Thursday, October 14, 2010

Thoughts on and in Paris

So before I get to to the subject of this post, a quick update: I'm not moving again! Blandine talked to her family and they all agreed that they wanted me to stay, and I want to stay, so I'm staying! Caroline and Francois are kindly sharing a room for the rest of the semester for me, and I will continue to enjoy nice family dinners and trading recipes and helping out with English homework and helping the two oldest daughters spot in their pirouettes. So that's great!

I got started thinking about what Paris really is last week after I got a crappy haircut here. I mean, it's Paris, the city of fashion, and what happened here? I got a lousy haircut. Okay, it's fine when I pin it back, but if I just let it hang I look like Justin Bieber, which is not really what I'm going for these days. Then a few days ago I was standing in line at the Rodin Museum and two young lady American tourists were chatting behind me. Their conversation went something like this: "I mean, like everyone in Paris is so well-dressed." "I know! Like in New York, you always see people in like gym clothes, or whatever, but here I mean you don't even see like jeans or cut-offs and tee-shirts." Okay, I've been the part of probably four conversations with the same thesis statement, but their's was sort of problematic since the obese woman standing in line in front of me was wearing (gasp) jeans and a tee-shirt. And then I realized that Paris is so seeped in expectation, so media-ized that it doesn't really exist unto itself. At least for the first several weeks you live here, you do not see Paris as it really is, but instead through a fog of movie shots and photos and ingrained assumptions. People's clothing here -- I'll continue with my original example -- is pretty much on par with Boston. Yes, it's slightly more formal than the West Coast, and certainly dressy compared to the interior West, but no one from a New England city or Manhattan should feel out of place at all. Furthermore, I find the colorful, playful, creative, interesting fashion of San Francisco far more sophisticated than the black-boots-black-tights-knee-lenght-earth-tone-skirt-plus-a-jacket look that seems to dominate most Parisian women's wardrobes. Okay, my Cinema Studies class has some great dressers, but still: wearing orange is a statement here. Please. Or maybe I'm just homesick, and I'm now thinking of San Francisco in the same idealized way that the rest of the world thinks of Paris. But I've never gotten a Justin Bieber haircut in San Francisco...

A more true stereotype of Paris is that of its stasus as the City of Love. In one way, it's a complete myth as I have been here a month and haven't even managed to find a crush. But the metro, the parks, the cafes, the awnings are filled with couples. People are pretty touchy here. And I would love to be a part of it -- it's not exactly ego-boosting to be reminded of your singleness around every corner -- but like I said: I haven't even found a crush. And here I was thinking a cute accent could get me anywhere.

I don't know if it's yet another result of speaking a foreign language all the time, or just all the dead time that I have taking the metro eight or so times a day, but I've had lots of epiphanies recently. Amidst my sort of continuous realization of the total disaster of colonialism are several others, which I will now list: music rocks; the industrial revolution was the beginning of the end of civilization; Marx is usually right; I want to be a professor and cook a lot and have a garden and write some books; I may have to live on lentils and rice for the rest of the semester due to the state of my back account (okay, not exactly worthy of being on the epiphany list, but it's really affecting my life right now); the Avant-Garde is dead; as far as most visual art goes, (and maybe in some other mediums too) rich intellectuals decide what is art; graffiti is a gift to society. After counting that's only seven since I'm not including the one about lentils and rice, but it's all happened in one month, so that's more than one epiphany a week which I think is enough to make anybody's head spin.

Anyway, there's other stuff to say, like about school and how I occupy myself here but I don't feel like writing more tonight, so I'll just post again soon.

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