Sunday, May 30, 2010

An Argument for Luxury

I was the lumpy kid at school who got punched in the stomach for their Betty Crocker Fruit Roll-Ups. At the time, the mid-1980's, Betty Crocker's Fruit Roll-Ups were the pinnacle of schoolyard luxury and I had the genuine article not the faux, generic ones, pathetically named something like Frutti Blankets. My Mom, I remember, went to a lot of trouble to stretch our grocery budget in order to ensure I had the "right" ones.

Looking back I wonder if this is where my taste for luxury came from?

I know in my twenties, single and living in Vancouver, I would often - and happily - sacrifice nutrition to purchase anything from Diesel jeans to a Calvin Klein bra. Sitting cross-legged on my futon, dining on a can of tuna and a Beefeater gin cocktail, I would stare dreamily into my closet and imagine the possibilities of a life clothed in designer denim and shod in Italian shoes.

And then I went to Paris for the first time. Paris with a backpack and a budget of 100 Canadian dollars a day. The most luxurious item I purchased on my first trip was a pastel, polka-dotted Princesse Tam-Tam thong on sale at Galeries Lafayette. After a week spent watching Parisians casually strolling the streets in their been-in-their-family-for-three-generations Chanel jackets or letting their vintage Birkins rest on damp cobblestones while they consumed a mid-afternoon cafe creme, I developed an insatiable desire for their effortless luxury.

I believe people who disapprove of my appetite, people who believe that they are of higher moral standards because they buy their jeans at Costco, are people who have never been teased for not wearing the right thing. These are people that never were not invited to a party because their shoes were not Nike's or not asked on a date because their dress came from Zellers and not from Benetton.

A couple of weeks ago, while organizing the top shelf of my closet that is devoted to my "A-list" bags, I came across the dark brown box that my first LV came in. The box is still in pristine condition and when I opened it I found the subtly monogrammed tissue paper and the leather string that was used to wrap my precious parcel. Instantly I was transported back to my Parisian honeymoon and all of the romanticism and the joy of my first trip to Paris with my husband.

More than vacant, monogrammed vessels of shallowness, my luxury items are my memories. They remind me of specific, important moments in my life; moments of happiness, moments of independence, moments of frivolity, and moments of love.

To an outsider, Parisians seem to have a way of wearing their luxury that seems less vulgar and less obvious than North Americans. Perhaps it's because it is so abundant and so ingrained in their culture. I think it's because they already have what we all want. A chicness, a Frenchess, a lifestyle that comes from ancient parfumeries, vintage vins, silk scarves, full cream and afternoon naps.

I want it.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


I have a confession to make -- my husband and I are going to Paris in fifteen weeks!

This time last year my husband and I were in Paris. We had booked the trip impulsively over Valentine's Day weekend when Air Canada had a blowout international seat sale. What could be better than Paris in the spring?!

Our trip started out a bit rough. I had been grinding it out at my unhappy job and a few days before we left I had been responsible for overseeing the season's gala event. A week of no sleep, endless arguments about seating plans and placement of silent auction items had culminated with a seventeen hour day that included a parade of crepey arms poking out from ghastly beaded and chiffon gowns, the occasional drunken tantrum, and a rip in my favourite silver cocktail dress from crawling beneath a table to retrieve some richer-than-rich woman's diamond clip-on earring. My husband, in anticipation of being away from his clients for two weeks, hadn't taken a day off in over a month. We collapsed on the plane in a mutually agreed upon (slightly Ativan induced) silence and groggily emerged from Charles de Gaulle airport what seemed like a thousand years later.

Paris fills me with the thrill of unknown possibilities. Despite our driver not being at the airport as planned, despite arriving at the hotel to find the lobby full of fanny-pack wearing Americans, and despite the first baguette sandwich we ate tasting like a piece of regurgitated cardboard, I was ecstatic to be back in Paris. The smell of the city had already aroused my senses and I couldn't wait to luxuriate in two, full weeks devoted to Paris.

