I hate packing for a trip.  I hate packing for a trip almost as much as I hate preparing for a colonoscopy.  It’s not so much the physical act of buttoning, folding, and strategic placement in the suitcase as it is the premeditation.  I don’t know how it is for you men, but for most women with a sizeable wardrobe (and that is most women I know) it is the anguish of decision-making.

There is nothing worse than arriving at your destination with an over-stuffed suitcase and concluding that everything you brought with you makes you look fat!

So – on a recent trip to France I finally got it right.  Two pairs of black pants, three wrinkle-free (more or less) tops in various shades of gray, one jacket, two pairs of shoes (one sensible pair for walking, the other sexy but treacherous to be worn only when taxis are involved), and fourteen scarves.  My philosophy was that it was okay to wear the same outfit three days in a row (provided you were careful with the onion soup), just as long as you topped it with the perfect scarf.  This was Paris after all.  And there is nothing that says French chic so much as a scarf.

French women have it all wrapped up when it comes to scarves.  They could be wearing a pair of jeans from a thrift shop (heaven forbid!), and still look like a fashion spread from Elle.  It’s all about the magic they perform with those pieces of cloth around their necks.  So the question I asked myself was this:  can a Jewish girl from Brooklyn learn to capture some of that je ne sais quoi, that careless but gorgeous look of casual elegance?  Why not? I was once a Girl Scout.  I earned a badge for knot-tying.

With unparalleled dedication, I formulated a plan of total immersion, the Rosetta Stone for neckwear.  For ten days before my trip, I bought and studied every French fashion magazine I could get my hands on.  I watched every video available on Google for instruction in how to tie a scarf.  (Did you know that there were at least forty-seven different techniques?) I learned the difference between the basic loop, the wrap, the twist, the braid, the infinity, the roll, the love knot.  I learned what to do if the scarf had fringes or a border, if it was square or triangular shaped, if it was pashmina or made out of silk.  This was way more than the Girl Scout manual!

I was finally ready to put theory into practice.  Nervously, I stood before my bathroom mirror with my scarves.   I started simply with the modern one loop.  This maneuver requires that you merely lay the scarf over your shoulders and wrap it once around your neck.  Forty-five minutes later I finally figured out how to make sure the two ends come out even.  This was disheartening.  How long would it take me when I reached the doctoral level and tried the Bunny Ears or the Double Rainbow? At this rate, I would miss my plane.

By the time my day of departure arrived, my confidence level had definitely improved.  I now had the ability to create a look with my neckwear that did not by default resemble a tallis (for those of you who don’t recognize this word, it is your basic Jewish pray shawl), or appear that I was attempting suicide by strangulation.  I would not stand out as an American tourist when I hit the streets of Paris, but stride around with the same air of insouciance as a competent Frenchwoman, with my jacket open and my neck artfully wrapped.

You will be happy to know that for the duration of my stay, all went well.  Each day I wore a different scarf and became more daring as my knot-tying became more and more complicated.  So what if it reached eighty degrees and I was sweating profusely? One must maintain a fashion-first attitude.

Did I say all went well for the duration of my stay? Well, that’s true if you don’t count the incident at the airport on the day I left the City of Lights.  That morning I had reached the pinnacle of my efforts and succeeded at one last attempt of the most intricate of all scarf-tying patterns in my tutorial – the double roll loop love knot with French braid.   Feeling mighty pleased with myself, I took one last haughty stroll around the block before heading to the airport.

You are familiar with the security procedure that requires the removal of outerwear:  jackets, and of course, scarves?  So complicated was this particular pattern that I have to admit I was somewhat less than efficient in undoing it.   Although I didn’t understand what they were saying, I think I earned the admiration of the two security guards who were sent to help extricate me from my scarf.  On the other hand, the growing line of angry people behind me, cursing in many different languages, and concerned only with getting to their gates on time, clearly had no appreciation for what I had accomplished.

P.S.  If you want to try your luck, I suggest you watch this adorable video.  Go to Youtube.com and type in “25 Ways To Wear A Scarf In 4.5 Minutes.”  Let me know how you did.

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