I was a bit lost after college and had no idea what I wanted to do other than hang out with my boyfriend, drink mochas while reading the thick Sunday San Francisco Chronicle, and travel around Europe sitting in bustling cafés where I could look at people. This isn’t to say I wasn’t a hard worker, I’ve always worked hard, it’s in my bloodline. I just didn’t have an interest in anything that might be called a career. And then I thought of the airlines: fly free to anywhere in the world, meet interesting people, layovers in Paris and Rome, or Oklahoma even!

I sent the two largest American carriers my resume and was granted interviews—in Atlanta and Dallas—right away.

On the flight from San Francisco to Atlanta, I was seated next to a girl who was also interviewing. She had short blond hair and was cute in the universally accepted meaning of the word.

“I’ve only eaten five-hundred calories a day for the past two weeks!” she said.

“Why?” I was astounded. My sister had had anorexia as a teen and it was so gruesome to witness that I’d never taken much to starvation.

“To fit into the height/weight chart!”

The airlines had sent a packet of information that included a height weight chart. I am five feet two inches tall. For my height I wasn’t allowed to weigh more than 112 pounds. I didn’t own a scale so I bought one, and sure enough, there I stood at 112 pounds. One pound more and I’d be too fat for the airlines.

“And I’ve been doing an hour of aerobics every day!” the girl said.

The only exercise I’d been getting was using a left-hander golf club to hit a single ball in my apartment courtyard, or, when we were feeling ambitious, my boyfriend and I would take turns hitting the ball in the park down the street. We had inherited the club after rummaging through the empty apartment of the recently deceased ninety-year old woman who had lived across the hall from us. Her middle-aged children came and cleaned out her belongings leaving only two things behind: a battery-operated “personal massager” and a left-handed golf club. We took the club and left the massager for the cleaning crew.

All the interviewees were staying at the same airport Marriott in Atlanta. The interview wasn’t until the next morning so there was an entire evening open where I planned to lie on the hotel bed and read while watching TV (if TVs boring, you eventually forget it’s on, if it’s riveting, you read during the commercials). I didn’t have a TV at the time, so a bed with a remote control was a true luxury. Before I could settle in, there was a knock on my door. It was 500 Calories, my aisle-mate from the flight. She had a guy and a girl with her, both Southerners with huge white smiles and shiny hair. The guy looked like a shorter, stockier Ken doll. He could have won Miss Congeniality at any beauty pageant. He stepped into my room, stuck his palm out and pumped my hand.

“I’m Barry! Y’all wanna come out to dinner with us!”

I stared at the gleaming faces. I wasn’t used to such intense sunshine and cheer. The girl standing beside Barry looked like young Brooke Shields on ecstasy. I had been living in Northern California for a few years already and had grown used to ashy eyes, brooding men, dank hair. But, truthfully, I was sick of the mopers, the over-thinkers, the kvetchers. I was ready for cheerful!

“Come on!” 500 Calories said. “You’re not going to sit here alone!”

“Y’all gotta come with us!” Brooke Shields said. Her hair was so perfectly thick that it rested over her shoulder and down to her chest in a giant letter J.

“I’m comin’!” I said.

We piled into a cab together, all four in the back seat. I was wedged between Barry and Brooke. Together they smelled like the perfume counter at Macy’s. Barry announced we were going to T.G.I.Fridays, a place I had never been.

At the restaurant we were given a horseshoe shaped booth. I was the only one who glanced at the menu, everyone else seemed to know what they wanted, and what they wanted was a salad with dressing on the side. I ordered the potato skins with cheddar cheese, sour cream and bacon. Barry looked at me and said, “Are y’all sure you wanna eat that before the weigh in?”

“What’s the weigh in?” I asked.

Brooke, Barry and 500 Calories had all read the same book on how to get a job with the airlines. The book explained that each applicant was weighed before the interview and if you were overweight, well, that was the end the line.

“Y’all brought a suit the color of their uniform didn’t you?” Brooke asked.

“Uh,” I said. “I’m wearing a white skirt and a white cotton jacket with a brown silk blouse.”

They looked at me with sad, wet eyes.

“It’ll be okay!” 500 Calories said, “I’m sure you’ll make up for it with your winning personality!”

When the potato skins came everyone watched me eat while they aimlessly forked at their salads. And although I offered a skin to each of them, no one dared take me up on the offer.

Barry said, “I can’t believe y’all are brave enough to eat that. I’d gain, like, fifteen pounds tonight if I ate that.”

“Can I just have, like, a tiny bit of bacon?” Brooke asked. I took a spoon and scooped off a cheesy-bacony dollop. With her long pink nail she plucked a booger-sized crumb from the spoon and stuck it in her mouth.

