Not so long ago, my BFF and I decided to visit a local antique store as our designated girl’s day out adventure. These periodic outings together help me recenter and keep me [mostly] sane in all of this aviation insanity!
We grabbed a couple of Twix lattes from our favorite coffee haunt and headed eagerly over to the land of I-want-to-buy-every-single-thing-I-see! Books from another era, 100-year-old Singer sewing machines (she bought one, by the way), trinkets from my childhood long past, handcrafted furniture, the likes of which you can’t find anymore… These incredible treasures filled us with imagination and wonder. There’s something fantastic about holding an object in your hand that was utilized or cherished centuries ago by those who paved the way to our present now, isn’t there? At least, I think so!
We wandered aimlessly through the store, breathing in the history around us. And then, there it was hanging on the wall like a neon beacon calling my aviation name – a beautiful, antique, airplane prop. It was a lovely sight to behold, proudly concealing the secrets of a thousand breathtaking adventures beneath the delicious curves and scarred surface. I swear, a glorious orchestral chord filled the air and the lights of heaven shone down upon the piece like an ethereal spotlight.
It happened, I swear! Hey, this is my story, and I get to tell it like I remember it.
My friend and I were happily ogling the distinctive lines of this fantastical object of my infatuation and discussing exactly where in my home it was going to look the best (and whether or not my husband was going to appreciate the expenditure of half his paycheck in the name of art). I love this about her. She is not aviation; probably couldn’t care less about the things I blather endlessly about, yet she is always sincerely interested in whatever I am interested in…simply because she loves me. And vice versa, of course. That’s friendship, people! Or maybe she’s just in it for the Twix lattes…? Hey, I’ll take it! Ladies, find your people and hold on tightly.
Anyway, that’s when he injected himself into our reverie, the store owner. I cannot remember the exact conversation. He said something about finding the ‘right person’ to buy said propeller. It was inadvertently mentioned that, indeed, I probably knew (or was) the right person, since I had, shall we say, a few aviation contacts under my wing. I think it was my friend, however, who ultimately told him that my husband was (insert sinister music of foreshadow, please) ‘a pilot’.
And that’s when ‘it’ happened. It always happens, doesn’t it? His eyes did an envy-worthy barrel roll into the back of his head, his face twisted into an ugly, knowing smirk, and his stereotypical opinion came vomiting out, “Ughhhhh!” he groaned with such obvious disdain that my hackles stood immediately on end. “Please, pleeeeeeeease tell me he doesn’t work for United!”
I hate when people do this. Hate it with a capital ‘H’. They make a declaration of generalized contempt for everything aviation rooted in the soils of their sister’s, friend’s, neighbor’s, cat’s, owner’s, mailman’s lost piece of luggage from 12 years ago, an exaggerated misrepresentation of some situation by the [oh-so-truthful] media, or any other issue which is similarly completely out of the control of those who (wo)man the flight deck. Then they sit staring smugly at me, the pilot’s wife, as though I should hide my face and tuck my tail in shame.
No! No! No! My blood was boiling like a witch’s cauldron on Halloween.
I held my head up proudly, looked that ostentatious man right in his stereotypical eye, and replied without hesitation in my sweeeeeetest voice, “Why, yes. He does work for United. Why? Is there a problem with that?”
Insert glowering, Pilot Wife, let’s-tango stare down.
Now, as most of you probably know, he doesn’t (work for United, that is). He works for a regional – a subsidiary of United. It’s most certainly not the same thing. We have the paycheck to prove it. But as all of you also know, it’s not worth the breath you have to expend attempting to explain this daunting concept to anyone outside the aviation community, especially those whose only agenda is to toss bitterness at aviation like darts at balloons at the county fair. You know what I’m talking about. Sooooo, ‘United’ it is.
The fact is, however, it wouldn’t have mattered to me if my husband was a Captain for Hot Air Balloon Express at that particular moment, I probably DEFINITELY would still have told the guy he worked at United anyway. You know, it’s the whole principle of the thing. I know a couple of people or ten that do work there, and I’m not for the airlines…I’m for aviation families. Period. Regardless of their employer.
After a couple of moments and a mumbled something rather that probably wasn’t really an apology, he broke eye contact and went about his day probably looking for some other business in which to stick his nose.
No, I didn’t buy the propeller. Just saying. Apparently, I wasn’t ‘the right person’ after all.
Apologize? Because my husband is an amazing, talented pilot for XYZ Airline who gets his passengers safely to their destinations time after time after time despite WX, MX, PAX issues and everything in between? I don’t think so. Not today, tomorrow, or ever! I’m pilot wife proud not pilot wife ashamed!
And do you know what? There are tons of other things that Pilot Wives should never, ever apologize for either. Here are five of them.
We should never apologize for using the term ‘Pilot Wife’. Pilot Wife versus pilot’s wife. Oh, that petulant little apostrophe! If I had a dollar for every time someone has mentioned (usually sarcastically) that I ‘forgot’ the apostrophe…my husband could retire. Twice. It’s funny how one, tiny little mark of punctuation (or in this case, lack thereof) can cause so much angst, isn’t it? Or perhaps the deeper truth is that the world spends entirely too much time analyzing and criticizing the semantics of others’ lives and far too little time simply living their own with wild abandon. Yes, I choose to refer to the members of this community as ‘Pilot Wives’. No apostrophe necessary. The mark may be tiny, but the distinction is huge. It’s the distinctive difference between being a possession and possessing our identities. I am not the ‘pilot’s wife’ – a piece of property owned by my husband and a mere puppet of his profession. I am a Pilot Wife – a strong, intelligent, passionate, independent, able, fierce woman who just happens to be married to a pilot. It’s a title – hard-earned, well-deserved. And it’s only one among the many hats I proudly don throughout the course of my day. You are a Pilot Wife – no apology…or apostrophe…necessary!
