I am not an enormous souvenier person. I actually tend to buy most of my souveniers in the grocery store, so even though I am a carry on person on the way out, I inevitably have to check my bag on the way back, because I am laden with bottles of olive oil, honey, fancy syrups and jams, whatever. My purchases never stray far from the kitchen. I went to Paris (god, I love saying that, it’s so worth getting ripped off at the currency exchange) last fall, and I even came back with two mini-bottles of champagne in my bag, because I had bought them at the grocery store across from my apartment, and I was too cheap to throw the two I didn’t drink out. I spent the entire (endless) flight worried that they were going to explode in my luggage from the pressure changes in the belly of the plane.
My favorite souvenier, though, is a tiny green tube. It’s a lipstick that I bought on a one-day tour of Tangier, in Morocco, on a day trip from Spain. It’s made of the cheapest green plastic imaginable, and the lipstick inside is BRIGHT GREEN. This is not because Moroccan women have a Kermit the Frog fetish. The lipstick is made of henna, and it reacts with your body chemistry to turn bright fuschia pink. The color, in fact, is slightly reminiscent of what a drag queen might wear. I mean, we’re talking VIVID.
I love it though, even though I almost never wear it (and then the lightest possible application), even though it sits, like a tiny green monolith, on my dressing table. I pick it up and remember that day – riding a camel (briefly), seeing a snake charmer, watching the men in their Arab robes walk with their hands clasped behind their backs, walk in the classic, contemplative manner of the Arab world – was I really that exotic person? Did I really go to AFRICA?
And then I put it back on the table and put on something more subtle. Something that suits my everyday life a little better. But I see it there, in its cheap green plastic finery, winking at me from behind the lip gloss. It whispers to me. You are not so ordinary, it says…
I choose to believe it.