Sunday, February 20, 2011

We Dream of Paris

At first Paris was my dream. When Chris and I got married in 2007 I assumed that I would outgrow Paris, much like my passion for gin and tonic dinners and Hello Kitty underpants. I believed that our Parisian honeymoon would be a “once in a lifetime experience”.

Now here I am, married just over three years, and Chris and I are planning our fourth trip to Paris this coming September. And we are talking about Paris long term. What would our lives look like there? Would we try and move permanently? Or just extend our yearly stay for several months? Not in my wildest dreams did I ever think these would be the conversations I would be having during my first years of marriage.

Living in a two bedroom rented apartment, with no dining room table to discourage entertaining, Chris and I are not really following the conventional path of marriage. Our friends are having babies and locking down mortgages. They spend their weekends buying eco-friendly toilets at Home Depot and stocking up on Pampers at Costco. My e-mail inbox is full of pictures of their babies doing what I think are rather unremarkable things: sleeping, smiling, or modeling a pink fleece hoody while being pushed in a 4 x 4 stroller. I have learned to speak in one-word, baby-friendly adjectives, “adorable”, “pretty”, “sweet”.

I never wanted children. For my entire life I have known this as surely as I know that my eyes are blue. However, since turning 30 four years ago, I have been kind of holding my breath, almost expecting to wake up one morning with an unexplained longing to have a baby. It hasn’t happened and with each friend that tries to pass me their newborn, baby or toddler, I feel more and more confident that it won’t.

It's not easy. To be a 34 year married woman who doesn’t want children is kind of like being a freak. It brings back memories of being the only girl in fourth grade with short hair or the only girl in ninth grade who wanted to kiss horses more than boys. On the subject of not wanting children, both friends and strangers have made comments. Everything from calling me “selfish” to wondering who will look after Chris and me when we are older. Before our wedding, a woman giving me a pedicure (as in I was paying her!) questioned the point of getting married if we were not having children.

I am not ignorant to the importance of family. Despite some of my blogs, I know that a designer French handbag or scarf is not a replacement for a person who loves you. Mais oui, I am worried that I will be alone, 85 years old, and talking to my 55 year old LV still swaddled in its original dust bag.

And I am especially not ignorant to what children mean to their parents. There is a picture from our wedding, where my parents and I are standing at the top of the aisle and the look of love and pride on their faces is so naked it breaks my heart. All I see in that photo is love and I know that they have both more or less had that look on their faces since I was born.

But I still really don’t want children. I want Paris. As does Chris. So we find ourselves at this place in our marriage trying to decide Paris at what cost. What sacrifices are we willing to make to have our dream?

Sometimes I think it is a decision not unlike having children; it’s financially risky, anxiety inducing, it’s sleepless nights, it’s a leap of faith, and it’s making it up as you go. It is about believing in each other and it’s for the ultimate reward of a love so pure and overwhelming you can’t understand how you ever lived your life without it.

This is our dream of Paris.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Day 5: Paris is Love

Chris and I always plan an “away day” in Paris so that we are both able to experience the city in our respective ways and spend time at places that may be not appeal to the other person. For me, one of the things I like most about this day is the chance to wander Paris’ streets alone, as I did on my first trip in 2003, and remind myself of what I originally felt for Paris: rapture, wonder and endless possibility.

I started with more sweaty shopping, cramming myself into fitting rooms not sized for an amazonian Canadian, arms full of clothing one size larger than I normally wear convinced that my diet of saucission baguettes, Pierre Hermé macaroons ( and café crèmes had added at least a few pounds. It is no exaggeration to write that a vegetable, unless pickled or soaked in olive oil, has not passed my lips in twelve glorious days.

