The Displaced Nation

A home for international creatives

Tag Archives: Cleopatra

CLEOPATRA FOR A DAY: Fashion & beauty diary of expat Helena Halme

Today we introduce a new feature: “Cleopatra for a Day.” Displaced citizens open their little black books and spill the fashion and beauty secrets they’ve collected on their travels. First up is Helena Halme. One of TDN’s Random Nomads, Halme is a Finnish expat in London and a self-professed fashion maven.


When my husband (“The Englishman”) and I did a house-swap in Los Angeles in the nineties, I discovered Origins, then a skin care range that wasn’t universally available here in the UK. Anything close to nature was an upcoming trend, and the Origins shops in LA looked quite revolutionary — all wooden flooring and straw shopping baskets. I still use a lot of Origins products and couldn’t live without their foot cream, Reinventing the Heel.

Some time ago, an English friend recommended that I try Elizabeth Arden’s Eight Hour cream — I couldn’t live without it now. If I’d ever end up on a desert island, this would be the one luxury item I’d crave for.


When I’d only lived in the UK for a matter of months, I cut my hair very, very short. The Englishman was away at sea and when he came back he was quite shocked to see my blonde locks all gone. But, gentleman that he is, he told me the new style suited me. (I’m not so sure it did!) Much more recently, I’ve discovered the the Brazilian blow dry, a luxurious treatment that makes my thick Nordic locks gleam. I feel like a film star!


A few years ago on an annual girls’ trip with my school friends, this time to Rome, I bought a long down coat which has been my winter staple ever since. It was weird shopping for warm winter wear in the humid late summer heat in Rome, but it was great to have the style advice of good friends. I understand that the Displaced Nation has been been debating whether down coats can be fashionable. I’d be curious to hear your verdict on my Roman find!


I seem to always run out of underwear when on holiday, so I have bought some in Rome, New York, Stockholm, Seville… Now what I bought — that would be telling!


When on holiday in Puglia, Italy, a few years ago, I bought a set of plastic beads. I love them so much I still wear them. They’re a wonderful color that goes with everything.


Crickey! It’s a miserably cold and rainy Sunday here in London so I’m in my favorite beige-colored Uniqlo jeans, an All Saints double layer t-shirt (bought at their London store in Spitalfields) and my blonde cashmere poncho from Plum. Underwear is Marks and Spencer (it is the one and only store for underwear for me) and there are warm & cozy Ugg boots on my feet.


There are two magazines I cannot live without: Vogue and Grazia. Vogue is for trying to keep up to date with high fashion, Grazia for street style and gossip. I’m also an avid follower and reader of blogs. My favorites are:


I don’t really have style icons — I believe that style is a very individual thing; but one person who I really admire is Helena Bonham-Carter. She used to come into the bookshop I worked at in North London and always looked wonderful, in her extremely unique way. However, I could not pull off her style.


Two great places to people watch are Selfridges on Oxford Street and Liberty’s on Regent Street. There are lovely cafes in both stores where you can sip your latte and feel as though you’re on the front row of a Mulberry or McQueen show.


1) When on holiday to Greece, I learned to try saving my fair skin from burning through the application of sunscreen and after-sun moisturizer.
2) From watching French and Italian women on my trips to Paris or Rome, I learned about how to use a splash of color when wearing neutrals.
3) From my trips to New York I learned about simple lines, neat tailoring, and the chicness of one color (black) or two (eg, beige turtleneck with black trouser suit) — as perfected by designers like Michael Kors, Donna Karan and Ralph Lauren.

Helena Halme blogs at Helena’s London Life and tweets at @HelenaHalme. She will soon be releasing a digital book based on a popular series of her posts, “How I came to be in England,” entitled The Englishman.

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s post, a male perspective on how to travel and look good.

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to register for The Displaced Dispatch, a round up of weekly posts from The Displaced Nation, with seasonal recipes, book giveaways and other extras. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

Related posts:

Images: (clockwise beginning with main photo) Helena Halme modeling her Italian down coat in Harrod’s food hall; posing with The Englishman in Italy, just after picking up the beloved beaded necklace; showing off her hair after a Brazilian blow dry in London; staying warm and stylish in London in her blonde cashmere poncho, just a few days ago.

