The woman at the table next to me is in that indiscriminate decade we call middle aged. She is immaculately dressed and as the French say, bien coiffée, which belies her age. She wears a smart looking custom made tailored suit, an overcoat of cashmere, and suede boots, so pointed she could endorse checks with the tip of her toe. Her perfectly styled and meticulously, colored golden hair hides the grey. Her manicured nails, painted ruby, match her silk scarf, which draped around her neck artistically, covers any neck folds. On one arm, a solid gold watch shines from her wrist, and on her other hand a diamond the size of a sugar cube gleams.
Meanwhile, I cross my feet under the booth to hide my well-worn, scruffy Asiacs. I am wearing a pair of Kohl’s black yoga pants, a Target Cuddle Duds T-shirt and a pink, zip up hoodie with Chicago inscribed in cursive white letters. My entire outfit including silver earring posts costs $39. 99. Clasped to my wrist is a twenty-buck, black Ironman Timex that I have worn for the past decade; I still need my students’ expertise to reset it after I change time zones.
Plagued with a bad back, I never carry a handbag, instead I slip loose change, my French passport, Swiss residency papers and a 10 franc note on the inside pocket of my purple UW-Steven’s Point basketball jacket. I don’t get it. I never abused my body, keep my health care team in business (doctors, chiropractors, podiatrists) and retain my gluten free, low fat, no sugar regime, yet my body is kaput. How did I get so wrecked? I wear tennis shoes out of necessity, as it is the only cut of shoe that allows me to insert my clunky orthotic soles. I marvel at women my age and older, who scurry down streets balancing on stilettos, carrying LouisVuitton handbags bigger than shopping carts and weighting more than an electric car.
I hide my-desperately-in-need-of-a-trim-hair under a color-coordinated baseball cap. I put off a trip to the beauticians because it is so outrageously expensive and to be honest, a bit of a lost cause.
I wear a thin gold wedding band and safire ring to match the Norwegian eyes my husband fell in love with, but can no longer see because half my face is underneath my humongous dark movie star glasses. It is the only fashionable accessory I own; however, I don’t wear them to hide my « celebrity » status, but to protect my eyes from the light due to a medical treatment.
Even though I have been to Geneva hundreds of times, I stand on every street corner looking lost, because I am unable to distinguish left from right. I looked as bewildered as a refugee just off the boat and marvel that I never get picked up for vagrancy. My husband will be relieved to know, I have yet to pass around my baseball hat on the commuter train home.
If you saw me on the street, you would never know that I have lived in Europe for thirty years. Always wearing my trademark tennies, I still look more touristy than the tourists.