“Yummy,” she said, then she smiled and it was like a Polaroid flash bulb had gone off.

Later that night, when I was in bed, blissful with a TV blaring in front of me, there was a frantic rapping at my door. It was Brooke.

“OH MY GOD,” she was panting. “Do y’all have an iron?! I know I packed mine but I can’t find it anywhere!”

I didn’t even have an iron at home. My preferred method for straightening clothes was to hang them on the curtain rod while I showered.

“Isn’t there one in the room?” I asked, and I went to the closet and looked around. There wasn’t one. Brooke rushed away and knocked on the door next to mine. I could hear them talking out in the hallway. Yes she had an iron. Who would come to an interview for the airlines without an iron?

“That girl in the room next to y’all,” Brooke said, “she didn’t bring an iron and she isn’t even wearing the right colors!”

She was right, there was no arguing with the facts. And when Brooke hugged me the next morning and blessed me before I got in line for the weigh-in, I swear I felt like something golden and shiny in her had rubbed off on me.

Everyone took off their shoes and lined up to step on the scale. I came in at 112 again, although I have to admit I was a little worried after seeing the horror on their faces at TGI Fridays when I devoured those skins. There were a few people who walked away from the scale teary-eyed.

The interview was done in groups of twenty, none of my dinner mates were in my group. My interviewer was a nice looking man the way politicians are nice looking: neatly dressed, perfectly square front teeth. We sat in a circle of desks and were given a five-page questionnaire. When my pen didn’t flow well, I asked the leader for a new pen. He responded as if I’d demanded a pint of blood, but finally gave one up. When I retold this part of the interview to my father he said, “Jessie, there are some men who when you walk into a room, their balls shrink up into their stomachs. He was one of those men.” I was twenty-two years old and didn’t feel comfortable discussing ball positioning with my father, so said nothing. But I wondered, who were these men whose balls shrunk up? And, what made me a ball shrinker?

The questionnaire wasn’t surprising (How much weight have you gained and/or lost in the last ten years? What is the most you’ve ever weighed in the last ten years?) until I got to the page where I was asked about the quality and duration of my periods, if I had ever been pregnant and if I had vaginal discharge. There was even a question inquiring about the color of my discharge. Crossed out with a ballpoint pen, but entirely legible, was, “Have you ever had sexual relations with someone of the same sex?” I had visions of spiriting away the questionnaire under my skirt, sending it off to Gloria Steinem or the San Francisco Chronicle. But Shrunken-Balls had his eyes on me, as if he knew what I was thinking.

After the interview people congregated in the lobby to exchange stories. There was a tingling energy in the air—the relief of being done, the excitement of what might be next. Brooke asked me how it went and I told her about Shrunken Balls clear dislike for me.

“If y’all get called back,” she said, “pull your hair back like this.” She took the front strands and pulled them back so my hair was off my face but still long in the back. “It will make you look better groomed.”

Just then, I wished I were Brooke: someone who travels with an iron, knows to wear the airline uniform color, and has ideas about grooming. I vowed that if were called in for a second interview I would do it all right, I would order salad with dressing on the side, I’d try not to be one of those women who makes a guys balls shrink up, and damn if I wouldn’t smile a whole lot more.

Surprisingly, I was called back for a second interview. Even more surprising was that I had lost interest in the airline by the time I’d landed back in San Francisco. As much as I thought it would be fun to be perky and well-groomed, I just couldn’t fathom working for a company who seemed to be sniffing in my underpants.


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JESSICA ANYA BLAU's third novel, THE WONDER BREAD SUMMER, was selected as a Summer Read on NPR's All Things Considered, CNN's Book Chat, and Oprah's Book Club. She is also the author of DRINKING CLOSER TO HOME, and THE SUMMER OF NAKED SWIM PARTIES. For more information go to www.jessicaanyablau.com.

118 responses to “And Then There’s the Time I Wanted to be a Stewardess”

  1. Richard Cox says:

    Jessica, isn’t the politically correct term for “stewardess” now considered “air waitress?” Do you think I should use that vernacular on my next flight?

  2. Well, my mother calls them Air Hostesses. Most politically correct people call them Flight Attendants (and I think that’s what they call themselves now). But I like Air Waitress. I think you’re on to something! Actually, I prefer Stewardess–it’s sexier. Sexy words are fun!

    • I usually just call them annoying. lol.

      • Ah, but they can be so sweet! I was on a flight to Oklahoma a few months ago and the male flight attendant gave me a pile of free drink coupons and offered to take me to dinner! I don’t drink, so I slipped the coupons to the business man sitting next to me.

