Sunday, January 01, 2006

Travel: New York Times - Men Who Fly and Cry

New York Times T Travel
The Ticket; Carrying On

By Julie Earle-Levine, Published: March 20, 2005

Jim Muldoon is crying on a flight from New York to Los Angeles. He stands at the back of the plane next to the lavatory and sobs.

''There is something in the air that triggers it -- a certain freedom to be emotional,'' says Muldoon, a marketing executive who makes 20 round trips a year between his homes in both cities. When a relationship ends, for example, he says a plane is one of the only places he can let go.

While it's no excuse for air rage, psychologists have found that men are more likely to express overwhelming emotions when they fly. Sadness, fear, joy and even romance can suddenly surface at 35,000 feet.

''Men are definitely more vulnerable when they fly,'' says Robert Reiner, a Manhattan psychologist who treats people who are afraid of flying. ''There is something about men's psychological state that changes when they are in the air.''

For some, the catalyst can be a sappy in-flight movie. Nathaniel Hunt, a filmmaker, confesses he has shed tears, most memorably watching ''Rocky'' and ''The Natural'' on a plane. He believes it is because he thinks about his life. ''If you respond to a film up there,'' he says, ''it is touching on the primal issues that saturate you when you fly.''

Even romance can blossom once the ''fasten seat belt'' signs are turned off. Sergei Davydov, a professor of Russian literature, was en route from Belgium to New York when he felt the need to act on his feelings. A woman he had noticed at the airport was on his flight, so he invited her to sit next to him. ''By the time we landed at J.F.K., we were virtually married,'' he says. They eventually did marry, and now have three children. Davydov says he would have never approached her on terra firma: ''I think being in limbo, in that space when I was traveling, I was susceptible to unusual things. Something inside me took over.''