Why you should care

Because sometimes love is in the air. 

Fredricka R. Maister is a New York City-based writer.

It happened on an Alitalia flight en route from Kennedy Airport to Rome. A physically fit Italian flight attendant I’ll call Mario, 40ish, set his sights on an American woman I’ll call Sandy, early 30s. I, a woman of a certain age once desirable but now feeling invisible to a man’s roving eye, sat behind Sandy, the witness to their meeting.

Even before takeoff, Mario seemed smitten, his gaze riveted on Sandy’s “physical trainer-like” physique as she took her seat by the window. “He likes what he sees,” I thought. Over the course of our flight, I watched Mario woo Sandy, casting furtive, then increasingly direct, glances her way, seeking eye contact as he attended to others or walked past her row. He lavished excessive attention on Sandy when he served her dinner, bringing her a goody wrapped in a napkin, probably from first class. I could hear only snippets of his conversation; at one point he asked where she lived.

I popped peanuts and watched Mario pursue Sandy. This was better entertainment than the in-flight films. Mario was my kind of male character: aggressive in a nice way, unafraid to show interest, a risk-taker in the face of possible rejection. Sandy’s role as leading lady in “my movie” was more elusive. From my backseat perch, I could see only her running her fingers through her long, frosted hair. I wasn’t privy to her responses to Mario’s come-ons.

Had we not been on an airplane, who knows what would have happened. The Mile-High Club wasn’t really my style.

Sandy reminded me of a time when I was a “hot, young thing” and had caught the amorous eye of a fellow passenger aboard an Air France jet. My Parisian’s name was Jean Paul. He lived in Houston, where he owned a French restaurant. It was attraction at first sight. A few hours into the flight, we were in lust mode. Had we not been on an airplane, who knows what would have happened. The Mile-High Club wasn’t really my style.

Jean Paul and I planned a romantic rendezvous during his next stopover in New York. Meanwhile, through a serendipitous quirk of fate, I learned via an acquaintance in Houston that Jean Paul was married. Also not my style. When he telephoned, I ignored his calls.

Despite my disappointing would-be affair, I was rooting for Mario and Sandy. The dormant romantic in me wanted their midair encounter to be the start of a passionate romance. Sucked in, then hooked and kept in suspense by their story, I couldn’t wait to find out what was going to happen at The End.

As we drew nearer to landing, I was counting on Mario to make a definitive move. He did not disappoint. As he served Sandy a final beverage, he slipped her paper and a pen to write her contact information, which she did. He gestured back with typing fingers and mouthed, “I’ll email you.”

I remembered that feeling. The physical and emotional highs of being a young woman, conspicuous to the male species. It was an undeniable fact that as my age has increased, my desirability, my visibility, to the opposite sex has decreased. Witnessing Mario meeting Sandy, I had to admit that I missed the attention.

“That flight attendant was quite taken with you,” I blurted. “I know,” she replied.

Brought back to my middle-age reality as we touched down in Italy, the Land of Amore, I considered that even though I might no longer be an active participant in the game of romance, I could still cheer from the sidelines.

As we queued up for customs, I spotted Sandy and her long blond locks. Surprisingly, she was not the drop-dead gorgeous femme fatale I’d expected. I pointed her out to my travel companion. “He’s too old for her,” my friend commented. “I was with a man 22 years older than me for 12 years,” I countered. “He’s probably married,” she continued. Another Jean Paul scenario was possible, but I remained optimistic.

I inched my way up the line to be closer to Sandy. When she turned around, I could not restrain myself. “That flight attendant was quite taken with you,” I blurted. “I know,” she replied. “I didn’t know what to do. He says he stays in New York a lot.” She said she was a New Yorker and was visiting family in southern Italy.

Sandy’s sharing an Italian heritage with Mario bode well, but her “I didn’t know what to do” nagged at me. What you do, I thought, is take a chance, a risk. Or possibly regret it later. I still remember the men who got away, the men I judged too quickly, all sorts of life opportunities I missed out on because I failed to take a leap.

As we cleared customs, about to go our separate ways, I tapped her on the shoulder. “You go for it, girl,” I whispered. “He’s a cutie.”

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