This past weekend I had the pleasure to attend S.H.E. Summit, a women’s leadership and lifestyle event hosted by Claudia Chan and her eponymous brand. There were a lot of amazingly accomplished women speaking about their accomplishments, challenges, opportunities for us all individually and as a gender, and some delicious foods and goodies—such as a free copy of this weekend’s Wall Street Journal.
It may be business student PTSD (not to make light of PTSD, but there are reasons I can remember very little finance when my undergraduate degree is in finance), but I never pick up the Journal. However, since it was free and I love newspapers, we went home together. They had printed “An Argument for Flying in High Style” by J.J. Martin which I thought was rather thought-provoking and relevant.
Those who have met me in person know that getting dressed is one of my favorite things to do, because I love colors! And patterns! And I think jewelry is just an excuse to wear a toy all day, the unfortunate consequence is that I don’t wear much jewelry. But that’s okay, because I can wear fun shoes instead! The thing I do not like, however, is dressing up.
In her article, Martin reminds us that flying used to be super chic and expensive, and that by dressing up (in pricey things) we can bring some of that glamor back into our lives. And, on a practical level, it makes you more visually eligible for things like upgrades and white glove treatment in security.
Upgrades? Nicer security officers?
SIGN ME UP.
Flying something fancier than economy is on my bucket list, but unless someone else is paying, it ain’t happening. I don’t want it bad enough to pay an extra $1,000 just to get some more leg room, and free booze domestically, and space, and cushions, and…give up the dollar equivalent of another trip!
On the other hand, there is something very impressive about the perpetually put together. When I fly in Asia I inevitably suffer from chronic inferiority complex because every woman is in heels, unless they’re clearly a student with a backpack and flat tops, full makeup INCLUDING FALSE EYELASHES, and I’m the American schlepping through in sneakers, no makeup, and a strong desire to sleep the whole flight. My attire is designed to facilitate the sleeping and maintain body temperature, minimize unnecessary wardrobe adjustments, maximize the amount of stuff I can put in my luggage (which is usually only carry-on), and pass universal standards of decency. Looking good is not a requirement.
But maybe I should also prioritize how I look. After all, isn’t the number 1 airport activity looking at other passengers? I play the “see how many different passports you can find in customs,” “guess where that accent’s from,” and “how many of these people took the same departure AND return flight as me” games, to name a few. Maybe I should make those games a little more fun for others by at least putting some more aesthetic effort into my attire, like adding some crazy colors and accessories! This way, if I fall asleep or drop everything, they won’t also be playing the “homeless vagabond or poorly dressed traveler” game.
What do you think? Waste of effort/impediment to a more comfortable and pleasant trip, or Would you up your in-flight wardrobe too for all the possible benefits Martin states?
P.S. I will also tell you about the actual summit, it just needs as little more digestion!
My favorite art is the kind you can interact with, and this sculpture had little wooden mallets next to it and instructions to tap for different sounds.
And my favorite museums are free, or cheaper during certain times.
The Zimmerli Museum in downtown New Brunswick does Art After Hours every first Wednesday. I used to go as an undergrad, we even hosted some Objet d’Art lit(erary) magazine events there! This week I introduced some coworkers to both it and the museum itself. Always a fun time!
Before I left Arkansas I had the opportunity to go on a nice little nature walk in downtown Fayetteville on Mount Sequoyah, one of the biggest hills in town. It was lush, verdant, and we may have walked on a non-trail but all acquired ticks were discovered and KILLED so this was a successful adventure!
You can find the trial over on the south side of town. There’s a cute picnic area at the end of the concrete walkway, and then you’re into a proper nature trail with just dirt.
This past Memorial Day weekend I went back to Arkansas. It’s been essentially two years since I was last there, from June through October of 2010, and it was crazy to see how much had and how much hadn’t changed. This is really the only place I have lived that isn’t New Jersey and therefore isn’t readily visit-able. I know that people who move often probably laugh, but I grew up in the same house for 20-something years, then my parents moved 15 minutes away. My college was 45 minutes south from home, and I’ve wound up back in that part of the state for work.