My first stop was to to stock up on inexpensive winter tights at a Paris discount department store and then I succumbed to some cheap, shiny black jeans at H&M for 20 euros which I know I will hate in less than six months. I also spent considerable time searching for Dépot Ventes(second-hand stores) in various neighbourhoods, getting my Métro fix in the process. I find it impossible to think of what a comparable second-hand store would be at home where I avoid mostly avoid them for fear of bed bugs or for fear of getting "faked". It is worth mentioning that France has some of the strictest laws in the world when it comes to production and selling of fake goods. For example, it is extremely rare to see bags, sunglasses, and other like designer fakes being sold on the streets or in stores.

At a Dépot Vente just a couple of boulevards from our apartment, an insanely laid back sales associate read a book while I spent over thirty minutes groping their 1,000 euros second-hand Chanel blazers. I also browsed their shoe rack, flipping pairs over like hot pancakes, looking for coveted red Louboutin soles.

I arrived back to our Paris-Apartment-in-the-Sky early to find Chris already there. I was only slightly disappointed in myself to not have enjoyed Paris “toute seule” more but the truth is after endless months with Chris and I passing each on the way to work, appointments, the barn, etc., I love all of our uninterrupted time together. And there is nothing better than having this time in Paris! We left the apartment, hand-in-hand, Paris as it should be, window-shopping our way back towards Les Grands Magasins.

I have written several postings, and could write many, many more, describing Chris' generosity. It comes from a quiet and thoughtful place. What I mean by this, and as I was told by one of his favourite clients, is that "he listens".

Whether it is remembering my glove size or the fact that I can't walk the streets of Paris without a stash of Haribo ( candies stuffed in my LV, Chris pays attention and goes out of his way to look after me. On our trips to Paris, he takes particular care, indulging each of my whims and fantasies: from riding every single, vintage carousel, to a bicycle tour in Nice, to letting me have the seat with the Eiffel Tower views at Café L’Homme, to never rolling his eyes when I want "one more look" at the same LV store that I have been in a dozen times, and mostly for understanding and encouraging my insatiable love for Paris. And this trip has been no exception.

At Pringtemps (, we picked out silver jewellery from Agatha ( for friends and then headed up to the store’s LV boutique so I could have my thirteenth look. But first the inevitable LV line-up which actually frustrated us both enough to abandon LV temporarily and retreat to looking at far less superior bags. I would be lying if I didn't tell you that I was feeling anxious as this was likely my last chance at LV for this trip. I had been doing mental mathematics, agonizing for days and repeating my "I-don't-need-another-LV" mantra at every opportunity. But another look wouldn't hurt and as we did our final walk through Pringtemps, I was happy to see that the LV line was no more. With sweaty palms, I entered the now seemingly cavernous store and nervously approached the wall of bags. I had fallen in love with LV Delightful PM (

Chris ignored my nervousness and assertively approached the wall of bags, asking the sales associate to provide us with Delightful PM. I carefully picked up the bag, dragging my sweaty finger tips across the monogrammed canvas, trying to pretend that Delightful wasn't one of the most beautiful things I had ever held. And then it was over before it began. Chris, after a quick check to make sure that Delightful was "the one" was paying for the bag and I was, yet again, standing in LV, trembling, tears running down my face as my lovely husband made yet another one of my dreams come true. And the night wasn't over.

With the same assertiveness, Chris took my hand as we exited the doors of Pringtemps, cutting through charming Parisian back streets to rue Cambon and the back entrance to Bar Hemingway at the Ritz Paris ( Tucked up into a corner table, knees bumping against each other and my boxed Delightful, I lived out another Parisian fantasy. The ambience was exactly as I imagined it would be and my velvety tasting cocktail came with a perfectly bloomed short stemmed white rose. Chris indulged me further by agreeing to exit the Ritz by the front doors, onto Place Vendôme, so I could have a proper snoop around the perimeter of the famous hotel.

I know my Paris may seem unoriginal and full of pointless items like jars of confiture and monogrammed handbags. I know my Paris doesn't necessarily include haute culture or museums full of masterpieces I don't care to see. Rather, my Paris is the place that makes me believe anything is possible. My Paris is overwhelming in feeling and experience. My Paris is love.