For as long as I knew her, whenever my grandmother Eleanor Jones Hofmann (“Jonesie,” to a certain sub-sect of my family) traveled on an airplane she would wear a red polyester pantsuit and silk top she called her “flying outfit.”
While this specific garment eventually became a sort of superstitious talisman to ensure that her flight didn’t go down in flames, I think initially it was merely the etiquette of the time: air travel was special, and you dressed accordingly.
Now—when jumping on a Boening 7-Whatever is as ubiquitous for a lot of people as getting a dental cleaning—it’s sort of a “come as you are” situation in terms of dress.
Ripped jeans and ballcaps. Tank tops and flip flops. Ratty t-shirts that say things like “I’ve Been Drunk Since Noon Tomorrow”—nothing is really off-limits anymore for the privilege of floating through the air to distant locales on hunks of corrugated metal.
And, let’s be honest, I’ve definitely dressed down on Delta and gone skuzzy on Southwest. My flying costume has become the standard “pajamas-masquerading-as-outside-clothes” combo of leggings and an oversized hoodie. (Hey, if I’m gonna have to sit wedged in between strangers for 2-7 hours while a child behind me screams and my neighbor watches his TikToks at top volume without headphones, I might as well be comfy!)
But a few days ago I flew for the first time in over a year and a half, and it felt special--like the blasé base-level I had settled on regarding the wonder of air travel had ticked upwards in my months of missing it. For the first time in a long time, it wasn’t “Ugh, flying.” It was “OOH, FLYING!”
So I dressed up.
I wore linen pants. And a flowy silk dress top (word up in heaven, Jonesie). And new shoes. And my current favorite jewelry (word up to my beautiful jewelry-designing friend, Sloane). And a burgundy hat I got at a yard sale from a generation Z who told me “You will never wear that hat without getting compliments.” (Word up to my social successors for keeping me hip. Oh god, do people say “word up” anymore? Do people say “hip” anymore?? HALP.)
Anyway, all this to say: I guess I’m a person who dresses up for flights now? And it made me think about all the ways I’m choosing to show up in life in OTHER areas, and whether those need a makeover of sorts, too.
Because, look, I didn’t HAVE to dress fancy so my body could move through time and space from Portland, Oregon to Newark, New Jersey. But it felt actually nice to do so. And I think sometimes, in a culture of capitalism that indoctrinates us from young into a system of striving, we mistakenly equate effort with exhaustion.
But the truth is: trying is pretty great.
When “doing things” is allowed to exist outside of the strict parameters of accruing value or worth, or being seen a certain way, or “succeeding” (whatever the fuck THAT means), trying can be fun.
When we let go of the judgments we hold of ourselves and others, when we abandon the many warped ways we bastardize our precious lives by turning them into energy-capsules of earning our place here, trying can be play.
PAR EXEMPLE: Recently I went to a new friend’s house for a party, which turned out to be a DIY Kombucha tasting--complete with score sheets, bottles covered in paper and numbered for blind judging, and taste-offs to determine favorites. (Which, as my friend, Christine said: “Are you kidding me? This person is on your wave. This sounds very you.”)
It’s true, I love doing shit like this. Have you all forgotten the Jalapeno Popper Pop Off Challenge of 2021? Making a surprise adventure game out of tasting food is like a perfect circle for my venn diagram of eating enjoyment.
And more than that, I LOVE TRYING.
I don’t just mean I love trying different types of Kombucha (I do). I mean I love the act of trying. I love being a try-er and I love other try-ers. I love intention. I love effort. I love doing random things that are defiantly unfettered by rigid expectations.
I’m proud of myself when I try, when I put time into something that gives me joy. And I appreciate the ways that other people give attention to things they care about--in general, but especially when I get to be a part of it.
There’s an aspect of community trying (or “trying in public”) that feels like a gift we give each other--like someone is specifically telling you “You were worth me spending the time to do this, and I was worth it, too.” And I think at its core, when we do something from a place of simple enjoyment we give other people permission to do the same.
So dress up for that flight, if it makes you feel special (and helps the airplane not go down in flames). Try 3 different ice creams in one sitting if that’s what you feel like. Write a letter. Call a friend. Make a gift. Compose a song. Bake a pie. Dance a jig. Take rollerskating classes. Fall down a lot. Get back up. Tell someone you like them. Look like a fool. Don’t worry about it. Put effort into something just for kicks. Let go of cost-balance analysis of value and just do shit. You’ll be glad you did.
Have a story about something you tried recently that gave you life? Tell me about it!
Trying is great and so are you,
THREE GOOD THINGS
This is actually my fave Kombucha of all time—so much so, that I actually included it in a previous “Three Good Things” list. It’s summer in a bottle. Go get it at Trader Joe’s. (Or wherever the “find in store” button leads you.)
Though I will never be fat-free and am not currently the best vegan, this is my favorite summer dish by Fat-Free Vegan (it’s the chipotle chili powder that really brings it home).
My kombucha friend Brent is an uber-talented musician and thus this song has not left my head for weeks and will not leave it HOW DARE HE