But it wasn't to be. The first few days we fumbled, gasped and grumbled our way around the city, bickering with each other, and failing to find our piece of Paris. On our third day in an effort to change our black mood, we took the RER to Disneyland Paris. Embarrassingly, it was this day trip with its overbearing, anesthetized Americaness that made Paris come to life again and our next twelve days were bliss. Both of us had tears in our eyes as we stood in line to board the plane home back to Victoria.

Every time I return from Paris, I adopt the fatalistic attitude that I will never return to Paris again. This time it was made worse by the fact that shortly after our return , I quit my unhappy job to be happy, knowing that this decision came with certain sacrifices that likely included our semi-annual trips to Paris. I tried to comfort myself with the logic that I had already been to Paris more times than I ever dreamed possible and that Paris would be there waiting whenever I could return.

My husband had other ideas. A mere few weeks into my happy new job, he emerged excitedly from the computer room ,

"You are not going to believe this! U2 is playing in Paris on September 18. We are so going."

And so we were. Six weeks later I drove to our local DHL courier office to pick-up two concert tickets: U2 - 360 TOUR SAMEDI 18 SEPTEMBRE 2010 A 19H30 STADEFRANCE

For the past nine months, I have been planning a trip I thought I wouldn't take again for at least five years. Like any other goal, Paris exists as a focal point in my mind's eye keeping me from excesses and reminding me again and again what is most important. In fifteen weeks, I will hold my husband's hand as we sit in les jardins luxembourg licking crepes crumbs from our sticky lips. In fifteen weeks, I will enter the boot department of les galeries lafayette - a department that is almost as large as your neighbourhood Costco - and buy pairs of gorgeous boots that will come with my favourite phrase, "I bought them in Paris." In fifteen weeks, I will drink a cafe creme in le jardin at Musee Rodin and surrender to its romance and the butterflies in my stomach.

When I booked our plane tickets, I felt a tremendous sense of relief. I had been holding my breath, waiting for the exact moment when I knew for certain I would return to Paris. Now I know. Paris in Septembre - I can breathe again.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


I have been told two things throughout my life. One of the the things I often "heard" via a teacher's spidery writing in the comments section of my quarterly school report cards was, "Erin does not work up to her full potential." The second thing, usually after I had penned a poem, or a middle of the night term paper jacked up on caffeine and nacho cheese Doritos, or an e-mail from a sleazy western European (Paris included!) Internet cafe, or even the occasional eulogy is, "You should be a writer."

Secretly, I have always wanted to be a writer. And secretly I have always worried that I am not living up to my potential. Last year when I quit my-perfect-on-paper job, I felt more of my unreached potential get even farther away. Around the same time I started writing my blog.

I intended to write my blog anonymously as a way of exercising my writing muscles. I wanted to write candidly, be funny, sexy and even a bit scandalous. I didn't want to worry about writing the wrong thing or offending people. And then I got the idea to write about my Paris. Not Paris from a worldly or an intellectual view but Paris from the perspective of someone who loves it like their first love: unabashedly, wholeheartedly, every-moment-an-utter-thrill, vulnerable, can-do-no- wrong love.

Because writing about Paris makes me so happy, I started to admit I was writing my blog. Naturally, my husband was my first fan and he has been relentless in getting his clients to read it, displaying it in his shop and funding the copying of printed copies to give as handouts. Recently he designed me a blog business card which I give to everyone I know and leave in book stores, cafes and pretty much everywhere.

But I still feel that I am not living up to my potential. I watch my friends juggle marriages, careers, children and mortgages. I watch my husband throw himself into his work and marvel at his drive and his success. I watch myself with no clear idea where I am going. I look after my horse, take my vitamins, go running, plan trips to Paris, read about Paris, and dream in French.

At what age does this become ridiculous? At what age do I become a frivolous, never-been woman clinging to a Parisian dream that will never happen? I am a woman in my thirties who doesn't want children, doesn't want a mortgage (unless it's on a Parisian flat) and wants to spend my free time writing about Paris.