it!  It’s a conspiracy! Manufacturers leave us with no real spine and spunk, postures without dignity, bunched up, with no air circulating to our brains. It’s time to stand up for better chairs.  
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