How to Not Look Like Ass After A Flight

When I was in high school I frequently went skiing with friends on the weekends, and SHE always mocked me. You know who SHE is. SHE is the one standing next to you in line for an overpriced foam cup of something disgusting masquerading as tea or coffee and making you feel inadequate. Like you, her hair has been under a knit hat all day but hers doesn’t look like it was matted to her head with glue and ice crystals; her face does not bear the telltale signs of windburn or goggle imprints. In short, SHE looks like a million bucks and you look like the snowmobile patrol scooped you out of a tree and propped you up next to the samovar.

This usually happens after a long flight, too: you look like you were scraped off the fuselage while your fellow travelers look effortlessly fresh. Usually that’s okay. If you’re just going straight home or to the hotel, you can put yourself back together in your own good time. But there are going to be times when that isn’t possible: your itinerary is packed and you have to go straight to an event, commitments that had been scheduled post-flight with adequate prep time are suddenly bearing down on you after a flight delay, your colleague who saw you drooling-drunk that time at the Christmas party has been assigned to pick you up…whatever. Maybe you’re just vain. I’m not judging. My point is that life happens and sometimes you have to spruce yourself up in the airport bathroom right before you head to the baggage claim. Here’s how to make the most of that quickie primp so you can make the leap from being frazzle-fried to a full-fledged SHE.

1. Prep before your flight.

Whenever possible, I like to take the extra time on my hair before I fly to make it look pretty. All the anti-frizz, extra-volume, extra-shine products I have; a blow-dryer; a flat-iron. I have sad, sad, flat hair and it takes me an extra 15-20 minutes to style it into smooth, sleek shape but it holds for hoooooooours. I try not to pull it back at all–vanity aside, the hair bump on the back of my head makes finding an upright napping position difficult. All I have to do at my destination is flip it over, put a little hairspray or dry shampoo at the roots, and brush it out. And be kind to your skin: don’t wear makeup on the plane. All that recycled plane air does really unholy things to foundation and powder. Wash your face really well and use a rich moisturizer and a great eye cream, but don’t make it up.

2. Take care of yourself on the flight.

Don’t wear perfume or cologne. It’s rude to other passengers and near the end you’ll smell like a sachet that was left in Grandma’s sock drawer for too long. Drink a lot of water: besides the obvious skin benefits it will also force you to get up to use the bathroom more frequently, which is good for your circulation and general energy levels. Take an Airborne or Emergen-C packet to mix into your water bottle and skip sodas (if you have flight anxiety and need a glass of merlot to wash down your Xanax, well…I’m not judging). I’m not even going to bother to tell you to sleep because I have an easily-stimulated toddler and an infant on the way. Maggie’s record for not sleeping during a flight is ten straight hours. TEN. TEN HOURS. ON A RED-EYE. If you can sleep, do. If you can’t, come hang out with me. I have cartoons on the iPad.

3. Dress for the occasion

Polyvore.com is a wonderful site. I can’t actually dress myself–I’m wearing a men’s undershirt, full-panel maternity jeans, and an American University sweatshirt circa 2006–but I can look at how OTHER people dress and figure out how to look put together without sacrificing comfort on a flight. The three outfits–casual day, casual day-to-night, okay for work or a restaurant–below meet my criteria for airplane travel: easy-off shoes, large bag, incorporates a cardigan and scarf for varying temperatures. (I made the yellow-and-teal casual one myself. Ignore the fact that I used infant shoes. Don’t YOU have dainty feet?)

Is that teal bag a diaper bag? HELL YEAH IT IS. Moms don't need to LOOK like moms, you know?

4. The bag of tricks

In your allowed 1-quart bag you should have the following: a bottle of light-hold hairspray if you have fine or thin hair, good eye cream, eye drops, hand lotion, a small bottle of refresher (I’ll get back to that), some cotton balls, tinted lip balm and gloss, cream-based bronzer, and a travel toothbrush/paste/floss. First, take care of your teeth. You’ll just feel better about life after you brush and floss. Then you want to take the homemade refresher you whipped up, you crafty thing you–chamomile tea with a few drops of rosemary and tea tree oil in a little travel-size fingertip mister–and spritz your face (avoid your eyes). Let it sit while you apply your eye cream and redness-reducing eye drops. I’ve heard great things about Kiehl’s Eye Alert but haven’t used it myself; supposedly it’s a miracle for post-flight circles and puffing.

Use the cotton ball to wipe off any of the refreshing spray left on your face. Do your lips and then use a VERY tiny bit of the bronzer on the places where the sun would normally hit–practice at home with good light and use much less under the glare of the airplane bathroom fluorescents. You just want enough to put some sun-kissed life into your face, not convince people you have been on holiday in Ibiza. There’s a line; know it. Bring foundation and mascara if you want and do it up, but the bronzer is key: makes you look healthier. Finally, lotion it up on your arms–you’ll feel better rubbing some life into your limbs and airplane air is really drying. It’s worth springing for the travel size L’Occitane shea butter cream. The smell is pleasant but not so overpowering as to be offensive.

There. Now you look ready to conquer the world. Just make sure your seatmate doesn’t dump his one-last-coffee on your lap before the descent. You didn’t bring any perfume with which to gas him.

