World’s Apart Posh Grande Dame Genevoise and Plain Ol’ Midwestern Pat

sitting in a café

sitting in a café

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.

walking in style

walking in style

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.

Posted in humor, travel.


  1. And we all love you just the way you are, not for your ‘Genevoise femme’ ways, but for your sincerity and loving nature. Miss you. Hugs to you xx

    • Aw, so sweet, thanks Rach. Sure wish you were still here to keep me fit with your step aerobics and limber with your yoga class! Hugs back at across the “French channel”….ha, ha…(as my Frenchman calls it)

  2. Living an authentic lifestyle is so much easier than having to always be on “display” – to each its own, but, don’t go changing!:)

  3. Pat, you are beautiful in all the ways that count. Manicured lady with the “sugarcube diamond” doesn’t hold a candle to you. I love and respect YOU for who you are. Your sense of humor is priceless 🙂 Hugs!

  4. Enjoyed the colorful description of the “other side”. My comfort zone is very similar to yours, with sweats and tennies. The “lost” feeling is happening more often with our advancing age, so know where you are coming from. Thanks for keeping us entertained and giving us updates.
    Your friend in Tampico – Joan

    • Thanks for taking time to comment Joan. I have had that “lost” feeling for decades so not sure if I can blame it on age…in fact I think I was born that way. But that never slowed me down, I just stop and ask for directions every step of the way on my journey. Thanks for following!

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