        • I don’t think I’ve ever had a conversation with a stewardess. I’m too busy reading, sleeping, or staring out a window like a dumb starry-eyed kid.

        • Oh, you should definitely try it sometime. It’s like talking to cops–all about the approach. If you approach them like someone who is getting between you and your laptop being on during take off, they’ll be dickish. If you approach them as someone who can change the situation and help you out, they’ll be totally charming and giving. It’s one of those jobs where they become the thing you project on them.

        • I haven’t tried either method. I don’t even like flying. I’d rather be curled up into a ball and be catapulted. OK, that’s flying too. Boats. There should be canals everywhere.

        • Richard Cox says:

          I was just kidding. I totally call them flight attendants. But if she’s being really ornery with you, it’s funny to say “Hey, waitress, bring me another Jameson.”

        • You’ve actually done this?! Very funny! I’m a total whimp. If someone is being ornery I just retreat into my mousey head and think bad thoughts.

        • Richard Cox says:

          Hahaha. No, I would never say that. Well, I don’t think I would. Depends on how many Jamesons she had previously served me.

        • Anon says:

          Careful, Richard – I think that would qualify as “air rage” these days.

          “Certainly, sir. Would you like that neat or – TTTZZZZKK!!!!” Right in the neck with a stun gun. Then it’s zip-tied on the floor by the restroom for the remainder of the flight. Of course, that would put you in prime position to inspect their panties but, well, it hardly seems worth the effort and legal costs.

        • Richard Cox says:

          Air rage. That’s funny. Also because I’ve been musing a bit lately about a post on rage.

          Won’t that be fun?

        • Anon says:

          Oh. Yes. I’ll comment on that one, my friend.

        • I’m sure there are many, many TNB readers who would have much to say about rage. Do it!

        • Richard Cox says:

          You were totally right.

  3. Greg Olear says:

    Great post, Jessica, as usual.

    OK, first things first. Shrunken Balls should have hired you the instant you walked through the door, questionnaire be damned. He’s an idiot, and has no business recruiting. But then, we knew that already.

    For the next part, I am putting on my HR hat. Certain jobs have what’s called a BFOQ — a bona fide occupational qualification — that allows them to discriminate against otherwise protected classes. Blind people can’t be truck drivers, and if you’re making a movie with a villain who is a bigwig in the Aryan Nation, you will not be casting a person of color. Good eyesight and white skin are BFOQs of those particular jobs. Hooters, it could be (and probably has) been argued, is allowed to not hire flat-chested waitresses, because the theme of that place is boobs. But an entire airline asking what women weigh, and about their discharge? That’s the sort of thing that gives HR directors fits, because they wind up with hefty lawsuits on their hands. I’d be shocked if this sort of thing could, ahem, fly anymore.

    • I wonder what they asked the guys. “Do you have penile dysfunctionality?” “Do you have wiener discharge?” “Do you find airline captains sexually arousing?”

      • VERY funny! Love the word WEINER. Would love to see that word on ANY job application.

        • “Mr. Belardes. It says on your application that you masturbate 22 times a day. With your wiener?”

          “Well I was exaggerating a bit. And I thought wiener was universally accepted? I mean, my dick isn’t a hot dog if that’s what you’re thinking.”

          “We weren’t exagerrating by putting the question on the questionnaire. Tell me Mr. Belardes. If you were trying to serve customers on a 17-hour flight, how could you, ahem, service yourself per your daily requirements?”

          “I was joking. It’s more like ten. But I suppose there are lots of curtains on board an aircraft. I mean, the captains get to sit behind closed doors. They could masturbate like 50 times, or just fly without their pants on if they were sort of in a ‘pilot no-pants brotherhood.’ They’re the lucky ones. Can I apply for that?”

          And so on…

  4. Greg, were you in HR once?! Pray tell!
    You know, since the “have-you-had-sexual-relations-with-someone-of-the-same-sex” thing was crossed out, there clearly were more cross-outs to come. I think I was probably one of the last herd to see those inappropriate questions. It would be interesting to interview now, just to see what it’s like. I was also stunned by the fact that I only saw one African American there. She spoke American-sounding French and looked like Black Barbie. Or what my daughter always calls Clairie-Barbie after my friend Claire who also looks like Black Barbie.

