Every article you read about Paris is magical.
This is not one of those stories. While I have had my fair share of wonderful Paris moments (leisurely lunches at sunny sidewalk cafes, decadent molten chocolate cake at 2 in the afternoon, strolling over a bridge with that signature accordian music in the background) I was reminded of a not-so-perfect Paris moment when reading an excellent essay by writer Alison Stein Wellner, called ‘Not Pretty in Paris‘.
This essay describes, among other things, getting a haircut in Paris. I share the same sentiment as the author about the complicated nature of being an American in Paris. It is easy to feel intimidated by all the striking Parisian women who mastered the art of looking effortless at a young age. An American comfortable enough exploring a city on foot in a pair of jeans suddenly feels the need to step up their game, to put some thought into an outfit, to blend into the fashion-forward crowd.
I once walked into a jewelry shop in Paris, enticed inside by a lovely necklace in the window. There were no scowls at my lack of French-language skills, just a friendly owner who let me try on every pair of earrings, heavy necklaces, and shimmering bracelets I desired. His successful sales strategy resulted in the purchase of a necklace made of a series of good luck stones. I gave the necklace to my mother, who years later still wears this special piece often.
It was after this jewelry purchase, when I was warming up to Paris, beginning to feel like perhaps it wasn’t so intimidating after all, that my ‘not pretty in Paris’ moment occurred. After a lovely dinner I was strolling along the Seine with a handsome European when I started rifling through my bag in search of something so insignificant, I can’t even recall now what it was. My eyes off the street in front me, we suddenly decided to cross the street, before the light changed, to beat the traffic, to get wherever we were going.
Eyes still on my bag, feeling at least slightly more elegant than my usual self in a new pair of heels, I neglected to notice a median in the road. My left foot collided with the curb like a car hitting a brick wall and I fell face first, scattering the belongings of my bag all over the road. The light turned green and black sports cars revved their engines. Still in shock that I was on the ground, I scrambled to collect my things and get back to the median.
Turning back, my European took my gravel-indented hand and helped me back to my feet as sleek sports car after sleek sports car zoomed by. There was only minimal blood and a few scrapes, but plenty of laughter between a new couple.
It may not have been the perfect kiss on Pont Neuf or locking eyes with an exotic stranger in Jardin du Luxembourg, but somehow this spill, this belly flop, and continuing on afterwards overshadowed all those other textbook magical Paris moments.