Saturday, September 29, 2007

Clipped Wings

From the article, "Women's Club Celebrates Bygone Era in the Skies":

Most became flight attendants when flight attendants were called stewardesses. They had to be single, under a certain weight and age, and wear heels and sometimes gloves and always girdles.
. . . . .

But many accepted practices began to recede in the late ’60s and ’70s. Flight attendants — who lost the “stewardess” tag when men were hired in the early ’70s — could get married and have children. Weight and age restrictions began to relax.
Relax? I had a flight on Delta recently where the flight attendant herself would have needed to put up the armrest and occupy two seats. Relax? I haven't had one flight in the last three where more than one of the flight attendants was younger than me. Most of the doctors or lawyers or judges I meet these days are younger than me. Relax? One of the women in the article is quoted as explaining that, in the beginning, stewardesses (most women who have been one in the last quarter century will be quick to tell you "the term is 'flight attendant"), were expected to act as "like hostesses in our own homes." Relax? Passengers get friendlier service from the only mildly irritated woman at the Returns and Exchanges counter at Target than they do from most flight attendants these days. I got friendlier service from Kelly.

I get the friendliest service from the male flight attendants, but that's just one more aspect of an interesting paradox in my life. I'm quite comfortable and confident in my role as an enthusiastic heterosexual. Gays of my own gender don't threaten me. Consequently, I have quite a few gay male friends. So do my daughters, I suspect because those friends feel comfortable and accepted in our home. Gay men, even at a young age, seem to have something of a sixth sense about who is and is not a homophobe. On the other hand, I have only a few very special lesbian friends, and even their trust I had to earn. Most lesbians I've known seem to have a sixth sense as well, but it runs more along the lines of detecting (and instantly disliking, though I'm not sure why) heterosexual men. So, anytime I might worry that the comfort my gay male friends feel around me bespeaks some confusion about my own preferences, I need only approach a lesbian to see the shields go up and the porcupine spikes come out to be reassured. But I digress.

A few years ago, I read a great little comic book on the topic, Around the World in a Bad Mood!: Confessions of a Flight Attendant. The book has its own web site, from which you can get to the calendar for the stage version. I wish I were going to be in Salt Lake or Phoenix to see it. Having been subjected to the bad mood of more than one flight attendant in recent memory, it would be at least some consolation to get a laugh out of it.