    • Greg Olear says:

      I was a recruiter at the AP, a job I took originally to research my book (which contains a few HR jokes). Wound up staying much, much longer than originally planned. I learned a lot there, about HR, and also about journalism and media, about which I knew nothing beforehand. The best part (other than meeting my wife through a mutual friend at AP) was probably the travel…I got to go to Seattle, San Fran, Dallas, Kansas City, Washington, Buffalo, and New Orleans on the company’s dime…and I got our correspondent in Prague to help me find a place to stay when I went there. But I had no future in it…let’s just say recruiting is one of those careers in which being a straight white guy is a major disadvantage, and leave it at that.

      • Sounds really interesting. I think a blog post about this is in order now! And, yes, I’m sure ANY job would have been worth it if it led you to your wife.

        • Greg Olear says:

          I still have a lot of anger about the situation, and such emotions, I’ve found, are best resolved in fiction. A post here would be too difficult, alas.

          But yes, all told, it was well worth it. : )

  5. Simone says:

    Surely it’s against the law to ask such personal questions? I mean, seriously, what’s the frequency of your monthly cycle (etc) got to do with your job?

    Loved this:

    ” “Jessie, there are some men who when you walk into a room, their balls shrink up into their stomachs. He was one of those men.” I was twenty-two years old and didn’t feel comfortable discussing ball positioning with my father, so said nothing. But I wondered, who were these men whose balls shrunk up? And, what made me a ball shrinker? “

  6. Hey Simone,

    I bet that stuff’s no longer on the question-forms. But, it is amazing to think of the things people have tolerated throughout the years. I think this is why the beauty pageant crowd was more comfortable at these things (I forgot to mention, but later remembered that the Brooke Sheilds girl was Miss Something or Other. . . Georgia, maybe?)–they’re used to a system that treats them like chattel.

    Yeah, my dad says some pretty funny things. Still!

  7. You know what? You kind of do look like a stewardess.

    Just kidding. You had me laughing as usual about your dad. Did you ever find out what a ball shrinker is? Sounds like voodoo magic.

    I’m glad you became a cool author instead of a soda pop can popper in airline aisles.

  8. I never did find out what a Ball Shrinker is! Can you help me out here? Are there women who make your balls shrink up? Who are they? What are they like? Is this one of those things that’s going to make me feel really, really bad about myself??

    I’m glad I became a writer, too (thanks!). But I do think that jobs where you have to deal with a lot people seem fun. I always wanted to be a bartender, too.

    • My take on ball shrinker, although I’m sure you already tackled every angle on this. I’m guessing you’re either stunningly gorgeous (which intimidates men), intimidating (which intimidates men), or a combination of the two (which intimidates men). Some men when they’re intimidated become jerks. And so I think a ball-shrunken man is a jerk, who in your father’s view, is intimidated, and not just a regular corporate jerk in your case. I’m not even going to edit what I just wrote. You’re going to have to roll with it and try to make sense…

    • Being a bartender is way fun! Loved it. I would probably still do it if it weren’t so incompatible with the Mom schedule. Sadly, I would probably make more money than I do writing!
      This was a riot, J.A., in all the creepiest ways!
      I am terrified of flying so this was all perversely fascinating to me. I find myself thinking: “Maybe if someone weighed 115 instead of 112, the plane would plummet from the sky . . .” That’s about how crazy-phobic I am . . .

      • Yikes–the three pound tipping point! I was in an elevator today and just before the doors closed four big (not fat, just enlarged, like the Dutch) people crammed on and the elevator gave off a scary buzz that I was certain meant we had exceeded the weight capacity and were now about to plummet to the ground. (We didn’t, obviously.)

        I’m so JEALOUS of you having been a bartender!

  9. Hmmm. Well, as you can see from my photos I’m not stunningly gorgeous. Maybe I’m intimidating, as I’ve been told this before (that I’m intensely “direct.”). It’s funny because I don’t feel intimidating. I feel like a freaky, sort of shy person who’s sitting quietly in the background watching everyone else. Is strange how our exterior selves and interior selves can be so far apart.

  10. Slade Ham says:

    “He could have won Miss Congeniality”

    Hahaha, hilarious. The standards for flight attendants/stewardesses/air waitresses etc, have clearly been lowered. Okay, maybe not lowered, but edited. The days of young chipper girls are gone. I fly Continental a lot, but I don’t remember the last time I had an attendant younger than thirty-something.

    And I have no idea what makes balls shrink. If you and Nick figure it out, let me know? Hahahaha. Ball shrinker. That sounds like a band. Have you heard the new Ball Shrinker album yet?

  11. Vaginal discharge?

    And this was before they banned liquids on board airlines.

    *Snare drum. Cymbal cash*

    On a serious note, my wife was anorexic in high school, still has problems with body dysmorphia. We went to high school together. I remember her coming into class the first day in 10th grade. Computer class. Mrs. Agee’s. She was deathly thin. I remember wishing there was something I could do or say to help her. I thought she was going to die. I’d never seen someone anorexic….