Dear Mary-Sue: Fashion tips for the hapless traveler

Mary-Sue Wallace, The Displaced Nation’s agony aunt, is back. Her thoughtful advice eases and soothes any cross-cultural quandary or travel-related confusion you may have. Tulsa’s answer to Donatella Versace this month she shares her sartorial expertise. Submit your questions and comments here, or else by emailing her at

Happy March to all you Mary-Suers!! Spring is almost here and in the paradise on earth otherwise known Tulsa the sky is blue, the birds are singing and ABC have debuted GCB. Yes, life is sweet – I’ve even made it a little sweeter by making myself a nice pitcher of iced tea while I sit down on the patio and read through the Tulsa Herald to see if there are any interesting yard or estate sales in town this weekend. Anyhoo on with this month’s theme which is fashion – something little ol’ Mary-Sue knows a thing or two about.


Dear Mary-Sue,

I’m a serial expat and just now moved to Canada from Mexico. Everyone tells met that sooner or later, I’ll have to invest in one of those ugly puffy coats that make everyone look like the Michelin Man, so as to survive the winters. Can you think of any alternative, or some way to jazz up the look?

Tatiana from Toronto

Dear Tatiana from Toronto,

The first thing you’ll discover is that the wind chill factor is a PAIN!!! Even though some days it’s going to seem clear and crisp, it is going to be FREEZING. When it’s like this, you’re going to have to weigh up which is more important to you – snugness or elegance, drabness or hypothermia.

I’ll let you in on a Mary-Sue Wallace tip, when I go on my annual Reykjavik the first thing that I pack is my alpaca hat. I got it from my cousin, Mary-Ann Banville, who lives in California and owns an alpaca farm out there. Well, she makes great hats and sweaters from the alpaca wool – she also grows great avocados as well. Anyhoo, I make sure I’ve got my alpaca hat with me – in fact, I make sure I have it whenever I go north of the 49th parallel. Hubby Jake says it makes me look like a smurf, but he’s no Brian Williams in the looks department and I’m sure you’d look darling in one.

The other thing that you need to do is earn the art of layering. Indulge in some nice autumnal colors, invest in an attractive overcoat and some lovely scarves.


Dear Mary-Sue,

I’ve just now moved to Los Angeles from the UK, and I notice that everyone here has straight white teeth. Mine are the usual tea-stained crooked ones that English people have, so I’m feeling very self-conscious. Would you recommend that I get adult braces?

Lily from Lancaster

Dear Lily,

You’re in LA, first things first, get your cheeks, nose and boobies done first, then you can move onto the teeth.


Dear Mary-Sue,

I’ve been in Taiwan teaching English for about a year, and I can’t get over how spoiled the dogs here are. Each of them has several little outfits. I know I should be tolerant of other cultures, but I can’t help but think it’s a ridiculous and wasteful custom. Wouldn’t you agree?

Sally from Seattle

Oh Sally,

I know you’re from Seattle and jaded by caffeine and hipsterdom, but get over yourself girl! Would it help if you viewed it all ironically?

My dachshund, Eudora Welty, has a cute little burberry coat. Yes, you’re probably rolling your eyes Sally, try to enjoy life a little more. This is why me and my girlfriends, Sondra and Tilly, are going to Krakow this summer. I’ll be sure to post a picture of Eudora in her Joan of Arc costume up on here.


Anyhoo, that’s all from me readers. I’m so keen to hear about your cultural issues and all your juicy problems. Do drop me a line with any problems you have, or if you want to talk smack about Delilah Rene.

Mary-Sue is a retired travel agent who lives in Tulsa with her husband Jake. If you have any questions that you would like Mary-Sue to answer, you can contact her at, or by adding to the comments below.

STAY TUNED for Monday’s post.

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to register for The Displaced Dispatch, a round up of weekly posts from The Displaced Nation, with seasonal recipes, book giveaways and other extras. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

Related posts:


RANDOM NOMAD: Lei Lei Clavey, Australian Expat in New York

Place of birth: Melbourne, Australia
Passport: Australia + USA
Overseas travel history: France (Paris): 2005; USA (Santa Barbara, California): 2008-09; USA (New York, New York): May 2011 – present.
Current occupation: Casting director for StyleLikeU, an online fashion magazine based in New York City.
Cyberspace coordinates: Style Like U | Freedom of expression through personal style (work) and @LeiLeiClavey (Twitter handle)

What made you leave your homeland in the first place?
I’ve had the travel bug for as long as I can remember. A lot of it came from my parents, who took me around the world shortly after I was born. The excitement of being in a different country, immersed in a new culture and environment — it’s something I now crave.

