How important are they? I mean, really?

My alarm went off at 3:15. AM. AM stands for “hella early,” you guys. Especially when I went to bed just a couple of hours before. (Someday I will learn not to leave packing to the last minute. Evidently not any time soon, but someday. I have confidence in Someday. Anyway.) My lovely friend Erin offered to take me to the airport so I didn’t have to pay $eleventy billion to park my car there for 2 days. This meant that she had to wake up at 4 (AM, y’all) on a Friday morning. Which she did. And I’m a little in love with her because of it. Much love, Erin. Much love.

I actually felt fairly wide awake when my alarm went off. Seriously. I was bright and chipper and excited about Girly Weekend. My excitement continued as I drove to Erin’s house. I was bright as I checked in with Continental, chipper as I headed through security, and eager to board the plane once I reached the gate.

Then I found my seat. My seat on the airplane. My requested *window* seat on the airplane. My requested window seat on the airplane that looked *suspiciously* like a *middle* seat. A very dreaded middle seat between two *very* large men who both looked at me with looks that said (very clearly), “Hello. I am going to hog the armrest. And you really won’t be able to stop me because I’ve already planted my forearm firmly where your tiny little elbow would be most comfortable. Also, I’m probably going to periodically jab you with my forearm because I am HUGE and TREE-LIKE and it will be my upper body’s goal to squish you slowly throughout the duration of this 4 hour flight. And I might spill my soda on your lap. I’m undecided about this, though. I’ll let you know.”

Y’all. Y’ALL. I nearly cried. I definitely got a huge lump in my throat. This is *only* because I was tired. Normally I’m not so quick to shows of emotion. (Ha.) BUT! As I am me, and I am a freaking Wall, I channeled my grandmother and mustered up every drop of Southern Charm in my being as I smiled my most charming smile at both Brawny-Men, bit my lower lip, and apologized for disrupting them so that I could sit down. Aisle-Brawny Dude got up and moved aside so I could make my way into the middle and Window-Brawny Dude moved his bag from the middle seat so I might take my seat.

Me: 0. Brawny-Dudes: 1

BUT. There was still the matter of the armrests. I’m happy to share the armrest with whomever is sitting next me. Just commit to a half, sir. You can take the front half and I’ll keep my elbow in the back half, no problem. Or even vice versa. I’m not a picky girl, sir. Not at all. But the Brawny-Dudes? It would appear that masculinity absolutely hinges on having one’s entire GINORMOUS arm *planted* on the entire effin’ armrest. Indeed. So I did what any girl would do in my position. I settled back in my seat and ever so gently touched my elbow to each Brawny-Dudes forearm. And they? They *both* planted their arms even more firmly on the armrests, so firmly that our row shook. At this point, I smiled at each, a very genteel smile that very clearly said, “Wouldn’t it be faster if you just showed me your manly bits right now, so we could avoid the Dance of the Armrest?”

Again, I am a freaking Wall. I am also my mother’s daughter, who is my grandmother’s daughter. We are Comptons. Thoroughbreds through and through. Kind and polite to our very cores. The Brawny-Dudes? Never stood a chance. Sadly, they were NO match for all of that killer charm (and quick thinking). I deftly reached for my laptop bag, making sure to drop my water bottle at the feet of Aisle-Brawny Dude and my iPod at the feet of Window-Brawny Dude. Then, as each Brawny-Dude leaned forward to retrieve the aforementioned dropped items, I speedy-quick pushed my laptop bag back under the seat in front of me with my feet and leaned back in my seat, planting my elbows *firmly* on the back half of each arm rest. I then accepted the proffered “accidentally” dropped items in my open hands, with a sweet smile that very clearly said, “Sucka(s).”

Me: 2 (for both armrests) Brawny-Dudes: 1.

Sucka(s), indeed.

It was at this point my exhaustion hit me for a six. As the plane taxied down the runway and took off into the still-dark sky, my head began to swim and my eyelids turned into lead. I am fairly certain I dozed off right away. I was jerked awake by the bing-bong sound of the intercom as the pilot explained that, in case anyone didn’t realize, we were now actually flying through the air and, also, there was lots of turbulence, which explained the whole Bumping Around Like Whoa in the air, so maybe it wouldn’t be a great idea to unfasten our seat belts but not to worry, because here come the flight attendants with beverages. It was at this point I realized my neck was a wee bit sore. I noted this fact with a sort of a “hm,” and closed my eyes again.

About 5 minutes later, I jolted awake because Aisle-Brawny Dude jabbed my elbow with his huge arm because apparently one must gesture wildly when telling a flight attendant one would enjoy some tomato juice.

I closed my eyes again and had a dream a very tall woman offered me breakfast in a tiny black box. I woke up because my right leg was spasming in pain and saw not only was my tray-table in the lowered and not at all upright position, it also had a tiny black box of breakfast sitting on top, which contained some Honey Nut Chex, a muffin, and a box of raisins. There was also a cup of cranberry juice. Cranberry juice. “Hm,” I said again.