    So cheers to you on eating those potato skins! (Did I spell that right Dan Quayle?) with greasy cheese and bacon. Hopefully airlines do not have questions like that on applications any more.

    • That would be cymbal *crash*

      • Cash or Crash–pretty hysterical line regarding liquids!

        Very sweet that you married your high school sweetheart. Is strange how anorexia can haunt the people nearby–the sight of someone like that can really shake you up.

        • We actually weren’t high school sweethearts, just good friends–though I did have sort of a crush on her since we first met in sixth grade. It took me 16 years but I finally mustered up enough courage to ask her out. As they say, better late than never. Ended up marrying her. Funny how things work.

          Seeing someone with anorexia is a very sobering experience. She looked fine when 9th grade ended. But when she came back after the summer break, complete transformation. I used to always wonder why she became anorexic. She was always so beautiful to me. I wondered what made her want to do that to herself. Now I understand the disease more and understand it’s more of a psychological issue, a control issue, than an image issue. And food is something you can control, how much you eat and all, even if you can’t control anything else.

        • I should say 16 years after sixth grade. We went on our first date in 2007. I hadn’t seen her in almost eight years at that point. Met again at a mutual friend’s engagement party…. yes, I am rehashing the story of how or when I fell in love with my wife. Haha.

        • If you’re telling the story, then you’re still in love with her and THAT’s truly sweet! Lucky her.

          Did she have a crush on you in sixth grade, too?

  12. jmblaine says:

    scariest TNB story
    of the month

    It always amazes me that things like
    this really happen. Really.
    I mean I know they do
    but still.

    & people say
    Satan isn’t real.

  13. Irene Zion says:

    Ew, ew, ew, ew , ew, ew, eeeeewwwww!
    Jessica Anya,
    that last line has me gagging.
    Ew, ew, eww, eeewwww, eeeeeewwwww!

    • Is it the word UNDERPANTS or the word SNIFFING that has you gagging? My daughters cringe every time I say the word UNDERPANTS. They claim this is an outdated word that only has icky connotations. They groan and moan every time I used the word. Would you agree?!

      • Anon says:

        I would suspect it was the combination of words and the resulting imagery of some stooped-over little crotch-obsessed, panty-checking functionary.

        Panty. There’s another word. I’m not normally big on the whole gender-specific-connotation thing but it really bugs me – on multiple levels – when my daughter makes any references to “Daddy’s panties”. UNDERWEAR, dear – UNDERWEAR!!! Although I will tolerate “briefs”.

        • But will you tolerate UNDERPANTS? Do men wear UNDERPANTS? Or just briefs, boxers and underwear?

          I have to agree with you on Daddy’s Panties. Sounds like a really kinky porn movie.

        • Anon says:

          I haven’t had many undergarment-related discussions of late but, now that I think of it, perhaps UNDERPANTS have fallen out of style. I just haven’t heard it bandied about the water cooler in recent memory. Much of it is contextual, too, with “underwear” being reserved for more utilitarian, generic, mundane conversations – “I need to buy new/forgot to pack some/can’t seem to find my underwear.” Getting further into guy-isms, I’ve found “shorts” to be a popular one for lighthearted conversation – “Don’t scare me like that – now I have to change my shorts!” or “Dude, pull up your frigging pants – I can see your shorts.” Style-specific stuff mostly comes up – so to speak – in either customer service (“Hi, I’m trying to find a particular style of briefs….”) or “What are you wearing… right… now?” exchanges. (Tip for the day: The answer should NEVER be “Daddy’s panties”.)

        • Becky says:

          “underpants” sound huge.

        • OH, then probably a perfect word for the swaths of fabric covering my ample bedonkadonk.

        • Cheryl says:

          When I want to annoy my husband (which is quite frequently), I refer to his undergarments as “man-panties”. As in “Nice man-panties!”; or with the exaggerated accent, “Yew shore do look purdy in them-thar man-panties!”

          It has the desired effect.

          Anon, your reference to your daughter’s gender-inappropriate terminology reminds me of the time when my daughter was 2, and learning the names for her body parts and picking up on the differences between sexes. She said, “I’m a girl, so I have a bagina!” Yes, that’s right, my husband and I replied. “And Mommy, you’re a girl, so you have a bagina too!” (She couldn’t pronounce her “v” well at this point, obviouisly). We all agreed on this point. She paused for a moment, then with a very thoughtful look on her face, declared, “Daddy’s bagina is really long.”

          Can’t wait to dust that gem off when she’s older.

