Back in those days, stewardesses weren't merely drink-serving referees: we were the bait to entice people to fly. We were expected to project an image of upper-class hostess, doting wife, and seductress all rolled into one. We had to have killer looks and a whole slew of skills. We learned to serve meals with the grace and skill of waiters in five-star restaurants, soothe unruly children with games and twinkly smiles, and light men’s cigarettes with all the sultry sauciness of a brigade of Marilyn Monroes. We were welcoming, charming, and sexy as hell--and we loved every minute of it.
Looking back, I can see that we were objectified but I never felt victimized by the nature of my job. My power wasn’t the same as the power flaunted by our first-class male fliers, but i did have power--over my own life, my own money, and my choices. I wasn’t being pressured to get married and have babies, like so many girls in my hometown; in fact, if I’d chosen those things, I would have lost my job, because at that time stewardesses were required to be single and unattached. Back in the 1960’s, when Women’s Lib was still in its infancy, perpetual singleness seemed like a pretty sweet deal. If I had to act like a high-class housewife, at least it was only for five or six hours at a time; after that, I could do whatever I pleased. I didn’t have to settle for a life that didn’t feel authentic to me.
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