Of course, travel is one thing; living in a place for an extended period is another. To make a home amongst strangers takes you out of your comfort zone and tests your courage in new ways. I enjoy the challenge. I always learn new things about myself as I open my eyes to different people, perspectives, and ways of life.

Was anyone else in your family “displaced”?
My father is what you might call permanently displaced. Born in Chicago, he attended Colorado State University and then left the US to live in Taiwan and study Chinese language and herbal medicine. Taiwan was where he met my mother, who was likewise displaced (she is Chinese Australian). My parents lived in Taipei for five years and then moved to Mainland China for two more years before settling permanently in Melbourne, Australia, where my mother was born and grew up — my father now practices there as a Chinese herbal doctor. (Incidentally, The Displaced Nation interviewed my mother, whose name is Gabrielle Wang, last summer about a book she had written on a half-Chinese, half-Aborigine girl who lived in 19th-century Australia.)

A couple of my cousins share my passion for travel and have recently embarked on an adventure in the UK, where many Australians choose to live (the two-year work visa for Australians under 25 is a relatively straightforward process).

Another of my cousins recently shaved her head and embarked on a solo, life-changing adventure in India. I have yet to hear her tales firsthand. All I know is that she has more guts than I ever will to have done that by herself.

Describe the moment when you felt most displaced since making your home in New York City.
I don’t believe anything could surpass how I felt on my first night in New York City. Before leaving Australia I had arranged to stay with a friend of a friend for a month. He told me: “When you arrive, come to 10th, between A and B, and up to the third floor.” A and B: what country uses letters as street names? Surely they must be abbreviations for something!

It was close to midnight by the time I arrived at East 10th Street between Avenue A and Avenue B (thank you, taxi driver, for clearing that up!).

But then I had another challenge. I was exhausted and ready to collapse after my 22-hour plane flight from Melbourne to LA and another five hours to New York City. After dragging my 32kg (70lbs) suitcase up three flights of stairs — yes, it was a walk-up! — bed was the only thing I had in mind. I knocked and waited. No answer. I knocked again. Still no answer. I sat on my suitcase and was feeling very sorry for myself, wondering why I had ever decided to move to NYC, when three young men walked up the stairs. They were surprised and a little bemused to see me sitting outside the door to their apartment. After exchanging glances, they informed me that I was on the 4th floor, not the 3rd. (In the US there is no such thing as a “ground floor” like we have in Australia. The ground floor is the first floor.) So I struggled my way back down one flight of stairs and walked into an artist’s hazy East Village apartment.

People, music and smoke filled the room. It was community open-mic night, held weekly in this man’s apartment in exchange for rent (a great deal, I now realize!). The owner was asleep on the couch, despite the noise of someone playing the Asian zither.

My eyes scanned the audience, and then I saw Will, the friend of my friend. I could finally relax.

I had entered an alternative universe, an environment utterly foreign to me. But I knew at that moment, my New York adventure had begun and my life would be changed forever.

How about the moment when you have felt least displaced?
When I first came to New York City as a tourist, in 2008, it was as if I had lived here before, perhaps in a past life. I loved the city’s multicultural feeling. So many different faces, cultures and languages — I immediately felt at home. Since coming to live in the city ten months ago, I will occasionally bump into the few people I know in the street. That this can happen even in a city of over eight million gives me a buzz.

You may bring one curiosity you’ve collected from each of your adopted countries into The Displaced Nation. What’s in your suitcase?
From Paris: The 2-hour lunch break. Unlike Parisians, New Yorkers work too hard and I believe with no better results than if they were to have a decent break, get refreshed and go back to work. Australia, unfortunately, is following in America’s footsteps. Surely, citizens of The Displaced Nation could enjoy a reasonable work-life balance?
From New York City: The concept of convenience. For most New Yorkers, it is only a short walk to the grocery store, bank or coffee shop. In fact, I have all three on my block — I love it! On the other hand, New Yorkers like to push those convenience boundaries and have EVERYTHING delivered. Convenience has never been so lazy! The Displaced Nation should find a way to have convenience without the laziness.
From Santa Barbara: The practice of recycling. Santa Barbara does a great job of keeping the University of California-Santa Barbara campus, city streets and beaches clean. They understand the need for it and how trash impacts the environment. I cannot stand how dirty the streets are in New York City. I would therefore urge The Displaced Nation to institute Californian-style recycling policies (if you haven’t already!).

You are invited to prepare one meal based on your travels for other members of The Displaced Nation. What’s on your menu?

