I hope that if I am a very good person I will be reborn as a Parisian. Seriously though, how does anyone get anything done in that city? If I was living there I would be too busy choosing my next outfit or kissing the beautiful, beautiful French men to do normal, mundane things like holding down a job or filing my taxes. My girl-crush began about a year ago when I started reading travel accounts, parenting and fashion guides by those lucky enough to call Paris their home. I’ve assigned the place a gender because I imagine her as a tall, willowy woman who does not give anyone the time of day. When we bought our tickets to visit, I told Andrew that my obsession with French culture had come full circle and that I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. I know that when you like and want someone so much, it always ends badly. Surprisingly my expectations were not shattered and I fell even harder. As if that’s even possible. I’ve put off writing this post for a long time because I find it difficult to articulate my affection for a place that mostly makes me see feelings and colours. So here is my attempt to express my love for a city where I will never ever belong.
The care and consideration that the French assign to their food is inspiring. It’s not just their emphasis on eating fresh, locally grown products but also in their practice of consumption. Many Parisians are trying to maintain a healthy weight because really, their exceptionally cut clothes would not fall the same way otherwise. As a result their portions are smaller but very flavourful. It’s as if they know that the first taste is the most enjoyable and what remains on your plate is filler. By introducing various dishes to their palate throughout the course of a meal, the process becomes much more of a sacred ritual, rather than to fulfill the caloric intake for the day. And surprisingly for someone whose weakness lies in sweets and pastries I did not eat them every hour. Perhaps it was because it was plentiful and ever-present, they became almost banal and I did not desire it as much.
Their relationship to material and sartorial cultures is equally as meticulous. Much of the clothing in Paris is fairly expensive, with sales only occurring a few times a year, so I wondered how there were still so many well-dressed individuals on the street. It’s because they do not take trends at face-value but rather invest in good-quality but classic pieces that plays on their strengths. This also goes hand in hand with being within a certain weight range because you cannot buy a new wardrobe annually. I’m pretty sure that you would go bankrupt. There also seems to be a social expectation to be well-groomed when entering society, not just to respect those around you but yourself.
Having produced some of the most influential theorists like Foucault, De Beauvoir, Derrida and Bourdieu engagement with the cultural and social milieu is encouraged. Now here comes my problem with Paris, one that I hope to address prior to returning to live there for an extended period of time. You need the language to even stand a chance. Every account I’ve read has detailed how difficult it is to breakthrough socially but at least by speaking broken French there is still the potential for encounters and perhaps friendship. Why do you think I want to reincarnated as Parisian and not just immigrate there? I’ve never felt more powerless than when I was stringing together nouns and verbs, and the only impression I gleaned was that they were being rude to me. Please, you find impolite people everywhere and they’re not worth wasting your mental energy over. Still, I wish I could know how annoying they find us “Americans.” But overall, Paris is a lovely place with some kind, considerate and fascinating souls. Truly, you do not disappoint and what is more seductive than a city that makes you want to put your best version forward, a community that makes you want to be better?