When You Learn More That You Ever Dreamed Of From Your Middle Seat Passenger.
My wishes for a plane flight are window seat, no one in the middle seat, and the ability to recline without bothering someone behind me. I'll often go onto the airlines website at the last moment and move my window seat to a different row if there's someone in the middle seat beside mine. On Southwest flights, I grab a window seat and kinda lean into the middle seat, using my bigger size to suggest “you ain’t gonna be comfortable sitting next to this big boy.” I'm so bad. I admit it.
My last flight was from Seattle, Washington (SEA) to Fort Lauderdale, Florida (FLL) with an hour layover in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas (DFW). Sitting in my window seat, watching the confused cattle board the fully-booked plane, I was guessing who'd be sitting next to me during this flight. A 30-something woman pointed over a 50-something woman’s head to the seat next to me and said, "there’s your seat" as she walked to her own assigned seat about 6 rows back.
I closed my eyes, leaned on the wall, and fell asleep, my usual routine along with waking up just before the beverage cart comes around. Just after I ordered my ginger ale and received the complimentary pretzels, I heard the 5-foot negative 2-inch woman say, “Can I get a shot and a beer?” Well, that got me interested in her.
I soon learned this petite woman already had 3 beers in the airport and was ordering more. "I couldn't believe you were asleep before we even took off," she said in a scolding voice. "How the hell could you be doing that, both you and this other guy were sleeping!" Michelle (we’ll call her Michelle) had not flown since 1996, she had hated to fly, and so her plan was to get sloshed and pass out as fast as she could. It didn't work.
While she finished that beer, a nip bottle, and started another beer and nip, she informed me about her family and that she was flying to see her new grand-daughter in DFW. One daughter was on the plane with us, two more daughters and her oldest child, a son, were in the Seattle area, but this trip was for her daughter in DWF and the new addition to the family.
She reiterated that she would do anything for any of her kids and now one of her babies had a baby and she had to be there, so her taking this flight to DFW was a no-brainer. Michelle loved her kids and it was very apparent. Then she told me about her daughter Edie (not her real name) and how she loved her youngest daughter. Out came the new Apple iPhone her kids made her get and it had Edie’s picture as the wallpaper. This was a proud mom. She had a little trouble with the new technology or it might have been the 5 beers, 2 nip bottles, and the uneasiness of flight that were causing the tech issue. We had fun as she gushed about her daughter, her beautiful daughter. Now, not too many people lie when they are drunk for the truth seems to just pour out of them as it was with Michelle. “She’s so beautiful and happy, isn’t she?” Michelle asked me. “She use to be Edward.” So here I am on a plane with a woman that is talking at a little more volume than normal plane banter and she is talking about her 15-year old transgender daughter ... and I loved it.
Michelle gets my award for mom of the year right now. I know it’s a little too early to vote, but damn. She recapped Edie’s early years as Edward, using Edward and Edie when appropriate and he and she and her and him. I was expecting with the beer and the pressure of the flight a slip up of a he /she, but no, not once. Michelle was telling me about what they both went through, what people confronted her about, deciding with Edward to put him on hormone blockers and become Edie at the age of 12. Yes, I was tearing up a little at the amount of love and positive mothering that was coming at me throughout her stories.
Over the next few hours, I learned about Michelle, she called herself some names, told me about her family tree, her divorce, her &*$#@ ex husband, and about Edie. She was constantly putting her phone away in a random pocket and would soon pull it out to show me the same 3 pictures of Edie like I had never seen them before. There were only 3 pics on her new iPhone and they were all of Edie.
“Wouldn’t you do anything for your kids? Wait, do you have kids?” she asked me. I informed her that I did not have children, which prompted her to ask if I was married, which I said no, then did I have a girlfriend, and once again, no, and then if I had ever been in a long relationship. Michelle was getting personal! I told her I was not seeing anyone and I was gay. In her no so soft inside voice, she restated that I was gay, loud enough for 6 rows forward and backwards to know my sexuality, which was fine, just loud for ANYTHING to be proclaimed on a plane. And this was where I learned that her son, her oldest child, is gay. “My son is gay!” at the same volume. We were having fun and if anyone had an issue with it, they would have to deal with proud mom Michelle and her new friend and fan, Adam.
“Do you know people apologize to me for my son being gay?” Michelle works in the same building as her son’s partner and he brings her food for lunch once in awhile. One day a co-worker of hers asked Michelle who this man was and she replied that he is her son-in-law (her gay son was not married, but he and his partner had been together for 5 to 7 years and are like a married couple in her eyes). “Which daughter is he married to?” was the co-worker's follow-up question. Michelle responded that he’s her son’s partner. “Can you f&$^ng believe my co-worker said, ‘I’m so sorry’?”
Did I tell you at this point I loved Michelle beyond belief? Yes, she dropped her credit cards in the aisle when she went to the bathroom (how I found out her name) and when she came back from the bathroom and apparently ran out of pockets to use on her iPhone's trip around her body, she asked me if I had seen her phone, which I responded, “It’s in your boob.” We had so much fun, but I had to tell her many times as she reached for her credit card and wanting more shots and beer that they stopped serving alcohol on the flight for I was afraid more alcohol would not have been a good idea.
Her love of her gay son and her transgender daughter were so refreshing and so uplifting and to have her share that with a stranger while on a plane flying into Texas airspace... that was powerful for me. Michelle loves her kids no matter what. She did get religious for a while and brought up other people judging her and her family and how she was letting her children live their lives. She said she prayed to God about her children and said her prayers were answered for she was told that God doesn’t want their bodies, but their souls. I actually thought that was really sweet. She wants her kids to live true to themselves, be happy, and God would welcome them home when the time comes since their souls are what is important.
I am not sure if she will remember me telling her anything about me, that I managed an LGBT lifestyles magazine, and that I thought she was an amazing woman, mother, and travel buddy. But I will always remember my flight with Michelle, the many times seeing pictures of Edie, learning about what a mother with LGBT kids, a gay son and a transgender daughter goes through in 2018, and everything in-between. We deplaned in DFW and I waited with her until her daughter came up to us, told her that her mother said she had an amazing singing voice, and that she had an amazing mother.
I’ll be looking for Michelle next time I am out in the Seattle area, would love to meet Edie and learn more about her life, and maybe I’ll be a little more open to having that middle seat occupied on the next flight ... maybe. But I am not sure anyone will top my time with Michelle.
May you have a great year Michelle and Edie and great lives. Looks like you're doing well so far.
And if Michelle's real name is important to you, here's a hint.
And Edie's real name ...