        • Ah, man-panties, perfect! I do think it sounds better with the Yew and the Purdy. I’m going to try that line out tonight, see how it rolls!

        • Anon says:

          Yeah, we’ve got a few of those doozies put away for when she starts dating. She once loudly announced that I couldn’t wear her panties because they were too small for my big penis. This was on the checkout line at the local Target. I waited all day for Social Services to show up. Daddy appreciates the good press, honey, but perhaps let Mommy decide when and where to make such announcements. And let her do the talking. And stop saying “penis”.

        • Becky says:

          “Man-panties” is more amusing (for me at least) when it becomes “manties.” Shortly after that word went into effect, the husband started wearing boxers like a normal person.

          (“This marriage is not a democracy!!!!” heh.)

        • Anon says:

          Hm. I don’t know. Sounds a bit too close to “manatees”, which could lead to all sorts of socially awkward misunderstandings.

          I’m bailing on this before “going commando” makes an appearance. So to speak.

        • Becky says:

          Ha! Anon, there’s an explanation that backfired on you guys. I don’t think we even said “penis” in my house. It was my dad and us 3 girls. As far as we were concerned, penises didn’t exist.

        • Becky says:

          OKay, I have been partaking of the banter but not offering a free-standing comment of my own.

          Mostly because all the bases have been pretty well covered. I echo the others:

          Menstruation questions: WTF
          Discharge questions: WTF

          People acting like interviewing to become an air steward is like auditioning to play Brad Pitt’s love interest: WTF

          I give this story an overall WTF rating of 7.5 out of 10. Only so low because they didn’t ACTUALLY sniff your panties.

        • Becky says:

          whoopsie. That nested weird. That was supposed to be down at the bottom.

        • Okay, much to discuss here: 1. the enormous penis in Target announcement. Very good press for you and now the word has spread even further with the announcement on TNB!

          2. “Marriage is not a democracy”–Indeed! Problem is, who gets to be the dictator? (Or in Anon’s case Very Large Dick-tator.)

          3. Becky, YES, it seemed like interviewing to be B.P.’s love interest. Seriously, MOST people had bought and devoured the book on HOW TO GET A JOB WITH THE AIRLINES. They were quoting this book like it was the word handed down from the Dalai Lama. It was one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen. There were some people who were there for the 3rd and 4th time–they’d never made it past the first interview and kept on trying. I think anyone who wants that job badly enough to sit through FOUR of those group interviews deserves to be hired no matter what their height/weight!

      • Irene Zion says:

        Jessica Anya,

        The word underpants is totally fine in my book. I probably use it once a day. It was the combination of the verb “sniffing” the preposition “in” and the adjective “my” with the noun “underpants.” It was that particular phrase. Your children are just doing what they do best, giving you a hard time for no good reason.

        • Yes, the other day I was in the library with my daughter and her friend and I said the word PUBERTY and they both freaked out. My daughter was horrified that I’d use that word in public. Later, in the car, her friend asked if she could yell PUBERTY out the car window. I said, OF COURSE (of course), and promptly rolled down all the car windows so she could stick her little blond head out and scream puberty at the top of her lungs. My daughter slipped down her seat like a little snake, head where her butt should have been, hiding, but laughing, as her best friend wailed PUBERTY PUBERTY PUBERTY all the way down the road.

        • Irene Zion says:

          Now, darn it, Jessica Anya,
          I already wrote you this long comment here but it never did appear.
          Now I have to remember what I wanted to say.
          I held no quarter with my kids being all sensitive to words, you can ask them.
          If a word “embarrassed” them, I tended to use it more often, in company and in a slightly raised voice.
          If they thought I embarrassed THEM, they had another thing to learn.
          They embarrassed me daily out and about.
          Tit for tat, Jessica Anya, tit for tat.

        • Tit for Tat—excellent parenting advice–my philosophy from now on!

  14. Zara Potts says:

    Ball shrinker!!! Ha ha.. this is the funniest thing I have read for ages.
    oh and we call flight attendants – trolly dollys – in a nice way of course!
    But seriously, I LOVE flight attendants. I love their perfect hair and nails and the duty free perfume they spray so liberally. I love everything about them.
    Being a nervous flyer, when I have a good flight attendant – I think they are close to angels.
    You would have made a briliant trolly dolly, Jessica, being so pretty and funny and charming. But I’m SO glad you became a writer instead…

    • Thanks Zara! I’m glad your’e a writer, too!
      I’m with you with the flight attendants. I love to watch them. Especially on airlines like Air France or KLM where they wear little hats and are meticulously groomed.

