Romantic diverse couple looking at photos on a camera together while traveling aboard a private airplane.

The only first-class flying experience I had ever had was when I returned to dating before my third marriage. I saw a lot of parallels between flying first class on an airplane and dating a guy who seemed to have it all.

In my past, I always seemed to meet guys who were either seriously well-heeled and overqualified, the ultra first-class guys, top tier men. Or, they were wild and dangerous and lived life like being in the front seat on a plummeting rollercoaster, full of first class fun and adventure.

This binary is also reflected when you fly on a commercial airline. First class is relaxing and a short break from real life while the back of the plane is loud, chaotic and uncomfortable. 

The men I had dated all looked great on paper, and I was stunned when my shallow side started to emerge. Height: check, six pack abs: check, all the things a heart desires: check. I was living life as a checklist of best things, ideals.

Fast forward, I won’t tell you how many years, to the day my daughter’s boyfriend offered to upgrade me to first class on our upcoming flight. I jumped at the chance! I already had some first class experience after all.

There I am, front row, seat 1A, legs fashionably crossed, casually leaning left, living room style, with a glass of wine and a smile to match. I was playing the part, and I don’t even drink. After ordering water-no-ice-with-a-twist-of- lemon for the last gazillion years of my life, I’m ready to see how this first class treatment feels.

I beckon the flight attendant. The beverage carts rolls next to me, and I vacillate between 2 bottles on a loaded cart. She senses my indecision and quickly intercepts with first-class service mind reading ability to ask, “Red or white?”

“White is safe,” says the white passenger’s voice beside me. Phew! Thank you to my fellow first class traveler for helping me dodge the wine bullet and select white. I never make the wine choice, ever. I don't drink, remember?

“Niagara Riesling or Italian Soave”? the uniform asks with a brilliant smile and the brightest set of white teeth no one person should have. Dazzled and blinking, I am laser-focused on an aspect of airline etiquette I’ve never seen before. Perfect teeth and lips stretched so wide her eyes have to crinkle for a better view.

After a moment of intellectual wine scrutiny, I decide Niagara Riesling is too close to my home so it couldn't be good. After all, I have driven by the grape fields enough times to know they are ordinary green vines in the summer and ordinary dead vines in the winter. Besides that, big fields with fancy names don't impress me, Hidden Bench or Foreign Affairs, those can't be any good.

So I went with the Italian Soave, plus, I think he was one of those first class men I had dated.

First-class date vs first class flight

Not wanting to break the protocol of first-class travel, I avoid gulps and gauge my sips to lag behind the pace of my seat neighbor who had suggested that “White is safe”. So far on the flight, she has raised her table from its nook below the armrest, located a power source, retrieved her laptop and discarded her shoes. So I did it too.

This was far better than my “first-class” dating experiences of over the top heart pounding confusion while on mid-morning coffee dates or awkward dinners. Back then, I relegated each date to a name on a spreadsheet. Thus, A Beautiful Mind, Mr Corporate Law, the Free Spirit, and Mr Dundas the small-town guy, each triggered a memory and a place. A bit like this wine choosing experience.

When I decide to venture to the back of the plane where the rest of my family is sitting. I see my daughter, her 3 kids and the 6’3” boyfriend with his knees almost folded to his chest while I have the luxury of first-class leg room. I squirm a little.

“I had no idea it was going to be such a long walk, 41D is an insult that should never be allowed on a plane.” Still playing the role, I exaggerate an apology for their “back of the bus” experience and regale them with stories of rarefied air, extra oxygen being pumped in, (I saw it) and how alert and alive I feel at this very moment. Then in “don’t let the others know” whispered tones, so as not to offend, I describe the eucalyptus soap and hand lotion in a restroom that always has a vacant sign, the drawn curtains, and the mixed nuts warmed in miniature dishes.

“In first class, you are so far away from your neighbor it’s like they are not even there,” I tell them. Truth is, it’s like living in a 5000-square-foot home after living in a rented basement. No lie.

When I offer the remains of the veggie burger at the bottom of my carry-on, they have heard enough of my high class styles and scowl through my last dig, “I won’t need the veggie burger, I have a veggie paella coming.” I can feel their groan of regret at having upgraded me to first class. Much like my own regrets at all those dates I went on only to end up with a list of first class reasons not to go out with them for a second date.

Returning to front row, seat 1A, after the trek all the way back from 41D, I settle in as the forerunner of the veggie paella arrives. A warm washcloth so white (“White is safe” echoes in my mind again), it’s surely store-bought. Excited since this hot towel treatment is a first for me, I am overdoing it. The attendant waits to hand over my cloth napkin with five different pieces of silverware on a tray that could easily grace… any old dining room. My enthusiasm only slightly dampened, I reach for the tray and the food.

This was no basic airline experience. The best part was olive oil with balsamic already mixed in for a really really tiny salad. Don't laugh. I am a salad connoisseur, who when at home, will mix balsamic and olive oil for a really big salad. My salads at home scream,” Salad famine on the way for everyone else!” This first class salad mumbled, “More for everyone still available.”

Smiling, the attendant sings, “Enjoy. Anything else.”

Tiny salad and paella eaten, I decide to check the Wi-Fi. In any other setting with free Wi-Fi, I have pressed so many “continue” and “accept” buttons, I forget why and what I want to search. Not this time. One small button and it’s first-class. Voila.

It’s almost time to deplane and as I leave Row1, Seat A, I am surveying my first class flight check list and all the boxes have been ticked, satisfaction guaranteed.

I realized why people sitting in first class always appear happy, and started to feel like I am a first-class flying girl.

The hard reality of landing back on earth

With my feet on the ground and head out of the clouds, I look back on both of my first class experiences and how they resulted in living by a checklist of the best.

Back when I was dating and after I had multiple dates that left me tired and confused, my girlfriend made a profound statement.

“It is easy to fall in love with a guy at his best moments but real life is in the daily mundane. Get back to the real you and find the guy who will let you be your everyday self.”

Affording first class travel is a stretch many people would never make as their first choice is usually to stick with the everyday and mundane preferences we have. First class service is a nice treat though and a good way to make a long flight less physically stressful. A lot like my checklist of the best parts of the first class guys I dated, it was fun for a change, but at the end of the day, it wasn’t me. I wasn’t being my authentic self. I was playing a role.

First class seat 1A was a nice treat, but I missed out on all the sights and sounds of families breathing and bickering, babies crying, and the giggles, pokes and memories of my family in row 41.

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DISCLAIMER: The Views, Comments, Opinions, Contributions and Statements made by Readers and Contributors on this platform do not necessarily represent the views or policy of Multimedia Group Limited.