What my flight attendant uniform taught me about confidence

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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.

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.

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Heather Poole View All →

Yeah, that's me, the one standing in the aisle wearing flammable polyester...

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