Fashion Tips from the French, as Gleaned from an Afternoon on the Paris Metro, Line 7
You are an ageless Parisienne, a thin woman standing opposite the closing doors wearing simply a sleeveless brown cowl neck T-shirt from a label known, also very simply, as Josef. Your dark hair is layered and parted in a delicately uneven and slightly off-center line. You wear flowing black linen pants that go straight to the floor hiding all but the heel and tips of her black shoes.
All is seamlessly sensible save the shoes. The toes come to points so extreme that you could, if you were so inclined, puncture the tire on an illegally parked Citroen. However, you and your shoes remain motionless until you exit at the Galeries Lafayette station. Your perfume, a tropical rain cloud scent, manages to supersede the boiled jockstrap aroma of the metro several stops after you've gone.
Or you are businessman who is talking to himself and wear a marvelous gray suit. Your lavender socks match a lavender shirt with a tie that is a shade only slightly closer to violet than the shirt. You might want to try a lavender kerchief in the pocket, though that might be over-lavenderizing. While you do appear to be talking to yourself, everyone is finally surprised to notice you are in fact talking into a cell phone headset dangling from your ear.
You sit on one of the fold-down seats that you offered to an elderly women, though she declined. You return to carrying on a loud conversation during which you occasionally chuckle toward the ceiling light fixtures. Maybe, there truly is no one on the other end.
Or you're shirtless and are, indeed, the one talking to himself. The only empty chair in the car is the one beside you, so you can sprawl out a bit. Though when you hear the signal for closing of the automatic doors, you spring from your reclining position and grab the door, freezing it momentarily in its trajectory toward shut. You cling for dear life, but make no motion of trying to leave the train.
Sans top, you've got tapered jeans hiked up past the stomach and a Team Pepsi cycling cap with the bill flipped up. You lose the battle with the doors every time and they clack closed, taunting you. You bark curses at these defeats, using a common expression, “bordel de merde.” The doors open once more at the next stop. Whorehouse of shit.
Or you are a strolling musician. You've come aboard in a khaki travel adventure vest and a bushy white mustache both of which match your friend's. You two have hauled in an electronic box secured to a wheeled cart with several go-arounds of packing tape. “Voila, le meilleur super music of the world!” you broadcast, then fiddle with the buttons and mutter opinions in your native Eastern European tongue on why your cohort has now broken the thing. Once you fix it, a Casio keyboard beat plugged into stadium-volume amplifiers wallops passengers who were trying so dearly to pay no attention.
You and your buddy begin to rap. It is not a tune, but beats and rhymes. You dance by shifting weight around in your boots. The words, partially in English, repeat the phrase “Hey, you. You, Mafia.” You cut the air with labored karate chops while dipping and weaving and shrugging your shoulders off-beat. “Oh, mafia!”
Or you are the elderly woman. You advertise a look of supreme revulsion at every inch of the metro. When the businessman offered his place, you refused as a matter of general protest to the abhorrent state of the city's public transit system. At each lurch of the metro, you make elaborate motions to show you've nearly lost your balance.
Your face is bronzed and shines like scrubbed aluminum. You wear a tiger-striped sleeveless blouse and gold lamé pants. Your eyes go from the businessman to the shirtless guy and then, finally, sustained flabbergasted blinking at the two musicians. You breathe with your mouth dropped open at them.
Or you are either an American mother or her teenage daughter. Everyone can see you two are having a fight. As the mother, you have explained you wanted to visit the Clignancourt Flea Market, the one at the end of the line you said already, because someone on a TripAdvisor forum wrote that it was a good place to buy authentic Parisian antiques. As the daughter, you are certain that you're both lost.
As the mother, you wear a silk blouse patterned with Monet waterlilies. As the daughter, it's a cotton tee reading “Jesus Shaves” purchased back home at Urban Outfitters. You both wear matching Capri pants that are too tight. Once you arrive to your destination, you may both be surprised at how tempted you are by the counterfeit Louie Vutton purses.
Or you are the sixteen month-old girl of an American ex-patriot. You clap your hands. As hard as you can, blinking at the impact and producing a sound like a small goldfish flopping on a countertop. You are on the beat with the Mafia song. Better than the musicians. You are, one couldn't deny, on point. There's music rocketing through your little veins.
You're outfitted in a onesie featuring a stitched scene of a blue elephant jumping off the moon. Your nose is running in twin drip tracks, though luckily your stuck-out lower lip is catching most everything. Despite all, you remain on the beat. You don't know you'll be leaving the metro soon, sadly before the end of the song, but you will hope when you do that, if not more music, a jar of pureed pears will be waiting.
Or, let's say, you are the American Ex-patriot. And the American mother and daughter have made you self-conscious. As you listen and try to regionally place their accents, coming to the conclusion of Wisconsin, you become homesick for everything at which you ever rolled your eyes, at all that is in poor taste, brazen and missing the point entirely. You can't believe these two. They're so typical and still you know them not at all. Really, you wouldn't have the foggiest idea what brand of knockoff handbag they may purchase at the flea market.
You are in four-year old Vans, an over-stretched Hanes shirt and jeans from a post-holiday H&M sales rack that bunch in conspicuous rises over your crotch. Your pants always do that. However, you have put away petty concerns. You have places to get to. You are soon home.
About the author:
Nathaniel Missildine lives in France and has just finished his first novel, which is in English. He, however, not long ago completed his first Post-It note written entirely in French. It was something regarding fromage. He has had other work published in Boulevard and at Salon.com.