On Milan

Milan is one of the great fashion capitals of the world. And while it may not be immune to America’s sloppy athleisure, Milan sure is putting up a fight. Instead of pajama-comfy cotton-spandex, people dress in wool, tweed, and lots and lots of leather.

Milan discovered that sex sells and hasn’t strayed from that strategy. Everything is in-your-face sexy. The airport is plated in fashion ads that could be soft porn. Underneath a wool blazer, a seemingly ordinary woman wears a sheer black top, her brazen black bra not underwear but part of the outfit. 

In Milan, sex is a given. It’s casual, really. Like the casualness of the focaccia you expect to be dry and forgettable like any other focaccia you’ve ever had, except that it’s lightly fried in the olive oil that should be reserved for the gods, and you realize that you’ve never had focaccia before in your life; you’ve had margarine thinking it’s butter.

Maybe everything must exude sexuality in order to compete with the food, which is orgasmic. Even the way people walk is sexy. The men walk boldly, their upper arms leading their strides with bravado, their motorcycle jacket-clad bodies angled forward. “Get out of my way,” their stride says. Are they going off to defend their family’s name, or to pick up some prosciutto?

Meanwhile, the women strut as if on catwalk, their bodies swaying from proudly held heads, their arms curling back and forth with seductive grace. The walk is equally off-putting and enticing, a dare: “Go away… or follow?”

I imitate the women’s walk, laughing at how ridiculous I feel. But when I return to my normal, sheepish stride, I feel equally alien. How have I settled for this sorry way of moving; is it any less fantasy?

Permeating the city is an undertone of death. The city itself is ancient, its streets peppered with Roman ruins. In such an old city, I can’t help but be reminded that I’m a minor character, yet another human fleeing fear and chasing desire. Perhaps the obviousness of life’s fleetingness drives Milan’s lust for life.

My days are punctuated with espressos and men calling me “Bella.” Milan seems to have not gotten the memo about light roast or culture wars, and I don’t mind. I walk the city in a caffeine-induced mania, wondering why not live life with more beauty, more sensuality, more prescience of death? And certainly—certainly—more fluffy, olive oiled focaccia.