My menu is inspired by New York City brunches*. I always crave a nice weekend brunch when I fly back to Australia on holiday!
Appetizer: Shrimp and grits, based on a recipe from Peels** with two (allegedly) secret ingredients: a little Budweiser and a lot of tasso, a Cajun-spiced ham.
Main: Fried chicken sandwich, with chilli lime aioli & pickled egg on sweet-potato focaccia with hand-cut fries — based on a recipe from Diner in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Dessert: Chocolate sundae consisting of vanilla and malt ice cream, hot fudge, whipped cream, brownie bites, nuts, and pretzels — based on a Peels** recipe.
Drinks: Traditional Bloody Mary, a solid brunch favorite!
*This is an imaginary meal so ignore the high calorie count and just enjoy it!
**Peels is an American diner with a Southern-inspired menu in NYC’s East Village. I used to host there.

And now you may add a word or expression from the country where you live in to The Displaced Nation argot. What will you loan us?
From New York: Debbie Downer, slang for someone who frequently adds bad news and negative feelings to a gathering, thereby bringing down the mood of everyone around them. I hear it being said all the time in the streets of New York. (It was also the name of a fictional character from Saturday Night Live.)
From Paris: La ziqmu/la ziq (music) — an example of verlan, which, similar to Pig Latin, transposes syllables of individual words (la musique) to create slang words (la ziqmu, often shortened to la ziq). Verlan combinations are endless and have become a part of everyday French, especially for younger people.

This month we are looking into beauty and fashion. What’s the best beauty treatment you’ve discovered while abroad?
New Yorkers are crazy about spa treatments, facials, massages, manicures and pedicures. It seems to be everyone’s de-stressing fix, and I have to agree there’s something very relaxing about someone picking dead skin off your feet. Last September, on the weekend when Hurricane Irene was threatening to hit NYC, can you believe that the places that were most packed out were the nail salons? (Besides liquor stores and bars, that is.) There are also speciality barber shops for men in New York. Australian men, take heed! Men in this city have no shame in caring about their looks as much as women do: they see it as a masculine thing.

What about fashion — can you tell us about any beloved outfits, jewelry, or other accessories you’ve collected in your adopted country or countries?
Living in New York and working at an online fashion magazine, I’ve been exposed to the the cutting edge of weird and wonderful styles. Really anything goes, unlike in Australia! No matter how far-out the boundary you feel you are pushing, someone else will always out-do you. I love that! The city has inspired me to accessorize more: to jazz up an otherwise regular outfit with hats, statement jewelry and/or shoes. Also, New York is a walking city, so clothing also has to be practical — a hat to keep your head warm in winter or the sun off your face in summer, and shoes you can actually walk in (more than cab-to-curb, that is!).

Readers — yay or nay for letting Lei Lei Clavey into The Displaced Nation? Tell us your reasons. (Note: It’s fine to vote “nay” as long as you couch your reasoning in terms we all — including Lei Lei — find amusing.)

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s installment from our displaced fictional heroine, Libby. (What, not keeping up with Libby? Read the first three episodes of her expat adventures.)

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to register for The Displaced Dispatch, a round up of weekly posts from The Displaced Nation, with seasonal recipes, book giveaways and other extras. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

Related posts:

img: Lei Lei Clavey outside a favorite coffee shop of hers in the East Village, New York City.

THE DISPLACED Q: What fashion souvenirs find their way into your rucksack? (Or: Fashion for the Illiterati)

So one of this month’s themes is… Fashion!

I don’t know much about fashion – at all in fact! That’s one of the main reasons I emigrated to Australia, where there are exactly two options for guys; shorts and a vest top,  or a sleeveless t-shirt and ‘boardies’. (And yes, for those of you who don’t get the lingo – those are the same outfit.

However, I do travel with clothes – even if I don’t get to wear very many of them. I’ve got a few key ‘essentials’ that I never leave home without. Not because America’s Next Top Model instructed me to always have them with me in case of an emergency photo shoot (though this does factor heavily in my decision about what make-up to carry), but for one particular reason: they are my souvenirs.

Souvenirs should be useful…

Some people collect magnets. My sister had a thing for sew-on patches once; she bought one in every city and tourist attraction she visited. She filled two bed sheets with the things. The only problem, from my perspective, was this: I travel more or less constantly. While it would be great to tuck myself into bed each night with all the mementos of my travels, it just isn’t practical to carry something like that around. The same  goes for magnets – much as I wish my rucksack was a fridge (and ideally was well stocked with bottles of crisp English cider), it isn’t. I’ve never even owned a fridge. (That was my call for sympathy! What, no takers? Ah well.)

