Thursday, 21 May 2009
Life envy- it sucks.
I recently came back from a few days staying with an impossibly gorgeous friend in Paris. Her life comes complete with top-floor apartment, balcony, views, and an absurdly good looking middle-eastern neighbour. She has a Parisienne musician boyfriend with big eyes and floppy hair, whom incidentally she is (understandably) in absolute lust with and paws at like a child with a new (impressively attractive) toy, and a plethora of artist friends with that certain je ne sais quoi that all French artists seem to have. (What with my numerous experiences of French artists and everything, of course I can make sweeping generalisations like that. D'uh.) I mean, old Pablo wasn't much of a looker was he, but he seemed to do alright when it came to keeping the other side of the bed warm.
There is just something about a man with a snarl on his lips and a paintbrush in his hand that makes a girl throw herself at his feet and say, 'OKAY! DIP YOUR NUMBER TWO BRUSH IN MY DIRTY WATER-POT RIGHT NOW!' Or something like that. My friend also seems to have seemlessly adapted french flirtation techniques too. By comparision I was the English girl in the bright yellow dress referring to said artist as 'mon petit carnard'... my little duck. I'm working on my chat up lines. I am painfully aware that I do not represent my country particularly well, when my idea of charm is actually insulting to everyone involved. My friend had learnt how to flutter her eyelashes just so. I look like a day-release patient with an eye infection when I flirt.
In the few days I lived her life, I felt fabulous just by association. I got to walk her walk, talk her talk (well, sort of. I can just about ask the direction of the nearest loo and enquire as to the possibility of opening a window)- I even went as far to pose with Paris Vogue in a museum queue, pursing my lips like I had seen a girl on the metro do, just to see if I might pass as a local. God knows what I would have done had anyone actually approached me though. Like I said, I could have either called them a duck or made a beeline for the bog.
I felt even more fabulous when we went out shopping and the tall, lithe sales assistant at the chicest vintage store of the 2nd Arrondissement commented that her favourite dress out of the ones I was trying on was the purple one, if she had to chose. The purple one was the one I had worn into the store. I nodded my head nonchalantly, in the Parisienne way I had come to know and quite love, and waited to jump up and down in celebration until my friend and I had left the store. There is no greater compliment than that of a bobo fashionista to an aspiring one. She probably heard us even two streets away it was that exciting for me. Nil points for coolness on my part, I'm afraid.
My whole experience in Paris was just all so French. I didn't want to come home, and when I did I couldn't help but compare the dreary 80's-style facade of my own very British life quite unfavourably. The painfully British politeness I encountered in my day-to-day life didn't charm me, it irritated me. I wanted the French sneer.
Whilst in Paris I witnessed a capri pant-clad mademoiselle fall over a yummy mummy's designer pushchair whilst I waited for a cafe au lait at a local cafe, and despite it actually being the fault of yummy mummy it was the young woman that got the cold shoulder. Yummy Mummy, or jolie maman if you will, looked her up and down- slowly, from la demoiselle's Italian brushed suede shoes to the honey-coloured and carefully dishevelled hair on her head, shrugged, and said, 'Mais oui'. 'But yes'. And then the demoiselle yelled at her! Loudly! Imagine the scene in Blighty-
Yummy Mummy: 'Oh gosh, I'm so, so sorry, are you okay? That was entirely my fault, I feel so awful!'
Woman: (red-faced) 'Oh no, it was my fault. I'm so, so, so, so sorry'.
Yummy Mummy: 'No, it was me. I'm sorry'.
Woman: 'No. I'm sorry'.
Yummy Mummy: 'Sorry'.
Yummy Mummy: 'Really. Sorry'.
(repeat to fade)
On coming home I mused on this interaction on the number four bus into town, whereby I ended up sat next to quite a stylish older lady- stylish in a very mature British way, you know the sort: don't hold a match near her otherwise her backcombed bouffant will go up in smoke, shoes-bag-earrings-necklace in deliberate co-ordination, yellowed teeth with an unintentional lipstick smear on, etcetera. She seemed quite well-to-do though, not the sort one normally encounters on the bus. She didn't even smell. I became aware of her when I was on my mobile and she kept looking at me. I thought she was tutting at me for being yet another one of those young people unable to travel any distance without technology glued to their ear. I'd have tutted at me too, were I her. I hung up, and still I felt her looking.
Eventually, she said, 'I do like your coat'. I thanked her. 'I do like to keep up with the trends of you young ones. Stay on the pulse'. She chuckled. I smiled. 'I didn't always used to look like this you know'. I nodded politely. All that avoidance of eye-contact on the metro had made me fearfully reluctant to converse with strangers. 'I used to be able to tell my boobs from my waist from my hips. My belly didn't always rest on my thighs when I sat on a bus'. I laughed in spite of myself because suddenly, right there on there on the 08:40, in the rain, and with the arsehole of the chap in front of me winking, being back home didn't seem so bad. Not with the great British self-depreciation and honesty that comes with a £1.70 bus ticket. I told her she looked fabulous, not a day over twenty-one. And I spent the day feeling great in my fancy coat, too.
Home sweet home. Mais oui.
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