Saturday, March 26, 2005

le return

So I'm back from Paris and I'm kind of crabby and don't really want to write, because it feels over-determined. I'm not interested in recounting my trip mostly because I want to write about things I thought about on my trip (isn't it weird when your thoughts start to organize themselves in terms of blog titles?), but I feel obliged to at least say a little bit.

Why I'm crabby:
1. Paris is expensive. Really. Having spent time in Paris teaching several January term study abroad courses, I thought it would be great to be free of students. What I missed about the students, though, was their money, which paid for my hotel, flight, museum admissions, and much of my food. Will teach Gertrude Stein for food and scarf money.

2. Paris is intimidating. Before I went I spent an inordinate amount of time worrying about what I would wear. All black, right? Okay, but what shoes? Spent month before hand wondering if I had time to buy new, inconspicuous black shoes that would be really comfortable--if I had time, that is, to break them in and make them really comfortable. Inertia got the better of me and I chose to bring my trusty black Frye boots. Kind of like the ones Shawn Colvin is wearing on the inside cover of Fat City. I can wear them for days on end here and not flinch, but in Paris, where I somehow morph into a self-loathing penitent (don't waste your money on alcohol! you shouldn't sleep in! walk! walk! walk! how can you possibly live with yourself if you don't learn the Marais this time? You can't eat until 9:30! If you drink that coffee, you'll just have to find another cafe to pee in a half hour from now!) they really started to suck after a few days of walking the marble floors of museums. The rest of my clothing was innocuous enough and comfortable enough so that I blended into the general you're-not-from-here-are-you?-crowd. I guess I accomplished my goal of not wanting to look like an ugly American.

3. I can't remember who or what I am there. Women in Paris are either strictly middle-aged and prim, looking, like that awful over-publicized woman who wrote French Women Don't Gain Weight (Dorothy Hammill haircut, gold earrings, pants-suit, naturalizer-looking shoes, patterned scarves. Mostly unremarkable except for the shitty sheen of wealthy-indifference) or strictly early 20-somethings dressed like bag ladies. Want to look super-chouette in Paris? All you need are horizontally-striped stockings (you know, like Raggedy Ann's) a long, flowing skirt, a long, flowing, preferably dirty sweater, high top converse sneakers, and a huge, unruly scarf twisted either around your head or your neck. Actually, you know this look from the sudden publicity surrounding the Olsen twin's bobo chic style. I think it's a cool look, to tell the truth, but I'm too old to pull it off, and too young to want to emulate the older women's style. And what does it matter? Who exactly do I think is looking at me in Paris and why is it different from how I am looked at here? And why do I care there when I don't care here?

4. Paris is relentlessly straight. Unbelievably so. For a cosmopolitan city, I think this makes it pretty provincial. I know, I know, the Marais is where the gays are. But only there? Really, ONLY THERE?

So, if you were wondering just how shallow Margo is, if, for example, she is shallow enough to spend a week in a pretty amazing city and somehow come back focused almost entirely on herself and her internalized self-loathing as a woman of some bodily substance, as an American, as poor, this entry would suggest that yes, yes she IS that shallow.

Were I to write this entry over again (if I didn't have to scour the house from top to bottom because my diss. advisor is in town this weekend and coming over for brunch tomorrow and even though I'm 5 years out of my Ph.D., she still makes me pretty nervous) maybe I would focus on the good things about my trip: the hotel room with a balcony overlooking a charming, busy little street in the Latin Quarter, the amazing frontiére we saw at the Opèra Garniere (not quite an opera, not quite a ballet), the perfect weather (mid to high 60s, cloudless skies, moonlit nights), the incredible conversations my girlfriend and I kept falling into as we walked and walked and walked and walked, the way the waiters at my favorite restaurant remembered me and came over to greet me and do the double cheek kiss when I walked in.


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