I thought it would be the way I’d feel if I ever visited Europe. I’d come home, and if I looked closely into the mirror I’d be able to make out a little white Alp at the back of my eye.

OK, I didn’t go to the Alps, I just (just!) went to Paris, and I’d been twice before anyway, and also: quoting the The Bell Jar when you’re thirty-freaking-four is pretty idiotic.

But: I loved Paris so much, I want to spend one more post honoring the experience.

On our last night there, I stayed up half the night scribbling down all the ideas Paris put into my head. As the above Plath title might have indicated, they’re pretty silly and childish, but who cares, right? I got carried away with a city, and I’m not ashamed.

Herewith, please enjoy (read: suffer through) my unedited Paris ramblings (some of which made their way into my previous post. Ah well.):

I dove into this trip as a purely hedonistic endeavor. Fucking Paris, right? Why not? I wore lipstick every single day. When I decided I hated the clothes I brought (as you will, O American, I guarantee it), I bought new ones on my credit card, breaking the #1 rule of my life, Thou Shalt Not Use Credit Cards For Anything But Business Emergencies. We ate baguettes and chocolate all day long, every single day, and then we got sorbetto on the way to the hotel every night. And then we ate chocolate and drank wine in bed. Every night.

Here’s the thing about Paris: every cliché in the world about it is true. The women really are the most beautiful, the food really is cared-about, the style really is classic and breathtaking, the flowers truly are gorgeous, the streets cobblestoned and picturesque, the nights long and glittery with the Eiffel Tower winking away in the background. People really do wear blue boatneck striped shirts, and they really do pull off those horizontal stripes with a fucking APLOMB that you never will.

Of course, all of this is not true, too. Every city is large and contains multitudes, and I stayed in a hotel and went to touristy areas and had a typical American-goes-to-Paris kind of trip. I barely scratched the surface. But who cares? I loved the surface.

I was very happy. Partially this is because I was not working, of course—just the strange thrill of hours of daytime light on my skin is one that is foreign to me for the 11 months out of the year that I throw myself into work. But part of it was the whole succumbing-to-pleasure thing.

So what’s the deal? I leave tomorrow, and I return to the craziness of the Easter rush. I can’t say I’m going to take a tip from the French and sit in cafes for half the day in my impossibly high heels and artfully knotted scarf and perfectly applied makeup, sipping wine and languidly gossiping with my gorgeous friends. I’m going to be in my Birkenstock clogs with my hair in a bun held with a knitting needle and a wrinkled apron for 15 hours a day until Easter, when I’ll try to only work 12 or so hours a day. I dearly love my world but I worry that it provides too many grooves for me to fall back into—habits I want to outgrow, ways of being I want to push past. Paris was good at shaking me up. I want to stay shaken.

It’s hard to see how I can bring Paris back with me though. The quality of work here—food, clothes, scarf-knotting, and, more particular to my job, chocolate-making—is so high that I don’t understand how it’s made possible without lots and lots of cash and time, two things I have almost none of. All I can do is internalize things I see the French doing and use them to make my life better, while living my very non-French life (which, curiously, consists of making a most French product!).

So here’s what I’m going to work on:

NOTES TO SELF FROM PARIS IN SUMMARY:

  • Confidence: be so happy with what you’re doing that you don’t care what anyone else is doing. Remember your own happiness and tap into it. 
  • Fuck what everyone else thinks about you. Who cares if people think you share too much of your heart, are too open, too wild and intense? 
  • Lead with your heart. That wild and intense thing.
  • Stop fucking around: stop wasting time on things that seem important but don’t contribute to true happiness. 

NOTES TO SELF FROM PARIS IN DETAIL:

1) The biggest cliché ever, but what makes a person happy is, partially, confidence. And happiness leads to confidence. What a loop. 

These French bitches are wearing CRAZY THINGS!! Risky, weird things. And it mostly works. And when it doesn’t work, it still somehow works because they’re French. And, (can I point out again that everything in this post is a massive cliché?), therefore, they just wear the shit out of it. There are trends, of course—every fourth woman on the street is wearing heels, black sheer stockings, and short shorts—but there’s a level of body confidence and pride in one’s form that doesn’t exist anywhere else I’ve ever been except NYC.

