I’m a firm believer in being as comfortable as humanly possible while you travel. I’m talking elastic waist pants, sneakers, a T-shirt, a sweatshirt, a neck pillow, minimal makeup for maximum eye rubbing — the whole sloppy, loose-fitting nine yards . Sometimes I’ll duck into the lavatory and remove my bra. Often, I’ll slip off my shoes. I’ll leave my socks on because I’m not an animal, but occasionally I will travel with an animal. She’s an adorable dog who looks like a muppet and spreads joy to all who come in contact with her, save for people whose hearts are too twisted and compressed to appreciate cute dogs.
I imagine your bile might be rising as you read this, because for the last many years, there’s been a strong push back against us comfortable travelers.
Back in the day people knew how to behave. They dressed up before boarding an airplane and wore gloves and had excellent posture. They were polite and agreeable and very, very clean. They ate escargot and drank scotch and, overall, travel was civil, genteel, and fancy.
Nowadays, goes the current argument, fleece-ensconced layabouts treat all public spaces as their own living rooms.
Look, I’m not advising anyone to pull out a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle or play Twister in the aisle. But in terms of apparel? Go ahead and wear whatever makes the time pass faster.
And regarding what is and isn’t appropriate on an airplane, a frequent chestnut in women’s magazines — these same ones who recommend dressing up and looking your best in the air because you just never know who you might meet — holds that airplanes are an ideal place to apply self-tanner.
I find this advice lands somewhere between impractical and downright sociopathic. Self-tanner is messy and smells. Years ago, because I used to wear skirts frequently, I would self-tan my legs and accidentally my palms. I was two-tone, like my legs had been vacationing in Tahiti while my arms and face were stuck in an office.
One night, with my legs satisfactorily stained to a deep auburn, I arrived at the bar where my friends and I hung out. And as I slid into the booth, more than one person wondered what smelled like a wet dog. I didn’t let on that it was me, but that’s how bad self-tanner smells. I would never subject my seat-mates to that olfactory offense. Similarly, I would never advise being that person who brings a Tupperware of tuna fish onto a plane. But sweatpants? Who exactly are you hurting?
It would be too easy to point out to the pearl-clutchers that air travel has changed quite a bit since the days of yore, when men were men and women were stewardesses and everyone wore itchy blazers and respected the friendly skies. But, then again, you could also puff away on cigarettes at 30,000 feet, so maybe some things do change for the better.
Given that any kind of travel — leaving your house, really — often feels more like a punishment than an experience worth being present for, I like to stack the deck in my favor by not starting out angry that my underwear is riding up my butt, my pants are cinching my waist in an uncomfortable way, my shirt is bunching up under my sweater, and uh-oh, I think my earring is getting caught on something.
It’s less that I’m obsessed with being comfortable and more that I’m fanatical about avoiding discomfort.
And now, a story that disproves my point.
Some time ago I was flying to an event and arriving without enough time to go to the hotel first. Because of the schedule, I wore what I was going to wear that night on the plane: a dress, knee high boots, Spanx, full makeup, a push-up bra, and clip-in hair extensions. I was uncomfortable, but I looked very put together and the difference in the way people treated me was impossible to miss. At the airport, I was taken from the regular security line and whisked through the TSA pre-check line even though I wasn’t pre-check. At the gate I was whisked through the first-class boarding area to my seat (that was not in first class). It was remarkable, and kind of depressing when you think about what it meant in terms of looks-ism.
But was it worth it? Hell no. It cut into my sacred pajama time and I’m still pissed.