And closed my eyes.

About 20 minutes later, I woke up because my tailbone was beginning to ache. The tiny black box of breakfast now contained an empty box of Honey Nut Chex but the raisins and muffin were still there. The cranberry juice was also still there. I closed my eyes and dreamed of ginger ale.

The next time I woke up, everything on my tray table had disappeared. This fact did not concern me as much as did the fact someone had set my neck ablaze as I slept. I looked accusingly at both Brawny-Dudes, but they both appeared to be fast asleep. Window-Brawny Dude held my attention, as he was resting his head on a pillow he’d propped on the window panel. In a split-second, I became insanely jealous. Like, wanted to kick him in the shins, elbow him in the face, offer up my first-born to trade him seats kind of jealous. On the other side of me, Aisle-Window Dude was also asleep, his neck at a 90 degree angle to his chest, his face directly over his lap, and his right shoulder leaning ever so slightly toward my seat.

It was here that I began questioning social norms. Are they firmly established in our society? Or maybe are there levels/degrees of adhering to socially accepted behavior? Specifically, I wondered: was there any possible way for me to rest my head on the shoulder of a complete stranger and have it be okay?

On one hand, you have the personal space issue. I thought about how I would feel if a total stranger rested his or her head on my shoulder and realized my reaction would be determined by the following variables:

Does this stranger have a pleasant smell?
Does this stranger have a cushiony head?
Is this stranger John Cusack or Keanu Reeves?

If the answer to any of those variables is “no,” then I believe I would be very uncomfortable with a stranger placing his or her head on my shoulder.

BUT. What if Aisle-Brawny Dude did not have such strict guidelines? What if he was the type to allow anyone to rest his or her head on his shoulder — a Shoulder Slut, if you will. It could happen. It was actually highly likely. Okay, maybe not *highly* likely. And maybe not even probable. But WHAT IF??

My tailbone, by this point, had shattered. My neck was burning into nothing and about to fall off. I was desperate to reposition myself in a way that might be conducive to a pleasant nap. Operation Inappropriate Pillow had begun.

I knew I would only have once chance for success. Aisle-Brawny Dude could wake up at any time. His being on the aisle actually made my situation even more precarious. See, it wouldn’t take much to wake him up; a wayward lavatory seeker or a rogue beverage cart could thwart my entire plan. I knew I had to be quick, yet as smooth as possible. Place my head on his shoulder too suddenly, or with too little finesse and BOOM. He’s awake and I’m *that* girl. I also knew the whole maneuver would have to seem as though it were happening as a natural side-effect of my sleep-state. It could not look calculated. It must look both accidental and kind of precious.

I had no idea how to accomplish this.

Should I place my head on his shoulder in degrees, insofar as I slightly rest my cheek on his shoulder for about two minutes, followed by a bit more of my face weight for two more minutes, and so on until my head was resting comfortably and he was none the wiser? I had a sinking feeling success hinged on some mathematical equation, at which I would be utter crap, or at the very least, some sort of physics knowledge, of which I have none. For a split second I wondered if it would be better to wake him up and ask him politely, “Excuse me, sir. May I please rest my head on your shoulder? As you can clearly see, my tailbone has shattered and my neck has melted into a fiery pool of OHMYGOODNESSITHURTS. I believe resting my head on your ever so large shoulder is the only thing that might save my comfort and allow me to get at least an hour or two of airplane sleep. Thanks so much.”

I then realized I was too much in my head, which is my tendency whenever I must make a decision. I heard my grandfather’s voice in my head, shouting at me to “take no prisoners! Dodge bullets! DRIVE ON!” which really had nothing to do with the decision at hand but I was tired and very incoherent in my thoughts as well as my impulse control, as evidenced by the fact that I was now slowly leaning my head toward the cushy, very large shoulder of A COMPLETE STRANGER. I held my breath, as there were now only *centimeters* between my cheek and what I could only imagine to be Ultimate Comfort. Closer, closer…UNTIL…

Evidently it’s wise to make sure the object of your cheek’s affection is *actually* asleep before you boldly attempt to play with the boundaries of social behavior. That’s all I’m going to say.

Me: -20 for the attempt, Aisle-Brawny Dude: 3000 for pretending that did *not* just happen.

I’m writing this to say I’m *not* sorry. The middle seat of an airplane row is a wasteland of discomfort and muscle-injuries. Perhaps we should impose a moratorium on social norms when we reach a comfortable cruising altitude of 30,000 feet. What’s the harm, sir? What is the harm?

I used to book my flights based on price and convenience. Not anymore, you guys. From here on out, I will ONLY book flights where I can sit window seat comfortable.

In the exit row.

You know, because of all the extra legroom.

Happy travels, kids.

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