Being a (non-Parisian?) woman in the world is to struggle with a trillion internal confidence battles every minute of every fucking day. I had about 50 thousand failings of my usually pretty decent sense of self-worth while in Paris—does my ass look big in these jeans? Do I look ridiculous in lipstick? Why are my feet so much bigger than everyone else’s? (A saleswoman dubiously said of a pair of socks, “These are the biggest size we have…I hope they fit,” as she extra-dubiously glanced at my feet. I informed her that the label said they fit feet up to American size 10, and mine are only 9, so I’m sure they’d work, but the whole rest of the day we kept referring to my feet as The Biggest Feet In All of Europe.) I do this, I hate this, I know this is stupid, useless, awful, and unrevolutionary. Being honest about one’s weak points and need to grow is one thing—constantly critisizing oneself is another.

Every feminist has said it a million times to every other feminist, and here goes again:

just. stop. it. 

Now. 

The confidence that comes from quieting those voices down is what allows you to live a real life—it unleashes the you that’s always been striding cobblestone streets in ludicrous heels and a jacket that fits you so weirdly but in a way that you’re seriously rocking. You just sometimes don’t notice her.

2) Fuck other people. I mean, seriously. (not literally–unless you want to!) I’ve always been really uptight about speaking French. I have a minor in it, but still feel like I never knew much and have forgotten what I did know. But for some reason on this trip I just did it. I know I was making mistakes all over the place, but I figured mistakes were better than not trying. So I just had fun with the most fun language in the world. And I conducted almost all my transactions almost entirely in French, I got complimented on my accent twice (!!!!), and I made my way through the city, buying baguettes here and chocolate bars here, easily. And if people were secretly laughing at my accent behind my back, they can go fuck themselves, because French is fun to speak.

3) If you know your heart is in the right place, you can lead with your heart, and let everything else go. At home, I can be mean. I get stressed out and I snap. But fundamentally I know I have a good heart, and so most people give me a pass. But I shut down my heart a lot in order to indulge my righteous rage. In Paris I just blocked out anything I would ordinarily get mad about, and just spoke to the world with my heart. I was happy. It was simple. It got me thinking: when things make me so angry I want to punch people, if I slowed down and spoke to them with an open heart, would it change things? Authenticity, that’s what I need to tap into. Not everyday armor.

4) Stop fucking around. Fucking around is the thing right now: fucking around online, fucking around on TV. Fucking around to pretend that our lives aren’t pathetic and our world isn’t going to shit. Getting outside of my cozy warm world of constant internet and endless distractions from the task at hand reminded me of the need to stop all the extraneous fucking around that makes up half our collective lives these days.

Ok. There we are.

Stop fucking around reading blogs!

Go back to your wonderful life’s work!

À bientôt!

9 Responses to “I thought it would be the way I’d feel if I ever visited Europe. I’d come home, and if I looked closely into the mirror I’d be able to make out a little white Alp at the back of my eye.”

  1. saracious chbl

    .Having left facebook, I’m glad to be able to see your great crazy stories on the blog

    Reply
  2. JenMcCleary

    Merci beaucoup for this lovely Paris post. I’m going there for the first time in August! Did you eat at any of the vegan restaurants? Any recommendations? Some of them sound a bit dreadful-hippie-bland-steamed-veggies for my liking but some sound awesome.

    Reply
    • lagusta

      Yeah!

      OK, let’s see, I ate at the one by Notre Dame, saveurs vg’Halles, and honestly I didn’t like it. I got a cassoulet, which I thought would be awesome, but the beans were mad crunchy (!!!) and I swear something in it was rotten. And it was crazy pricey. And we also ate at Voy Alimento, which was pretty damn meh. But I really liked Le Potager du Marais, it was lovely. The best thing I ate the whole 4 days was falafel at L’as du Fallafel in Le Marais–SO EXCELLENT! Real Israeli falafel!

      Have fun!

      Reply
    • lagusta

      Thanks, guys. That means a lot, I was worried it was totes cheeseball!

      Reply
  3. Janet

    This week has been chock full of par-hasard timeliness. (On my way back from Paris, for example, the day before yesterday, just when I was reading some very insightful observations about whistling selon a novel I’d brought along someone started whistling parrot-style on the train…) And here I find this post just as I’m trying to construct some observations of my own (seconding the need of time and money to comfortably exist in Paris for any extended period of time). Laughed when I read “hated the clothes I brought” because, indeed, I could barely afford the hotel WHY DID I BUY THAT LITTLE BLACK DRESS? Anything and everything I wanted to say about fashion was said here. So. Thinking I’ll type up my little piece, but leave you to explain Paris-the-catwalk-that-never-sleeps if that’s cool. Loved that picture of the Eiffel Tour!

    Reply

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