If you can’t be Miss America and you can’t be a model, then you become a flight attendant.” The flight attendant sitting next to me was explaining why she decided to go for this job.
She was a former Miss Southern Some-Kind-of-Fruit State, she said. And when she didn’t get crowned Miss America, her daddy said, “You need to get away and grieve the loss.” He thought travel would help. So he called up his good friend, the president of our airline, and said, “My little Peaches here needs a job.” She went on and on with the details. “Since I wasn’t ready to marry Mr. Frank Barnell Jeffreys III…quite yet, Daddy said this job was a good one for a girl who was pre-engaged. He said it would keep me busy so Mr. FBJ would not grow tired of me before the wedding.”
I could understand that. I was growing tired of her, and we had only just met. I was also hoping she wouldn’t ask me why I took this job.
“Why did you take this job, honey?” she said, leaning into me as she bit a piece of celery without it touching her lipstick. “I mean”–she pointed the celery at me–“with you being so old and all.” (She was twenty-one. I was thirty.) “And…so big.” She used her celery to draw a huge circle of air around me.
She was five foot two and wore a size 0. I was six feet tall and wore a size 10. My shoe size was double hers. I felt like a Siberian work dog being taunted by a toy poodle. But I was too intimidated to bark at her, so I decided to tell her the truth.
“I’m trying to get over a loss too,” I said.
“Honey, what do you mean? Did you lose your husband?” She held the celery directly under my mouth and moved in closer, like it was a microphone and she was the media.
I grabbed the celery and started speaking into it. “Well yes, you could say that. My fiancé left me for a younger woman.”
Then I told Peaches the story of my life in a few sentences: how after college, I wanted to be a writer but instead became a recruiter for the fast-food division of a dog food company. And how I couldn’t find true love until age twenty-seven. Then I got engaged, and a few months before my wedding, my fiancé left me for a twenty-two-year-old. But he wasn’t right for me anyway, I realized, and not just because he wasn’t tall enough for me.
I could see Peaches loved the drama of my life. After my speech, she grabbed the microphone and bit it. Then she gave me a warning. “It will be hard for you now, being over thirty. The chances of you ever meeting anyone…well, you know… anyone with teeth, are just, honey, not good!” She stood and walked out of the galley, holding her hand near her hair as if adjusting an invisible crown.
I was left alone to ponder my fate.
She was right and I knew it.
I was doomed.
There was no hope.
I had lost my job, lost my fiancé, and lost my apartment.
Now look at me, a big old work dog in flight attendant clothing.