What I mean is, if you want to carry your souvenirs with you as you travel, they really have to earn their place in your rucksack. This is why I chose clothing as the ideal collectible! It’s useful – well, perhaps the grass skirts from Bali have fairly limited potential, but the rest is pretty handy; it’s light; and I’d have to have a bag full of clothes with me anyway. Might as well give them some significance.

…and tell a story

So whenever I go out I can usually tell a fistful of travel stories based solely on what I’m wearing. Jeans from Thailand – cost less than a loaf of bread in Australia, but as I’m a bit bigger than the average Thai, they’re tight in some… interesting places.

I have a technical t-shirt, one of those expensive trekking type ones – only this one is covered in sponsor’s logos. I was given it as a thank-you by the organisers of the very first ‘Rat Race’ – an adventure race in England, where teams of contestants run, canoe, bike, climb and problem solve their way around a major UK city each year. I didn’t compete in the Rat Race, because I have no friends. (Ahhhh…! No?) But I DID dress up in a giant fur rat suit – and roller-skates – and skated around Bristol city centre for a week, trying to draw attention to the race. Oh, and I did a bungee jump in the same outfit (but that was an accident and was entirely due to the cavernous size of my mouth). I LOVE that t-shirt – I wear to the gym at least once a week, and every time I put it on I remember that bungee jump. Even the memory of it loosens my bowels.

…and keep you toasty in Australian summers

I have a fleece jacket I ‘forgot’ to return after finishing my contract as a ski lift operator in New Zealand – while I was working there I wore four complete layers, and this was one of the middle ones. It is so warm that at any altitude less than a thousand meters I can only wear it for a few minutes, before I start to leak profusely from every part of my body. I have it with me now, but it doesn’t come out of the bag much – it’s 39 degrees centigrade here in Perth at the moment – that’s 102 F!

…and repel killer insects.

I also have a bright red Gore-Tex jacket which I got in England – no, wait! There’s a story, I promise! See, I bought one similar just before setting off on my first Grand Voyage Around The World™. You know – the one where I only got as far as France.  The jacket had been a birthday present, but I’d never needed it to repel water – just insects. One fine afternoon, hiking without direction or purpose, I sat on a strange wooden structure to take a rest.

Now, in hindsight, any strange wooden structure in the middle of a field is bound to be a beehive – but I was young and… stupid. Okay, stupider.

The bees swarmed to the attack and I fled across the field – to safety, I thought. One tenacious little devil wasn’t giving up though. He dived at me as I tried to climb the stone boundary wall. For the first time in my life I was faster than something – I lashed out with the Gore-tex jacket, catching the bee mid-air and dashing him against the wall. Two things died in that moment; my insect assailant, and my jacket. The zipper hit the stone wall squarely and disintegrated, leaving me with a 100% waterproof jacket that was impossible to fasten. Which meant that when the inevitable downpour came a day later, I got soaked in a wide stripe from neck to navel. I gave up and went home soon afterwards; not because of the jacket, but because I was terrified of being locked in a prune furnace and roasted alive by my boss, a plum farmer in Bordeaux (long story).

I put in an insurance claim for the jacket, saying it had been damaged in transit, then I returned it to the shop as defective. Between the store credit and the insurance pay-out I was able to buy a much better jacket – and I carry it with me to this day. In the last ten years I have never once tried to use it to kill anything – I’ve learnt my Karmic lesson!

What’s your traveling fashion story?

So, this is where I open the floor to you lovely people!
Have you got a favourite bit of clothing you travel with?
A special shirt you can’t leave home without?
Or a bit of gear with a story behind it…? Share, please, we’d love to hear about it!
You know the drill – do it in the comments  :0)

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to register for The Displaced Dispatch, a round up of weekly posts from The Displaced Nation, with seasonal recipes, book giveaways and other extras. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

Related posts:

Img: Traditional Australian dress, as modeled by Tony James Slater

6 beauty and fashion lessons for world travelers, by Cleopatra

It’s March, and fashion and beauty have arrived at The Displaced Nation. To help us introduce the new theme, may we present the Queen of the Nile, Isis Personified, Cleopatra VII Philopator, who has agreed to impart some travel-oriented beauty and fashion advice.

