Red Stilettos

     The women really do wear red stiletto heels with tight blue jeans and big hoop earrings, with a cigarette in hand. Red lipstick and long nails, bulky jewelry, big purses strapped over their shoulders. I feel like I am in a Danny DeVito movie that takes place in Queens in the 80’s.
     The men, however, are the ones who look even more different. They don’t even look like they are from Queens or the Bronx’s Little Italy. They look foreign. I know I’m the one who is a foreigner, but still, I cannot help but think, These men are from a totally different gene pool. They are short, almost bald, dark skinned with long, crooked noses. Their eyes are narrow and cheekbones pronounced. Their bodily stature is entirely different from that of American men–broad, hunched shoulders, little bitty waists and legs, feet slightly turned out. Isn’t that interesting, that they all have turned out feet, like Mary Poppins? And when they walk, they bounce, like John Travolta. This is in contrast to the American man who is tall and lanky, or the one who is stout and waddles when he walks. Italian men are neither lanky nor do they ever, ever waddle. They may scuffle or shuffle. They may limp if advanced in years. But as it turns out, only Americans waddle. I have relatives back home in the U.S. who are quite fit and healthy, and they still waddle. Not so, Italian men.
     The Italian man is usually wearing tight jeans or else European trousers. He never wears Khakis. He wears a shirt with a collar and dons a scarf around his neck. It could be a silk or rayon one tied in the front when he is going to take care of some business. It could be a wool one wrapped around his neck few times, worn over his short-sleeved polo. And he smokes. His eyes and skin show it, his mouth and voice show it. And of course, the lit cigarette in his hand shows it.
     How similar at first glance, compared to the difference between Americans and Saudis or Nigerians. And yet how incredibly different.