Baby Brain

Since this is my blog and one gets to place a heavy editorial filter on how one appears to the internet, I try not to talk about all the stupid stuff I do (falling down a flight of stairs directly onto my firstborn not withstanding). I like to focus on my more highbrow, “Frasier”-esque mistakes like this one from a while back:

Tom: So my friend is taking Tigrinya…

Me: Oh, my God! I didn’t realize he was that depressed.

Confusing taking linguistic classes on the language of Eritrea with the name of an anti-depressant? Oh, the mirth! How foolish I am. Isn’t EVERYONE up on their East African dialects?

(Yeah, in case you were wondering, I find myself obnoxious too.)

But as the last few weeks of pregnancy wind down I find myself constantly forgetting things. Some random, some important.

The most recent incident was over a houseplant. (The houseplant was not me.) Tom made a lovely pesto sauce last night using the basil leaves from the pot growing above our sink. Tasted delicious. I raved about it and Maggie, ordinarily a boycotter of all green plant matter, gobbled it down over tortellini. This morning as I began the breakfast dishes I looked up at our plant and gasped. What had happened to it?! Where had the leaves gone?! Why was the basil so…so…so…NUDE?

Right. Dinner. Which was still giving me heartburn. Baby brain 1, me 0.

Then there was forgetting my purse and wallet at home and not realizing it until I had actually pulled in to park at the hospital for Maggie’s foot appointment. Luckily we only live ten minutes away from the hospital but STILL. Inconvenient! AND I had to give up a good parking space.

The hormones are ravaging me too. Tom and I sat down to look at some books on Amazon for Maggie’s fall reading pleasure–we have loads of spring, summer, and winter seasonal books but very few autumn ones. We happened upon the book Wild Child, which is a story about Mother Earth and her wild daughter Autumn. And all of a sudden, I was in tears.

Tom, looking alarmed: …Uh…

Me: I WANNA NAME THE BABY AUTUMN!

Tom: Do you want to name the baby Autumn that badly? [pause] Okay! Okay!

It’s worth noting that his face was indescribably hilarious in its expression of horror and concern and also because he was quite obviously trying not to laugh out loud. A few moments later I said we could use Autumn as a middle name instead.

“That’s fine.”

“Really? It’s just…I really like it…” [moments later] “I’m just so PREGNANT.”

“…I love you.” Gentlemen, take note: that and a brownie are really the only acceptable crisis responses to third trimester emotional nukes going off in your living room.

So that’s where my brain is right now: everything I don’t completely forget makes me cry. I am still not entirely sure where Eritrea is in the Horn of Africa, though I feel confident that one can speak their language without fearing antidepressant side effects. I’m double-checking the car before I leave the driveway for my wallet, purse, and Maggie herself.

And I’m pretty sure we’ll stick with Autumn as a middle name if we have a girl…at least until I read something else that makes me cry.

The No-Pity Party

At our appointment today for Maggie’s leg* we had to wait in the “fracture clinic.” Walking into this waiting room is kind of a shock: crutches of all sizes, slings, and appendages firmly ensconced in every shade of plaster in the rainbow. Maggie was the youngest patient by at least six or seven years. I heard two elderly women clucking quietly and saying “Poor girl.” I gave them a smile and a nod of appreciation as I tried to comfortably position Maggie in a seat at the Duplo table.

It wasn’t until I heard them say “And ready to pop with another one, too” that I realized they were talking about both of us.

It’s so easy to fall into a well of self-pity. Being seven+ months pregnant and helping a toddler who’s lost most of her mobility navigate a two-story house, feeling bad for your baby and watching her struggle…it’s tough. I’m tired. We all are. But Tom came home yesterday with stories of coworkers’ children who are suffering more grievous injury or having open-heart surgery. The sister of a friend lost her house and everything in it in Hurricane Irene. Another good friend is in the ICU dealing with the fallout from an incident in April that hasn’t been fully resolved as well as new wrinkles to his recovery.

Perspective. It’s a good thing, isn’t it?

I hate dwelling on “What might have been” because if I allow myself that, I’ll never stop. But this is a mere inconvenience. It’s a blip. Sure, it sucks, but it’ll be okay soon enough.

So in the spirit of karmic balance, I set about correcting whatever injustices the world dishes out in my own way. For the sister of the friend: donation to a fundraiser in their name, a new box set of favorite books and a teddy for their daughter. Emails to the friend taking care of the friend in the ICU asking after them both. Supportive notes. Telling my sister and her family that I was thinking of them as they went into Day 3 of post-Irene power outages with a toddler and thanking her for the footie pajama hand-me-downs that she thoughtfully sent a few weeks ago–they fit perfectly over Maggie’s cast. Sending birthday cards. Loaning out books on peaceful pain management during pregnancy to strangers. Reaching out.

Do you feel left out? I care, y’all. Or at least the pregnancy hormones do and that’s the same thing.

Am I still grumpy? A bit. Baby 2 won’t get its feet out of my ribs and I had a return bout of morning sickness today. I’m still logged in as “away” or just not logged in at all on my chat programs because I just don’t feel like talking to anyone (which has really been the case more or less since I got pregnant. Apparently my hormones are most charitable when I don’t have to speak). But I’m feeling like I’ve done a little good in the world, and that, along with a brownie, feels much better than feeling sorry for our little family.

*And the best news? The cast came off. The doctor said “I see no reason to put it back on. It’s probably far more inconvenient than it is helpful.” WORD, DOC.