  15. Cheryl says:

    My imaginary self, which is much more of a ball-shrinker than my real self, would have loved to have filled out that questionnaire, especially the personal parts.

    I am curious, though, how one describes the “quality” of one’s periods? So as not to gross everyone out, I’ll stop right there. My mind was racing, though.

    “Vaginal discharge? And this was before they banned liquids on board airlines.”

    Classic, Mr. Pillow. Classic. And classy, too.

    I’m so glad you went for the Potato skins. I also loved how Barry addressed you, an individual, as “ya’ll”. Welcome to the South! Maybe he was using “ya’ll” as a kind of subterfuge, so that he wouldn’t seem to be singling you out? Were you with an unnamed someone in this story? I mean, we are bumpkins down here, but most of us do reserve “ya’ll” to refer to more than one person. That made me so curious. I kept thinking, “Poor, dumb, sweet little Barry.”

  16. Ah so much good stuff to respond to here! I summarized a few questions by saying QUALITY. I think the exact questions were about excessive bleeding or bleeding that went on for an excessive number days (reminds me of that joke I’ve heard about 57 times that ends with something like, “I’m afraid of anything that bleeds for five straight days and doesn’t die.”).

    Yes, the liquid on airlines line was pretty dern funny!

    And for the Y’all: I was living in California at the time where there weren’t any Y’alls, so at the time I was taken aback by the y’alls and was hearing them at the beginning, middle and ends of every sentence. Now I live in Baltimore where they also say y’all, but here a y’all can be addressed to a single person, ie: sitting alone in a cafe, waitress approaches and says either: 1. What can I get y’all? or: 2. What can I git you Hon? All this to explain, that dear, sweet, swooping-hair Barry might have properly used y’all and I may have heard him more Baltimore-style in my mind as I wrote this post. Thanks for reading!

  17. Richard Cox says:

    I initially read this early in the morning when I was in the throes of a severe sore throat and fairly incoherent. I’d like to comment again, now that I feel a little better, to say that I love your writing style and turn of phrase. I compared you to Sedaris one time before and I haven’t wavered from that.

    Like, “She had short blond hair and was cute in the universally accepted meaning of the word.”

    And all the exclamation point you use when relating her dialogue. I love how they took you to T.G.I. Friday’s and kept saying “y’all.” Hahaha.

    Did you order any pizza shooters, shrimp poppers, or extreme fajitas??

    • Cheryl says:

      Were the wait-staff wearing the required amount of flair?

      • Richard Cox says:

        If you want me to wear 37 pieces of flair, like your pretty boy, Brian, over there, why don’t you make the minimum 37 pieces of flair??

        • Cheryl says:

          That still cracks me up. Every friggin’ time.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          It’s a jump… to CONCLUSIONS! mat!

        • Richard Cox says:

          There would be this mat, with various conclusions on it, that you could JUMP to!

        • Could one of you translate all of the above?!

        • Cheryl says:

          Watch “Office Space”. It’s worth it. Rent it/Netflix it ASAP.

        • I’ll put it on Netflix now! Never even heard of it. Am I somehow behind here?!

        • Richard Cox says:

          Way, way behind, Jessica. I can barely see you back there.

        • I know. I’m an insignificant flea back here! With the very, very old people and the very, very young people.

          I DID go to Netflix and ordered “Office Space,” and even moved it to the number one spot ahead of the smarty-pants pretentious graduate-student-ish movies I had up there like Hiroshima Mon Amour and Au Revoir Les Enfants.

        • Richard Cox says:

          One word of caution, Jessica. Despite its cult following, “Office Space” was not initially a hit. I didn’t even like it that much the first time I saw it. I’m a huge Mike Judge fan and I got tickets to a pre screening and even got a T-shirt (still have it!) Then I watched and it didn’t hit me the way I expected.

          However, upon successive viewings, and particularly when watching it with other fans, you see the real genius. If nothing else it will make you want to rebel against your pedantic cubicle boss (if you’ve ever had a cubicle boss!)

          Or at least make an “O” face.

    • Ah, you’re too sweet Richard. Thanks for that.

      They have pizza shooters, extreme fajitas, etc.?! I have no idea what those are but they sound so good. All that salt and grease–how could it be bad? You know I haven’t been to TGIFriday’s since that night (I have seen their ads on TV), but I’ve been sort of itching for some skins ever since I posted this. All the foodies in my life would scoff at a TGIFridays outing so I’d have to sneak out and do it alone (like sneaking off to a meth house!).

      • Richard Cox says:

        I haven’t eaten at a Friday’s in years. I used to crave those terrible and delicious appetizers, but the cheese glows in the dark and something tells me natural dairy products don’t do that.

