Packing for a week's travel used to send me in such a tailspin. But I thought I'd finally grown up and gotten over that little anxiety. Frankly, I assumed, since I have now lived in chic, glamorous Paris for a grand total of 18 months, that packing for Beirut would be a no-brainer. My hostess reminded me before departure that it was still pretty summery here, and suggested that I would need some LBDs (translation for the menfolk: Little Black Dresses) for the nightlife and khakis or nice pants for daytime. No problemo. Beirut, a mere four-hour flight from Paris, couldn't be all that different, right?
But somehow, having not seen hot sunny weather for over a year in Paris (except the warm and glorious month of April) I kinda forgot what hot truly is. Canicule of July 2006? Can't seem to conjure it up. Honestly. Beirut is still in glorious summertime, a season I'd all but forgotten this year.
I don't know what possessed me, but I packed some early fall clothes, thin silk long sleeved tops, silk pants, nice shoes. When Beirut dresses up, it's dressy. I happily obliged -- but for a Beirut winter, not September. Oops.
Just about everything I packed was wrong. It wasn't my hostess's fault. I just processed the information through my skewed Paris filter and screwed up completely.
For example. The LBD? Well, I have no choice but to wear it tonight to a formal dinner. But it's wool crepe. The evening temperature here is easily still in the 80s and -- duh-- we're right on the Mediterranean, so humidity is a way of life. What was I thinking? I'll have to glisten sweetly all evening.
I left my casual jeans at home, thinking that Beirut was too dressy for faded black denim. How do I mess up? Let me count the ways. So I found myself wearing microfiber khaki lookalikes while hiking up and down the ruins of Baalbek, Byblos, and Tyre. As in microfiber that is thin but doesn't wrinkle -- or breathe. Works kind of like those plastic sweat suits for losing water weight.
"Oh, and if it's really hot," I thought while tossing too many inappropriate clothes into my suitcase last week, "I'll wear a few debardeurs to keep cool." Non, non, non! Of course it is not respectful in many public places in Lebanon for women's shoulders to be bared. I had known that, and had assumed I would remedy that faux pas by wrapping a shawl around them when necessary. Ix-nay. How much do YOU feel like swaddling yourself in a Pashmina when you've already got beads of sweat combining to create a constant rivulet between your shoulder blades? I think not.
Now I'm packing to return to Paris. You'll be able to spot me at Charles de Gaulle tomorrow. I'll be the fashion disaster arriving in Terminal 2.