Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder, and in the Strength of Your Shoulders

By Bonnie McCune

The rule in our house for travel has always been the same. Each person’s responsible for toting personal luggage. Unless I was eight months pregnant or in a full leg-cast with crutches, I knew my porter would be me.

This wasn’t a problem when we were young and usually schlepped backpacks. We traveled Europe with one each plus a tote bag. Even when we set off on cross-country car trips, we followed the rule. Small children were exempt, of course, but by about age eight, our kids quite competently managed their things.

However, a number of years ago I noticed the space for my clothes was contracting. I had to remove a pair of shoes here, an extra jacket there, first a swimsuit cover-up, then a fluffy bathrobe. What was happening? Was my luggage shrinking? Did my increased poundage result in enormous, space-eating outfits?

Then as I laid out the items I was packing in orderly heaps, I noticed an especially large mound. The load I mentally labeled “Health & Beauty,” ever since my time as a saleswoman at JC Penney decades before, surpassed all my clothing. What had happened? I knew I neither was using more makeup nor carrying additional beauty equipment.

More health items. More medicines. More paraphernalia to have on hand in case I threw a muscle out or strained a joint. Age had caught up with me.

A short list:

Glucose for low blood sugar episodes.

Vitamins of all sorts

Prescriptions for me and my husband

Special washes and creams for skin conditions

Herbal and naturopathic supplement designed to reduce impact of viruses

A circular pillow that fit around my neck to ease naps while traveling

Elastic supports for knees

Several specially designed implements to keep decay and gum disease at bay

At least nine pairs of glasses: reading, reading back-up, reading sun; same three for medium distance and far. Maybe some bifocals

As I surveyed the piles, I realized I’d reached an age-stage. Just as babies need lots of extras, so do aging folks. One method to approximate someone’s age is to survey his luggage. If his health and beauty pile is larger than his clothing, he must be approaching 55 or 60. Ditto women even if their hair and lips appear like youngsters.

I’m not alone in packing more items. My sister sometimes takes her sleep apnea equipment, which is at least the size of a shoe box. A woman I know can’t sleep unless she packs her special large pillows to cushion her body.

So what does this mean? Another example of age discrimination. Why can’t luggage limits be based on age and the amount of necessities? If the privilege of affordable housing can be given to those above a particular number of years, certainly airlines, trains and buses can waive the restrictions on baggage for us. As for the practicalities of body strength, if we get tired of toting the extra weight, we can reduce the number of items we lug. To disguise the need for extra makeup we can wear concealing scarves, droopy hats, or extra-long bangs. To hide physical disabilities, opt for obscuring baggy clothing. Squint instead of packing extra glasses. Or just suffer.

About this writer

  • Bonnie McCune

    Bonnie McCune

    Bonnie McCune has been writing since age 10 when the Saturday Evening Post rejected a submission. An interest in writing led to her career in public relations for nonprofits. Now Bonnie’s true passion is fiction writing.

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9 Responses to “Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder, and in the Strength of Your Shoulders”

  1. Rose Ann says:

    LOL, so true! I pack my bag and have to reduce the amount at least twice. I’ve started putting a few of my things in my husband’s bag (shhhh..) enjoyed your essay…so relatable!!

  2. Glad to know I’m not alone, Rose Ann. I never thought of slipping things into someone else’s bag. Genius. I also realized I’ll never again see most of the people I meet on a trip, so style is of less value than comfort.

  3. Esther J Gross says:

    I think you’ve defined a phenomenon. You are officially an influencer!

  4. Linda O'Connell says:

    I can relate to this, as I am forever trying to fit one more necessary for my age thing into my luggage. Enjoyable read.

  5. Carolina says:

    As someone who never knows what – and how – to pack, I can relate to Bonnie. Some years ago, a friend’s luggage had been stolen and she did not realize until after she had filed a claim that she did not list all of her stolen items. Her suggestion was to make a list. All these years later, I refine that first Excel list. One column is for necessities such as toothpaste and toothbrush. The other column is for clothes. Not only does it remind what types of clothing to take, it also reminds me what I took the last time that I visited the family. If I will be staying in one place with one or two side trips, I take regular and travel size items of things such as shampoo. Take half full bottles of shampoo and the like and throw it out before returning home. Get samples at the beauty counter. You can live without that expensive face cream during your vacation. If you run out of something, buy the local brand. As for putting something in your traveling companion’s suitcase, do it! If one suitcase gets lost, you always have something in the other suitcase.

  6. I appreciated the “travel-age” article. So true.

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