        Does meth glow in the dark? Haha.

  18. Those who can fly thin and suspend their periods for lack of nutrition– fly thin. Those who can write the phrase “sniffing in my underpants”: write. And keep writing… and writing and writing…

  19. Meth: I think the glow is directly proportional to the amount you take. I say TAKE here because I am such a dork that I don’t actually know how people USE meth. Do they smoke it? Shoot it? Snort it? I remember there was a great episode of HUFF that had Oliver Platt using meth and for some reason I can’t remember HOW he did it. I just remember that he started sweating a lot and looked very swollen and pink post-meth.

  20. In Korea every girl wants to be a stewardess. Every single one.

    Well, maybe not all of them, but it’s like a cult. I used to have a lot of female friends here who would disappear every weekend. They’d travel across the country to do interviews in Seoul. The standards are incredibly high, though, and you get get canned if you put on weight or get older…

    I wrote an article about it (unpublished) and interviewed a lot of people. It seems it’s the only way for many young women here to see the world.

  21. Simon Smithson says:

    I will always remember the wonderful flight attendant who took care of me when I was on my way back from San Francisco in May, 2009. I hadn’t slept for a week, I hadn’t eaten properly for about the same amount of time… I was heartbroken and crushed and I poured it all out to this guy – who then proceeded to bring me double gin and tonics every fifteen minutes, brought me the ‘special’ headphones… he was freaking awesome.

    And I think his flow was fine.

  22. Yes, I’m sure he had limited flow! And I imagine they were back in their little food prep. corners fighting over who got to bring the cute, drunk, Aussie the next G and T!

  23. Joe Daly says:

    Nicely done! As a former frequent flyer, I still have a deep and abiding affection for flight attendants. Especially the ones who made sure that for about ten years, I never stepped off a plane sober.

    I love how as we move forward through new professions, jobs that require little or no grooming become more and more desirable. If you saw how I was dressed right now, you might understand just how content I am with my current gig.

  24. Okay, now I’m very curious: What exactly are you wearing?!

  25. Erika Rae says:

    “Or Oklahoma even!” Hahaha.

    And I swear I went to school with your dinner crew. A booger size crumb of cheesy bacon. So much about this story made me laugh out loud. I’m floored at the questions they asked you in that interview. Vaginal discharge. Sweet Jesus.

  26. Heh. Wow. This was perfectly harrowing. With a spot-on tone.

    I’m not sure I can imagine anything more terrifying than the process you just described. Holy Hell.

    I wonder if it’s the same way for the dudes.

  27. Well, the dudes were in the same group interviews and were given the same few pages of questions. There was one part that said Women Only. The sexual orientation question was actually in part of the form that both men and women had to answer. There were NO questions for the guys about any discharges of any sort!

  28. Darryl Salach says:

    You write the best short stories, Jessica!!! Another brief glimpse into the life of Ms. Blau!!!

  29. air reno says:

    i love flight attendants. when i was flying to france the most beautiful flight attendant delivered orange juice and whatnot w/ a french accent. she drove me crazy and i wanted to give her multiple babies. being a shy boy, i didn’t let her know how much i admired her (i figured she got this type of lame dude behavior all the time). anyhow, crazy story. read it twice. more, more, more!

    • I’m totally with you. The right flight attendant is like a mother/lover/nurse all in one. I suppose we should eliminate the mother part if we’re thinking of sex. But, yes, they can make the flight tolerable and even pleasant.
      Thanks for reading (twice!)!

  30. Marni Grossman says:

    That last line was killer, Jessica. So. Funny.

    I’m hoping that this story no longer rings true. It’s got to be illegal now. Right? Right?!

    Also: “I was a bit lost after college.” Hell yes. Preach it, sister.

  31. I’m sure most of it is illegal. I think they get away with the weight thing because the aircraft can only carry a certain amount of weight–or something like that. You know, waaay before my time, stewardess weren’t allowed to be married. And if you got married, you lost your job. Crazy stuff.

    And yes, who are these people who AREN’T lost after college? It took years for me to find my way!

  32. […] And then there’s the time she wanted to be a stewardess… […]

  33. Seth Pollins says:

    I enjoyed reading this, Jessica! Your style reminds me of Miranda July. Have you read Miranda July’s book of short stories?

    What the god damn hell is up with those questions? My god. And I’d like to meet your dinner companions. They do sound cheery. Or perhaps I’d just like to observe them from across a T.G.I Fridays (although that would mean going to a T.G.I. Fridays…forget it).


  34. […] Beer, wine, or Champagne?  JESSICA ANYA BLAU once thought about being a stewardess. […]

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