Sunday, March 28, 2010

Je Ne Suis Pas Chic

This past May a pair of loud, brilliant-white-sneaker-footed, fanny-pack-wearing-Americans stopped me on rue Rivoli, near the Louvre, and asked in their best Texas high school French, for directions to "Roo Saint Hah-Nore-Ray".

Flattered beyond belief, I stopped dead in the tracks of my black, ballet slippers, casually tore the end off of a still warm croissant, poking Frenchly out of the top of my Longchamp shopping tote, and said, politely, "I am not French".

Oh, but I want to be!

This glorious moment of mistaken identity was a personal trip highlight and my reward for the near obsessive and deliberate thought I put into when packing for a trip to Paris. Comfort not crucial; nothing too garish or too sporty; jeans are only worn sparingly; LV can come but only LV #1 as he has been used enough to look as though my he could have been lovingly handed-down from my Left Bank living grandmere; and lots and lots of black and white - just not white sneakers. Even now, with my next trip to Paris not until September, my wardrobe is divided by "what can be worn in Paris" and by "what cannot be worn in Paris".

Yet despite my attention to detail, my compulsive buying of little, black dresses that don't wrinkle, I know I am not truly Parisian chic. I have ugly, bad taste demons that aren't easy to tame...

I am addicted to American mega-brands, like Coach, Victoria's Secret and Banana Republic. It's shameful and though I wish I could spend my days cosseted in quilted Chanel, lounging on a bed of LVs, while waiting for Hermes to release their latest scarf design, c'est pas possible. Sometimes I just need the rush that comes from buying a handbag that doesn't jeopardize my financial future. And sometimes I just want to order ten cute pairs of panties for $30, even if they are patterned with bumble bees and have unexplainable sayings like "Hope More" across the bum. And sometimes I just want to wear a pair of khakis that I got on sale for $39.99 with a white, slim fitting t-shirt and look as though I just crawled out of a subdivision in middle America.

I can't eat dinner past 17:30. And I am a morning person - a truly, early morning person. So many of my Parisian mornings have started with a frustrating and fruitless search for a cafe creme before 8:00. So many of my Parisian evenings have ended with my husband and I sitting completely alone in a restaurant, cutlery clattering loudly, our conversation stilted as our French waiter tries desperately not to show his exasperation at our eating dinner at such an unfashionable hour.

I love my short hair. French women have this way of wearing their hair long that doesn't look unkempt or like they just escaped from an Amish village. It's long but not long; it's tousled but not messy; it's shiny but not chemical wax shiny. Even Audrey Tautou's hair was only short while she filmed Amelie.

I love fast food. For two weeks or three weeks - I bet even six months - I can ignore all of the American fast food chair horrors that seem to be everywhere in Paris. You can actually grab yourself a latte at Starbucks just before entering the Louvre, under the carousel, near the billeterie. And most mystifying to me are the Subway restaurants that practically sit on top the the true, French brasseries where a pain au jambon is half the price of a foot long coldcut combo. I haven't been tempted in Paris but at home I bleed Starbucks. At home I sometimes get an insatiable craving for a Quarter Pounder with Cheese and drive to McDonald's wearing no bra and with my hair unwashed. At home Subway sandwiches taste good.

My unabashed, over-the-top, passionate love of the Eiffel Tower. It's so not French and it's so not chic to love the Eiffel Tower so much. Worse, I love it even more when it does the sparkly light show at night. Last year after one of our aforementioned embarrassingly early dinners, I waited in our hotel room until it was dark and then walked to a vantage point near the entrance to les jardins Tulieres where I perched on a stone wall and watched the Eiffel Tower come to life. I was mesmerized and it had never felt so good to love something so bad.

I am clearly not Parisian chic. But I clearly love Paris and love conquers all. And love can slay demons, even ones with bad taste. My moment will come.

1 comment:

Licette NJ How said...

Of course you are Paris chic - both of you are- undeniably-
Going to see your loved one on Wednesday