Arkansas is an anomaly in this instance, the singular “one that got away” which I can’t regularly visit. It is the place where I can feel, to a much lesser degree, that weird shadow world of memories my parents experience when they go back to Taiwan. Standing in the same place days or years after the fact puts everything into stark contrast, and is probably why there are so many art projects about photographing the same place years after the fact.
Returning to Arkansas, my first shock came when we landed.
The last time I flew in, the plane stopped about 200 yards from the terminal, and we walked down the stairs into the runway itself. From there, you collected any gate-checked luggage, since the plane is only 3 seats wide and not everything can fit overhead, before walking into the giant metal hanger that was the terminal. Now the terminal had an accordion walkway that extended to the plane door, and we had to wait for luggage to be unloaded before we were allowed to disembark. The new terminal was beautifully built with life-sized chess and checker games, as well as rocking chairs for the handful of waiting passengers. I walked down the moving walkway mouth agape as I took it all in. Luckily, the airport entrance/exit hadn’t changed, and I took the same escalator down past security to the drive up strip.
And, generally speaking, that was my experience the whole time: things had definitely changed with new stores, new babies, new apartments, and new jobs, but the amazingly friendly people were still there and the greenery still wasn’t completely built over.
I remembered what I loved about it, and what I did not. It was a strange feeling of not quite deja vu which allowed me to see how far I’d grown (or not, in certain cases). My job is different now, my feelings about my job are different, but at the same time, I still work for the same company with many of the same coworkers, just all of us in different roles.
And I also discovered prejudices that I hadn’t realized I’d held, simply because they were so different from the ones that everyone else had. Sometimes we spend so long in a place that we forget that commonly held assumptions are just that, assumptions. But going somewhere else, everything is suddenly novel, and we’re forced to redigest. In literature, it’s called defamiliarization or, if you’re fancy and Russian, ostranenie.
In life, it’s experienced as travel.
The most obvious assumption that traveling forces me to re-examine is the idea that people may genuinely want to live in more remote locations. Growing up between two cities, I would consider a cultural center, or at the very least an international airport, one of my geographic requirements. Sure, accidents of birth happen, but choosing to live in the middle of…well, the country, nowhere, pick your preferred noun as long as it’s not flattering, seems more like a transitory state than final destination.
But, why not? There’s a lot not to love about cities and airports, and a lot to be said for open spaces, light traffic, and smaller communities. These things just don’t seem apparent until you go and experience it.
This past weekend I went down to Washington, DC to see an old friend graduate with his masters in International Affairs (or Studies as his Dean called it during Commencement) from George Washington University. It was a wet and drizzly morning, but there were two standout commencement speakers.
The first, in chronological order of ceremony, was the honorary Dr. Thad Allen who rightly quoted that he was like a corpse at an Irish funeral: essential in presence, but no audio desired. He spoke about the need for transparency in our personal lives, our leadership, and our government. The beauty of his address was in its brevity and self-depreciation. You don’t earn a Doctor of Public Service, honoris causa by sitting around twiddling your thumbs (his involved active military service among other things), but Dr. Allen kept the focus on the graduates and what contributions they could make to a world which hadn’t even seen the extent of their influence an abilities.
The second speaker I really enjoyed was honorary Dr. Kerry Washington, an alumna herself, who referenced recent undergraduate happenings and implored the graduating class to accept the challenge, as film theorists call it, to become the heroes of their stories. Since she’s a movie star and it’s a little longer I have the full speech below via YouTube. If the link doesn’t work, try searching online yourself.
One of my friends was reasonably entertained and the other hated it. Their reasonings were similar: too casual and they weren’t sold on her anecdotes.
I personally like the more casual tone, probably since it’s also the one I use, and it was nice to see how mundane and yet extraordinary the story she chose was: getting a prestigious scholarship which stipulated she audition for every production on campus as one of it’s requirements. Not everyone gets that particular honor, but we all know the feeling of having to do something we aren’t quite enthused about because it is tied to something which we are. Necessary evils, as they are sometimes called, are an irrefutable part of life. So from that perspective I thought it was a pretty good commencement, but you’ll have to let me know your thoughts on the matter.