365 Days In Paris: Wake-Up Call

“So what’s the vibe of this place? Fashiony? What are you wearing?” I texted my new friend Sarah on Friday night.

We were about to embark on our third official friend date, which safety moved us from “acquaintances” to “girlfriends.” When I’d admitted earlier that week in an email that I’d hardly left the house due to my self-imposed, post-dump pity party, Sarah had thankfully taken the reins and made plans for us to meet up at the Experimental Cocktail Club. I’d read about this uber hip bar on Paris blogs, but hadn’t been to any comparable venues, so I had no idea what to wear. I was hoping it would be a bit fancy—I was getting sick of settling for skinny jeans and boots for every cheap, boho bar most of my younger friends would ask me to join them in. (Sarah’s in her 30s, so she’s thankfully more inclined to meet up for a nice dinner or “grown-up” drink.) But now that I seemed to have the pick of my wardrobe, I felt even more confused by choice, and it looked as if my closet had vomited all over my studio apartment.“Yup. I’m wearing a skirt and heels,” Sarah responded a few minutes later.

Following her lead, I paired a white blouse with a black, pleated Vanessa Bruno skirt, oxford pumps, and some sexy Wolford tights decorated with vertical stripes. Checking myself out in the mirror, I felt pleased with how my legs looked—long and slender—with the short skirt, and congratulated myself on finally putting an end to my mopey week.

Over the past few days, I’d selfishly wedged myself into a corner of child-like sorrow. American Boy “dumping” me hadn’t so much hurt me emotionally as it did come as a surprise. I didn’t realize that I wasn’t quite prepared to deal with the lack of social options once our fairly regular twice-a-week dates sleepovers suddenly fell off the map. To make matters worse, none of my friends were available last week, and the weather had been horrendous. This all added up to me staying inside all day, cursing myself for doing just that, while simultaneously whining that I didn’t have anything to do.

When I stepped out Friday, it was surprisingly cold, and I had to remind myself that it is, in fact, December, and officially winter. Time has been flying lately, I thought, as the freezing air bit at my legs. Stopping for a second in front of Hôtel de Ville, where they’d just outfitted the building with sparkly holiday lights, I paused to chart the course to the bar on my iPhone (I’m a total convert), and select some music (currently obsessing over The xx and Magic Wands, if you must know). Tunes blaring in my ears, I picked up the pace, feeling sexy and very aware of the looks guys were giving my legs as I passed through the cobblestone streets of Les Halles.

Happily clicking my heels in time against the pavement to the beat of a song called “Teenage Love,” the music in my earbuds was suddenly interrupted by the bouncy marimba tune of my ring. Pulling my phone out of my pocket, I saw the +33 country code, telling me the caller was in France, but didn’t recognize the number. I picked up anyhow:

“Allô, oui?”

“Oh hey Leo, it’s American Boy.”

WTF? Seriously? Classic. Effing classic. I had erased his number from my phone hours after he told me he was seeing someone else to avoid accidental pocket dialing. I now wished I had left it in so I could have avoided picking up.

“Oh. What’s up?” I said without much effect in my voice. Why on earth was he calling me? Did his “seeing someone else” thing not work out, and he thought we could pick things up again? (Not even a chance.)

“You sound like you’re out? You have a super soirée planned?” I hesitated. I didn’t want to tell him my plans in case he was trying in vain to find something to do tonight. But I also didn’t want to sound like I had nothing going on.

“Uh yeah. I’m on my way to have a drink with a friend,” I said, congratulating myself on the ambiguity of the friend’s gender (which I couldn’t have gotten away with in French).

“Well, what are you up to tomorrow night?” He had to be joking, right? I quickly said that I had plans then as well. It didn’t stop there, though. “Well, OK. My roommates and I were just having some people over for drinks. But, you know I’m having this holiday party at my house next weekend, so you should come.”

“Oh, right. Yeah, OK. Why not,” I replied without enthusiasm, knowing I wasn’t going to go.

“I’m leaving for the U.S. the day after, so it will be the last time we’ll get to see each other before I go. And I’m gone for like three weeks.” What I heard: “If you want to get laid, you’ve only got a short window of opportunity.” Yuck.

I got off the phone as quickly as possible, saying, “yeah, sounds cool,” without trying to seem pissed or excited. I didn’t know whether he was trying to be friendly and casual, or come back to me, but either way, his behavior was lame.

When I finally navigated my way to the pedestrian street the bar was on, I was visibly fuming. Sarah was waiting outside, and after we did a double cheek kiss, she knew something was up. Thank God we’re past cordial getting-to-know you conversation, because at the moment I just needed a cocktail and a bit of bitchy venting, which Sarah seemed more than willing to participate in.

Passing the bouncer’s test, we wedged ourselves into the dimly lit speakeasy-esque bar, finding a small leather love seat in the corner. After agonizing over the choice of chic mixed cocktails, we finally ordered and I started in on the drama of American Boy.

“I mean, it’s not like I’m upset over him specifically,” I said as I sipped the light green liquid in my glass—it tasted like a plate of Thai food. “It’s just that I’m really ready for the next big thing, if you know what I mean. And honestly, I’d really like for it to be with a French guy.”

Sarah nodded in agreement. “I know what you mean. It kind of seems like dating a man of any other nationality in France … what’s the point?”

I was so relieved to hear her say it. At least I now knew I wasn’t the only one who had the desire, and maybe it wasn’t as superficial as I thought, but just natural.

“And it really isn’t easy to meet French guys,” I replied. “I mean, where do you meet them?”

“Well, here isn’t a bad place, for starters,” she said, as our eyes both reflexively followed a handsome bearded man passing by in a scarf.

Getting up to order our second round of drinks at the bar, I poked my head above the crowd, trying to figure out the best spot to squeeze my way into the bartender. Two guys in vintage t-shirts and blazers parted in front of me.

“Vous voulez commander? On peut commander pour vous …” one offered, expertly flagging down the barman. “Qu’est-ce que vous voulez boire?” he asked in my ear.

“Deux French Pearls,” I yelled back, refusing to pronounce the English name of the drink in a French accent. I can never bring myself to do that; it feels too phony. “OK, I geet zem for you,” he said with a smile.

The three of us waited in silence as I considered breaching the obvious. Two guys, two girls. I looked across the crowd to Sarah, who was actively defending my empty spot from a group of American students in shimmery short dresses and leggings. Even if Sarah and I were now friends, I still didn’t feel comfortable flirting in front of her, and was unsure if she’d feel put on the spot by the guys. When the two pale pink drinks arrived, the blazer-backed boy courteously carried them to our table for me, seeing me struggle to balance the glasses with my clutch under my arm. He put them down with a nod and a “bonsoir” to Sarah, and I thanked him as he continued back to his spot.

One thing French guys do have going for them—manners and ability to take cues. Those dudes knew how to play the role of gentlemen, and if they weren’t invited to our table, they knew not to encroach our space. I reiterated this to Sarah in hopes that she’d maybe express a desire to turn the evening to draguer (picking up guys). I could sense hesitation on her end, but I guessed it was only out of courtesy for what she also interpreted as a girls’ night out. Still, I perked up at the thought that Sarah could definitely turn into a new man-hunting partner with a bit of time. In fact, she continued on with the subject: “Yeah, you know, I think there is no shame in actively pursuing the dream of meeting a French guy. I think you should just go and get yourself out there.”

I laughed. “I know! I want to, but it’s so hard to be patient. I mean you just have to wait for it, like anything. Unless I put myself online.”

“Why don’t you?” she asked.

“I have! I’ve done the OKCupid thing here. Little success.”

“Well, if you’re looking for a French guy, you probably shouldn’t be on a U.S.-based dating website. You should be on a French one.”

I nearly choked on my drink, knowing exactly what she was implying. “Meetic?!” I shrieked, wincing at what I thought to be the more corny equivalent of Match.com.

“Well, to my knowledge it is the only big French dating website. You could at least check it out.”

“Oh man, the shame, the shame!”

“What’s shame got to do with it? No one has to know,” she suggested with a mischievous smile.

In my four-drink haze, I logged on when I got home, sloppily filling out the fields for a user name and profile. I was excited for the first few minutes of discovery, then slowly succumbed to the monotony of answering questions, typing in information. I hastily closed my laptop and went to bed without washing off my makeup.

I still haven’t revisited the page, but I still know it’s there. For the moment, I’m just planning on getting outside a bit more.

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