We should never apologize for who our spouse works for. Newsflash: We are not married to our husbands’ employers. We do not always agree with (nor have control over) the things said employers do or say or perpetrate. Among the [many] things may husband is not responsible for are the careless luggage handler, the grumpy gate agent, the rude TSA person, the incorrect seat assignment, the oversold status of the plane, the items you want that are not stocked in the galley, the smelly passenger next to you, or the increment weather (that particular one is the man upstairs, if you’d like to launch a formal complaint). In fact, these things can and frequently are also frustrating to him as well! If anyone see’s that piece of luggage we’ve been missing for years, please go ahead and give us a shout. And by the way, the same airlines that treats the PAX like crap…treat their employees with little more regard either. We’re all just different pawns in the same game. But there are bills to be paid and mouths to be fed, so he works, and works hard for his family. Here’s what he is responsible for: Getting folks safely from point A to point B. And he does that – over and over, safely, with great skill. So no, I’m not apologetic; I’m very, very proud. SO just say thank you, and go about your day, or say nothing at all.
We should never apologize for our lifestyle choices. I simply do not understand why people are so worried about what everyone else around them is doing with their lives. If it doesn’t hurt you, affect you, or concern you – move on! If we would all simply scroll-don’t-troll and keep our noses squarely out of everyone else personal business, this world would be so much more pleasant to traverse. Or…deep thought here…what if we actually supported and enthusiastically encouraged one another’s choices, understanding that each and every person must do what is right for their own family based on their own individual feelings, aspirations, and circumstances. Whether you choose to live at base or choose to commute, choose to have ten children or choose to have no children, choose to homeschool or choose to public school, choose to stay at home or choose to pursue a career outside the home…and everything else in between, GOOD FOR YOU! It’s no one’s dang business! Don’t let anyone else’s opinion of you become your reality! Don’t let them steal your joy! NO one should have that much power over your life. This is your journey, own it. There’s no right or wrong choice in such matters, only the choice that is right for your family. You know what? It’s okay to look at them and say, “It’s none of your business.”
We should never apologize for surviving. This kills me…all the mom and pilot wife and women shaming going on in this world. We simply cannot live up to the standards of every single other human being on the face of this planet…or in our case, above it too. Heck, we’d kill ourselves trying. Everyone has an opinion; most of them aren’t worth all that much. Sometimes when my husband is gone, dinner consists of Pop Tarts and Coca-Cola served up on some fancy Pilot Wife china…you know, the paper/plastic disposable kind…eaten in front of the television as reruns of Voltron destroy their brain cells and I curl up in a fetal ball with a glass of wine and contemplate the newest thing that broke today while he was gone. Guess what? I’m not sorry. And you shouldn’t be either. Whatever it takes to survive those long trips and hard turns when everything implodes, you have the flu, the kids are fighting light hyenas over a dead carcass, the car drops a transmission, and the dog pukes on the brand new carpet? Do that thing, head held high, no shame, no apologies. Anyone who ‘gets’ this life will totally empathize; and anyone who doesn’t…doesn’t matter anyway.
We should never apologize for loving him. I love my husband; he rocks my world! I don’t understand the culture of spousal bashing and the act of hanging out our dirty laundry out for the impartial world to pass judgement upon. It’s like a disease, and it’s destroying marriages. We made promises to our husbands to honor them, love them, protect them, respect them (and vice versa, by the way). I’m going to do that. And while things in this life aren’t always perfect or easy, he is my husband. I chose him, and I choose him. A friend who constantly speaks ill of our spouses or pours negativity into our marriages is no friend at all. Do yourself a favor and remove them from your inner circles. They are toxic to the health of your marriage. My personal priorities are God, spouse, children…rest of the world. Period. Anyone that comes charging at that structure with a wrecking ball gets ejected from my life without hesitation. He’s a
good great man. I need people in my life who help me love him better, not those who constantly use their pickax words and opinions to slowly chip away at the foundation of our relationship. I vow to choose my friends carefully, remove anything and everything negative from my inner circles, and love my husband unapologetically today, tomorrow, always, honoring him with my words and actions. I hope you will too.
Look, this life is hard enough without constantly having to second guess what we are doing and why we are doing it. I have enough curve balls thrown at me – hard- to fill up the entire ball pit at Chuck E Cheese. Five times. And so do you! But it is a good life. I love being married to a pilot. I adore him. I respect the fact that he works hard for our family to provide us with opportunity, a roof, a life. Spending your life apologizing and explaining to others why we do what we do is, quite frankly, exhausting! So don’t.
I will make the choices that are best for my family, I will fiercely love the husband I have been given, I will do what it takes from day to day to survive the moment, and I will be proud and unapologetic. Because I am a PILOT WIFE.
I love you, family. Hold your heads up because you are Pilot Wives too – amazing, strong, beautiful Pilot Wives.
Blue skies and smooth landings,
Angelia (a very unapologetic Pilot Wife)
Just Winging It: Prayers for My Pilot Wife (autographed)
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