I’ll Never Be You, Ginevra

For a long time, I have had this desire, this NEED to be everyone and do everything. No matter how much yoga I practice and how many books I read about reincarnation, life just seems too short, too linear and too limited. All the people and places I’m not, and all the things I never do… it’s a sad, sad waste. People tell me this is weird. I tell them I AM weird.

In keeping with this idea, I would like to be Ginevra. It was a dreary day in Florence when I saw her leaning against a stone wall, texting someone on her Union Jack iPhone and smoking her cigarette. I loved her hair: shaved on one side, pieces of it crimped on the other side with a long-lost crimping iron (dear god, are those coming back?! I nearly burnt down my parents’ house with mine the first day of 6th grade, and I think it’s better for humanity if I’m never allowed to own one again). Ginevra managed to have wispy pieces fall purposefully over the shaved side of her head and brush the rim of her leopard print glasses. She was soft and hard in equal proportions.

She was just so perfectly European, and it got me thinking about that something European women have that we American women just can’t emulate. If Ginevra and I were to have swapped clothes, makeup and hairstyles right there in the street, nothing would have changed (except that we would have shocked quite a few umbrella-toting tourists). There would still have been something about her that softly chanted EUROPEAN and something about me that screamed AMERICAN.

I think it’s in the way they hold their heads (and cigarettes) and the way they look out at the world through their eyes. Here in Florence, I can spot an American from the other side of a crowded piazza. No matter how they’re dressed or how long they’ve lived in Europe, their American-ness is built into their DNA. It’s the way they walk. It’s also in the way they look at the person they’re talking to: with an intensity, an interest that suggests they might jump out of their eyeballs and eat the other person. I love this about Americans. I love this about myself.

So no matter how many books Americans read about French women not getting fat, and Italian women always having style, we are just different. We can emulate, but we can never be, and that’s fine. Actually, it’s FANTASTIC. With all the world homogenizing into one big Starbucks inside an H&M, it’s nice to know that even if we all carry an iPhone, smoke Marlboro Lights and wear Uggs, we will never all be the same. There will always be a reason to travel and when we do, even if we eat at a McDonald’s and gravitate towards the things we recognize, there will always be something different surrounding us. A “Je ne sais quoi” that we could never have seen at home.

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One Comment

  1. Posted February 22, 2011 at 9:37 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Wonderfully written, enjoyed reading as always. A note: the french phrase is “je ne sais quoi” 🙂

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