by Heather Poole– It was like a scene out of a movie. I was in the terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport when I spotted a very attractive man standing in line at the Hudson News outside of security. We made eye contact, and he started walking towards me.
“Excuse me,” he said.
I stopped and smiled, waiting for him to ask me where the baggage claim was, or where he could find a Starbucks. I had on my flight attendant uniform, after all. But instead of asking me anything, he handed me his business card.
Vice President. Of a bank. He held out his hand and introduced himself with a firm shake. I couldn’t help but notice he was in no hurry to release my grip.
“You’re a beautiful woman. I’d love to take you to dinner.”
This is where I should probably mention something about my husband and son. Like … the fact that I have a husband and son. But they don’t matter right now. What matters is an attractive man thought I was beautiful enough to put his newspaper down and walk over and invite me to dinner. This sort of thing doesn’t normally happen to me. If I’d been single, I would have said yes. YES, YES, YES.
I walked away — take that back, it wasn’t a walk, it was a strut. A strut with a hair toss. I don’t know if I really tossed my hair, but if this had been a scene from a movie it would have been an appropriate move here.
Man, I’ve got it going on, I thought to myself as I cut the line at security, took off my blazer, kicked off my high heels and padded through the metal detector in my stocking feet.
Let the record show: I very rarely strut. I’m more of a collider — I run into things. I’m klutzy. And I’d like you to know that it had been a long time since I felt like I had it going on. A thought like that hadn’t crossed my mind in years. Oh, I think I’m attractive — I can hold my own. But I’m not walking around thinking I’m the hottest woman on Earth. Just stay with me a few minutes while I relive this moment in all its glory. Let me be so hot I caused a man at the Hudson News to put his newspaper down, step out of line, and say Hello.
Because it’s all going to come to an abrupt halt in a moment.
As I made my way past the food court and headed to the gate where my flight to Los Angeles was departing, I must have been beaming because a few passengers’ heads turned as I passed by. I heard someone say, “Nice hair.”
Now let’s back up to that morning, when I stood in my closet staring at a million different uniform pieces in several different sizes. That’s when I got a crazy idea to try on my skirt, and not just any skirt, but a skin tight pencil skirt I hadn’t worn in more than two years. Size 6. For the last few years I’d resigned myself to wearing the uniform dress, which looks more like a tent than a dress.
When I left work a size 4, and returned from maternity leave a 14, there was a lot I wanted to hide. Like my entire self.
But you just had a baby! is what you’re thinking, isn’t it? Yeah, and yet here I was two years later standing in my closet a size 10. OK, fine, a 12. A 10/12.
Size matters when you live in a society obsessed with looks, of course, and even more so when you have a job so many people consider sexy, like a flight attendant. I know times have changed and flying has changed, but for whatever reason people still expect to see sexy flight attendants when they board an airplane. Even when they’re flying to Toledo.
When the crew is unattractive, they’re disappointed — and they talk about it. Out loud.
No joke, I was more upset about being a “fat” flight attendant than I was about leaving my son at nine months to return to the not-so-friendly skies. I knew he’d be okay, he had his father. Me, the fat flight attendant? I wasn’t so sure. People can be mean.
Just came up with a title to a country & Western song. Too fat for my skirt. (Not too fat for your love).
Don’t ask how I came up with it.
— Heather Poole (@Heather_Poole) May 5, 2015
But back to my closet. I left my apartment that morning feeling great. I’d decided to try on an old uniform skirt, a uniform skirt I hadn’t worn in years. I took a deep breath and stepped into a skirt I had no business stepping into … a skirt I had no problem pulling up … a skirt I buttoned without a hitch. And like that, I had it going on: I felt good. I felt amazing.
And that’s how I met the banker. I felt good, so I looked good. I felt good, so I was smiling. My energy is what was attractive — I know that now. Nobody was more confident than I was that morning.
But wait, that’s not all.
Later on in flight, during the second beverage service, I reached into my pocket and felt something scratchy — a napkin. I pulled it out, and the handwriting on it … wasn’t mine. That’s when it hit me.
I’m wearing my mother’s skirt.
Oh my God.
I wanted to kill her.
My mother was also a flight attendant. She’s retired now, but she had a really bad habit of putting her old or unwanted uniform items in my closet — without telling me.
Like a balloon pricked by a pin, my confidence deflated right there in the middle of the aisle. Before I found the napkin, I had a great time with my passengers. We were laughing, chatting. After I discovered the napkin, and realized I was really four sizes larger than I’d been two seconds ago, I stopped smiling. All of a sudden nobody looked at me, nobody talked to me, nobody gave me their card. Not one person said, “Nice hair.”
It all came to a screeching halt. The movie ended. It didn’t even end really, it just cut off in the middle of the show. The fat lady barged in and sang.
Flash forward five years and I’m still not a size 4. I’ll never be a size 4. And I’m fine with that. Being healthy includes being happy — I think a lot of people forget that.
Before you start giving me advice I should add, It’s a confidence is sexy story. It took me a long time to learn that. Here’s to #MyFatAss
— Heather Poole (@Heather_Poole) July 29, 2015
At a birthday party recently, I started talking to a woman who had just started this new weight loss program. It involved walking into a closet full of clothes that fit.
“What do you mean?” asked the woman who has a closet full of clothes that don’t fit, including uniforms in a million different sizes.
“Keeping clothes that don’t fit only remind you of who you’re not,” she said. “It’s a sign of failure. When you feel like a failure, what do you do?”
This woman believed in dressing the body she has, not the one she wants, or the one she had years ago before kids and life and whatever. I loved that idea so much I went home and … thought about throwing away all my clothes that didn’t fit. I couldn’t do it. Instead, I went shopping for more clothes. I decided to dress my fat ass in pretty clothes.
I also decided to stop calling my fat ass a fat ass. But old habits are hard to break, and I’m human.
But I’m trying. I’m determined to change, and determined to feel beautiful today and to stop waiting around for tomorrow. It’s true what they say about confidence: It’s sexy, and it has nothing to do with size.
Heather Poole is a flight attendant for a major U.S. carrier, and the author of the New York Times bestseller “Cruising Attitude: Tales of Crashpads, Crew Drama and Crazy Passengers at 35,000 Feet.” You can follow her on Twitter at @Heather_Poole.