A Plan! A Dress! Oui!
It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan~~~Eleanor Roosevelt
I adore Paris. Cliché as hell? Yes. True? Yes.
Growing up, I was obsessed with Italy, then Ireland, and then France. Italy was awesome both times I’ve traveled there, especially Rome. Rome was a revelation! Ireland was great, but I need more time there to really take it in. Plus, I missed my opportunity to ride a horse across the Irish countryside, so I will definitely return.
I have enjoyed every country I’ve experienced so far. There is something to recommend England and Aruba, something to recommend Greece and Puerto Rico, and so on. But my heart and stomach always draw me back to Paris, to France.
Cliché as hell? Yes. True? Most Def.
My first time was brief. A long, overnight train ride up from Spain, a two-night dip in and dip out as part of my month-long college graduation gift-trip. After being immersed in Spanish for almost four weeks the shock of abruptly switching to French as we crossed over the border was hard to adjust to and the Louvre was on strike. So, I knew one day I would return to soak up the city, the country properly. It took a few years to return, but when I did, I explored Paris and Nice, igniting an ardor, which has yet to fade. So, when it was time to shake up my life, at the top of my list was, Get yourself back to Paris.
And once Paris was decided on, the next step was where to stay. At that point in my life, I had never rented a proper apartment much less sublet one. In Detroit, I took over my brother’s apartment after my mom put me out. And when I moved to NYC, I moved in with a college friend who, overwhelmed by the hustle, ended up fleeing Brooklyn months after I moved in. I took over the lease, residing at 237 Dekalb Avenue for 22 years, putting my Jane Hancock to exactly one lease in two plus decades.
When it came time to choose a place to sublet, in a foreign country no less, I was at a loss. But thankfully, Al Gore had invented the internet by 2009, so I was able to let my fingers do the walking. I found a couple of French rental sites and landed on 13 Rue Du Vertbois, arrondissement 3.
It was a bright, 1,000 dollar a month, second floor walk-up studio on the Right Bank.
At first, I was disappointed because the Left Bank---the haunt of literary heroes such as James Baldwin and Fitzgerald, and Café Margot---was out of my price range.
But then I discovered that the northern section of the charming Le Marais was a brisk walk to the Centre Pompidou, the Picasso Museum, and dozens of cafes and clubs.
My destination and living quarters settled, next I turned to survival. I was raised in San Jose speaking Spanish in bilingual classrooms and trying to learn French at 39, well let’s just say, the struggle was real. My favorite classes were at Cooper Union, but when the next term didn’t fit my schedule, I switched to IAF French Institute Alliance Française. My instructor was from Nancy, cold and difficult, but the perks were worth it. Class came with a year’s free admission to their private movie theater, wine and cheese language practice soirees, and more.
On top of that, the school was located on East 60th, directly across from the Donna Karen flagship store. Those fifteen-minute breaks in the lesson were the longest of my life as I stared longingly into the store’s windows from the third floor. With days left until the class ended, my French hardly any better, I was rewarded with a giant banner across the DKNY storefront: 60% Off Store-wide. Au revoir had barely passed madam’s lips before I was out the door.
High-end designers tend not to cut for my size 10 figure, so I wasn’t hopeful as I rushed through those golden doors. But I was determined to find that one perfect piece that encapsulated all of my Parisian hopes and dreams. Poor, but cursed with rich girl taste, I had long since perfected the precision wander AKA, "How to look for the sale rack without looking for the sale rack." I found it discreetly tucked away on the second floor along with THE DRESS.
I don’t know about you, but when I’m really excited about an event, I immediately start to think about what I’m going to wear. When I’m really, really, really excited, the outfit comes to me fully formed like Athena emerging from the head of Zeus. THE DRESS was Paris as simile and metaphor, as dream and fantasy. It represented every image I had of myself at 40 living in Paris; shopping for cheese, vegetables, and fresh flowers in a market in Paris; sipping wine and people watching at an outdoor café in Paris. And there was only one and it was my size!
Thanks for stopping by!
Remember to be kind to one another, keep on traveling with a feminist eye, and keep on being Feminist AF!