Why I Unpack My Underwear At The Aiport

"I'm sorry, ma'am. You're four pounds over. You'll have to step aside. Step aside, ma'am. You can come back when you've removed your extra weight."
09/07/2016 01:39 pm ET Updated Sep 08, 2017
Packing for vacation
Packing for vacation

"I'm sorry, ma'am. You're four pounds over. You'll have to step aside. Step aside, ma'am. You can come back when you've removed your extra weight."

I don't shrink or hide, nor am I the least bit embarrassed that I've been told in front of dozens of strangers that I'm over my allotted weight limit. I smile brightly, shift my eyes towards my fiancᅢᄅ, shrug my shoulders and calmly reply, "Well how much is he under?"

I am thrilled when she utters the magic number, "Seven. He is at 43 pounds."

Not only is this doable, but that will leave three extra pounds for whatever I might accrue on my six-day jaunt to California.

We move to the side, open our carefully packed suitcases (one more carefully than the other), and I instantly remember that I forgot to pack my bras and underwear on the bottom. I move my unmentionables until they are unnoticeable and start to pull out wedges, a hair dryer and one of two toiletry bags.

My man may be seven under, but he has made an almost fatal error: He packed in a small bag. He's got weight to add, but there's little room and that only makes this airport Russian roulette even more interesting. Not only am I handing things over, I have to accept lighter items in return. It's our very own game on the Price Is Right. What items weigh less than others? Will we guesstimate correctly? Can we swap effectively, make weight and still make our flight?


I wear the same uniform daily, but when I go on vacation I pack for a more exotic version of myself.

Effective? Yes. On round two at the check-in counter, our bags are tagged and taken -- one at 48, the other at 49.

I would like to accept a pat on the back for my calm demeanor when faced with such an embarrassing, time-consuming, unexpected delay at the airport. Instead, I'll be honest that I was not as much calm, as merely experienced. I overpack, always. Not only do I overpack, I also pack for someone else and therein lies most of the problem.

I wear the same uniform daily, but when I go on vacation I pack for a more exotic version of myself. This Abby will take the time to dry her hair nicely, apply make-up and will wear clothes during the days that aren't engineered for a yoga studio. I have such high hopes for the me that I will be on vacation. She is an adult version of my 20-something fashion executive, a version that didn't move down the 95 corridor when she had kids, the version that didn't leave her job in Manhattan for full-time parenting.

Manhattan export and mother aside, I can't deny the truth. There are 40-something Philadelphians with children who dress fashionably and they aren't me. My kids are past the pooping and spitting up phase. I can afford a pulled together look. I choose comfort over fashion and there is a part of my former stylist psyche that can't accept reality. This sliver of my subconscious packs my suitcases while clinging to the possibilities of the me I will be on vacation.

This me will wear gladiator sandals, floppy felt hats, fedoras, skirts, linen shorts and sailor-striped tees with pristine white jeans. This me will wear Instagram-worthy -- I just threw this on (after an hour of planning) outfits. This me will care that her hair is down and flowing. This me will be pulled together and proud. I love this me.

On my most recent jaunt to California, I gave it the good college try. Cute sundress, fedora and sandals on, we stopped at our hotel between vineyard visits.

"Just give me a few minutes, I've got to change."

"Ok."

"Babe, do you mind if I wear this?" Hat, dress and sandals are off, non-descript pants; sneakers and a black tank are on.

"You're cute, wear whatever you want."


This me will wear ... sailor-striped tees with pristine white jeans. This me will be pulled together and proud. I love this me.

The afternoon is spent more comfortably than the morning, only topped by the evening spent in my favorite jeans and blouse.

This is what happens on every vacation. I try on a cute ensemble and discard it returning to the outfit I wear daily at home. Only, on vacation, it gets dirty because I only brought one of my uniform, as I envisioned only needing it for the plane. In the end, I wear it on the plane and for several days whilst the carefully chosen threads sit unworn in the cramped hotel closet. I vow to do better next time, and I don't. Upon the next check-in at the airport, we scramble to move things between suitcases wriggle and negotiate the zipper, his under packing still accommodates for my over.

My overpacking is not a mistake. My overpacking takes time. It is a deliberate process. I lay everything out by day and then break up the days depending on what we roughly plan to do. I then bring an extra for every few days, just in case. I pack it all, decide it's way too much and take it all out. I edit and re-pack knowing this will be the time I'm under the weight-limit. This time we will be spared final airport luggage shuffling.

The entire process is time-consuming and energy-zapping, but I don't alter it enough to make a difference. I don't ever wind up packing for my reality. We are never spared the glory of re-organizing in front of the USAir counter.

I must enjoy the vision of vacation Abby, the more glamorous and put together self that will emerge more than I mind the fuss and bother.

I am who I am, and I am ok with it, with me. But there's nothing wrong with daydreaming. And in my daydream, I am still the put together fashion executive I once was -- just 20 years older, with kids and yoga pants worn only for yoga class.