Campiello's on Third Street in Naples, Florida, is a favorite place for Naples Ladies to lunch. On this sunny Thursday in October, there are already several NL's sipping Bellini's and spreading delicate dabs of homemade butter on warm Italian herb bread. While waiting on the arrival of their Pecan Roasted Chicken Salad, they lean in closer to their companions to discuss the latest exploits of their friend's errant husbands, or the abominal scores of The Club tennis team. A perfectly manicured, diamond encrusted hand might be placed gently on the forearm of their companion, when the news about Susan and Geoffrey's son - "I heard he was actually living with another man!" - is delivered. This same hand will then gently brush aside a strand of blond hair, highlighted to perfection and maintained in touch up sessions by Robert's weekly visits to their home. The Naples Ladies are a character unto themselves, the epitome of old style Florida riche. They wear St. John suits year round, drive top of the line Jaguar, BMW, and (for the younger set) Lexus convertibles. Their studiously applied makeup accentuates skin deeply tanned and lined by the Florida sun, basked in during long hours on the golf course, tennis court, or lounging by the pool. Their platinum jewelry is from Tiffany's or Cartier, and tastefully adorns neck, ears, wrists, and fingers, stoping just short of being ostentatious. They have a regal bearing, as befits their place in the upper echelon of Florida society, and when they enter the patio of this very upscale restautant, your eye can't help but gravitate toward them.
On the outside, these women are a perfect package, complete in the most minute detail from head to toe. But everytime I see them, I observe an emptiness within, a lack that all the expensive trappings of the rich woman's lifestyle cannot deny. I think it's the messiness of life that makes it so interesting - I can't imagine these women crawling on the floor playing games of hide and seek with their children (or dogs!), or joining them to create bright fingerpaintings. Or sharing bottles of cheap wine with a friend while crying over a favorite movie. It's hard being perfect all the time, and the faces of the Naples Ladies reflect the effort it takes to portray this facade.
Whenever I'm in Naples, I eat lunch at Campiello's. I'm no Naples Lady - I'm just a messy, menopausal mom from Michigan - but I have a feeling there are many ways in which my life is a whole lot richer.
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