Greetings, my subjects — for I cannot help but think of you that way, having lived my entire life as Queen of the Nile.

Meantime, I understand that the descendents of those who were once my subjects are fighting for democracy. How times have changed.

Or have they?

As for me, I’m stretching the limits of my tolerance for democracy by addressing you in a tongue full of Latinate words — Latin of course being the language of many of your, and my own nation’s, conquerors.

Still, at least I conquered two of their warlords, Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, with my not inconsiderable charms. The former restored me to my throne, while the latter joined me in fighting off the Romans.

The details of my affair with Antony are well known thanks to the efforts of your foremost literary genius, William Shakespeare. (In more recent times, there was that film starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton — verbose, muddled, lumbering, lacking in style and, worst of all, not even entertaining! Still, I get some consolation from knowing that it nearly bankrupted the film studio that tried so hard to undermine my reputation.)

But enough about me. I am here today to focus on the needs of my supplicants. The powers-that-be at The Displaced Nation have informed me that you’re all world travelers, just as I was — having traveled twice to Rome during my reign. But, unlike me, you don’t take the matter of your appearance seriously enough.

Well, never fear, Mother Isis is here, friend of slaves, sinners, artisans and the downtrodden — which, as I can see from a quick glance around, is how some of you have chosen to present yourselves to the world. I will now impart six key lessons on beauty, clothing and comportment, which have stood the test of millennia…

1) Outward appearances count, especially when visiting other cultures.

Can it be true that some of you would venture into other countries unshaven, unkempt and unwashed? I can only assume that this is not by choice but rather the lack of a servant/travel companion to look after you. (For what would I have done without my Iras?)

To be welcomed with open arms, allow ample time for grooming. Your initial appearance will inspire wonder and awe rather than revulsion.

This lesson also applies, by the way, to you men out there: do you think I, a goddess personified, would have taken Mark Anthony into my bed had he arrived in Alexandria looking like a homeless person?

2) Become an ambassador for your home nation’s styles.

Though it has taken more than a millennium for their fashions to evolve, Italy is now a fashion leader. Well, how do you think that came about? When summoned to Rome in 46 BC, I dazzled everyone with the latest Egyptian designs, both clothing and accessories. Alexandria was at that time the fashion center of the world, and I saw myself as a conduit. (Even when the time came to take my own life, I made sure the asps on my breast were artfully arranged, in my belief that it’s important to die as one has lived — with style.)

3) Study the women of other nations for their beauty and fashion secrets.

Imagine the excitement of female travelers to Egypt upon discovering that with the help of a bit of pigment, they could enhance their eyes — for I knew about smokey eyes long before most, and had taken them to another level. As for me, though I benefited very little from studying Roman ladies — togas aren’t exactly seductive (Fulvia looked particularly dumpy in hers!) — the experience was useful in that it taught me a lesson in what not wear.

4) Beauty on its own is never enough; cultivate a little something extra.

My own “little something” was wit, charm, multiple languages and a musical voice. What’s yours — telling cross-cultural jokes, spinning travel yarns, holding forth on issues of the importance to our planet? Glamming up is fine, but hardly sufficient.

5) On that same note, never be afraid to project an aura of mystery.

Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale
Her infinite variety: other women cloy
The appetites they feed: but she makes hungry
Where most she satisfies; for vilest things
Become themselves in her: that the holy priests
Bless her when she is riggish.

— Antony and Cleopatra, by William Shakespeare (1606)

I’ve watched for two thousand years as artists and writers have tried to capture my allure — watched, and laughed, because they never quite grasped it. The latest to try is Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Stacy Schiff. She had a good go, but even she, with her formidable intellect, didn’t fully get what you today might call my “attitude problem.” Why do we always have to tell others what we think? Why do we have to be consistent? In my — rather wide-ranging — experience, a little artifice never hurt anyone, and the plea for straightforward cross-cultural communications is vastly overdone.

6) Pearls are a girl’s best friend.

I once possessed the most valuable pearls in the world, worth a villa each — and ended up swallowing one of them in order to win a bet, after first dissolving it in a glass of vinegar. What a hoot that was! I’ve been told that one of your more famous sex goddesses had the same to say but about diamonds. That was a woman after Isis’s own heart: smarter than she looks! As a global nomad, you never know what kind of predicament you might be in, and jewels have the advantage of being edible as well as portable.

* * *

Thank you, Cleopatra. Readers, any questions or comments for the Egyptian queen before she turns back into a golden statue?


%d bloggers like this: