365 Days In Paris: Lindy Hop To It
Once the weather gets nice in Paris, life becomes dangerous. All anyone wants to do is lounge by the Seine with a bottle of wine, some creamy cheese, and a crispy baguette. I could do this everyday for the rest of my life and be happy. Between the Luxembourg gardens being a stone’s throw away, the populated banks of the river, and the sun-drenched terraces of cafes, it’s so tempting to just blow off everything and indulge. An unhappy realization came yesterday when I tried on some of my summer pieces to realize that —ugh—my pants are tight. As I tried to wedge myself into a European size 36 skirt, which had fit me so perfectly in September, I let out a little whimper of defeat. I knew what this meant: goodbye wine and baguettes. At least for a little while. Although, in reality, I’ll probably be good for about a week, then tell myself as I have a half glass of rosé and a bite of croissant that I’m being oh-so-French by showing such gallant restraint and moderation. For an American in Paris, the word moderation tends to be interpreted quite liberally. It was actually as I browsing new running shoes at Go Sport that my phone buzzed with a text from Richard, the American guy who had called me up for a real blind date last week. This was Wednesday and we hadn’t been in touch too much since the weekend before, but we had plans to do something that night. His text explained that he was “really stressed and busy with work. How is your week going?” I laughed it off. Typical boy behavior. Not even a suggestion to reschedule. I wrote back something sweet but neutral: “Oh, that’s too bad. Week is good. Get in touch when you’re less stressed!” I decided he probably had one last chance to redeem himself in the coming days, but I wasn’t counting on it. And so far, I’ve been right, as I haven’t heard from him. Oh well!
Moving on. Here’s a bit of a secret: I’ve gone back online. I had suspended my online dating profile back in December, and on a whim I re-activated it a few weeks ago. I haven’t been actively pursuing guys there, but just wanted to see what would come my way. The first guy did actually look pretty good! A 27-year-old French biologist, semi-cute yet slightly blurred photo, decent interests. The English in his email was amazingly good. Hilarious, in fact. So I wrote him back and on the 4th email or so, he sent a list of suggestions for things we could do. “Hey! Ready to Lindy Hop in the Latin Quarter tonight?” he asked. “Sure,” I told him, but I thought he was kidding about the dancing. Or at least, I thought we’d be going to a jazz bar (which, um, I can’t say I’m too into either) that maybe turned into a small dance party on wild nights.
But no. After paying a 10 Euro entrance fee at the door, The Biologist lead me down a series of old stone staircases until we found ourselves in a dungeon-like cave. My heart jumped into my throat and I felt nauseous when I saw what I was walking into. This wasn’t just some casual live music situation, but a f*k*ing full-on professional Lindy Hop crowd bopping around, men winding girls around like yo-yos and threading them through their arms. Oh. No.
As we squeezed past the flailing limbs of the dancers to two vacant seats near the floor, a mini panic attack set in. After watching from the sidelines for one song, he took my hand, and tried to yank me to the dance floor.
“Ahh! I don’t know how to do this dance. C’mon, I’m really going to look stupid.”
“Who cares? Just follow along,” The Biologist urged, already starting to dance by himself. It was very clear that he was at least an advanced intermediate Lindy Hopper. (Which, BTW: Lindy Hop? WTF? That’s France for you. Random.) Knowing that the date would be a total bust if I sat down all night, I forced myself forward, desperately looking at his feet to see what to do. You know what, Leo? Just do this. Try something new. Go with it. Who cares? So, I did, and thanks to some swing lessons in high school that magically came back, I got a slight (we’re talking very slight) grasp of the step. In situations like that, all you can do is give it your all, and try to be as cute as you can about being an uncoordinated mess.
Phew! After that set was over, we went back to the bench for a breather. We were both panting and sweating, and I hoped to God my mascara wasn’t running down my face. While I was pleased with pushing myself to try something out of the box, a general annoyance set in. Didn’t The Biologist realize that taking a girl Lindy Hopping was an incredibly risky first date? Combined with the sweat, bad footwear, embarrassing coordination … you’d have to be a pretty special girl to jump right into that. I didn’t get the sense that he realized this, and had planned the evening to show off and impress me. A simple beer and candle light would have been enough, but I couldn’t even get that!
Huffing and puffing, I turned to him and said, “OK, after making such a mockery of myself like that you at least owe me a beer.”
“Oh no,” he replied. “You don’t want the beers here. They’re overpriced and shitty.” Excuse me? I “don’t want a beer”? I begged to differ. I wanted a beer. Badly. If not to quench my thirst, then to get through the rest of the evening.
I tried to get around his refusal to buy me a beer, by saying, “Well, I could buy you a drink, you wouldn’t have to pay … “
But he insisted again, “No, it’s bad here you just don’t want that. Let’s go dance again.” Groan. So on to the dance floor we went where I did something with my legs and feet that I think might have passed for dancing.
Here’s where I get really annoyed at the complete cluelessness. Around 11:15, I looked at my watch to signal my readiness to get going. The Biologist agreed that it was getting late, and he’d have to catch the last metro, too. In an attempt to speed things along, I yawned, saying, “Yeah … I have a really early morning tomorrow.”
“So are you going?” he asked? What?
“Well, yeah … I mean, aren’t you?”
“I might stay for one or two more songs.”
Staying at a bar while your date leaves? Rude. I was so confused. In the end, he did leave with me and after kissing goodbye on the cheek, we headed off in opposite directions. After crossing the street, I looked behind me. What was The Biologist still doing there? He hadn’t moved from the corner and had his cell phone out. Now that is just sheer stupidity. If you’re going to meet up with your buddies, or another girl, fine, I could give a crap. But, common decency would have you doing it at least out of sight. Am I right or am I right?