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Paris Cured My Cynicism
03.16.17
Paris Cured My Cynicism Man Repeller Feature

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It is super, super uncool to like Paris as much as I do. I spent all of rainy Paris Fashion Week walking around with an expanded grin on my face that I had to squish down into a moderate frown (as though I were trying to stop smirking while getting yelled at) each time I entered a show venue. I didn’t want to alarm anyone — not the French, nor those who know me from back in New York and aren’t used to seeing my big teeth so often.

New York made me a curmudgeon almost instantly. A lot of my attitude — that particular cranky brand of been-there-done-that-seen-it-before-so-why-bother sentiment — is for survival purposes. You need to sleep, work and eat; you can’t care about every party, parade or celebrity who’s dining table-adjacent. You wouldn’t function.

But cynicism can make you dull. Once shiny stars are wiped from jaded eyes, it becomes easy to forget the point. Like why is it, again, that you rent a small apartment (your friends in other states are buying houses) where mice infiltrate the kitchen anytime your roommate (can’t afford to live without one) leaves out stale cereal? And sure your job is cool, but you aren’t saving lives or curing cancer.

Paris shook me out of this. February was my third time in the city, first time as a proper adult and fresh to the fashion-week scene on a different continent. It was non-stop from the moment I arrived, and I landed tired after working through much of the plane ride. I was always lost, always wrong about the temperature, frequently rained on. My French is bad, earnest accent attempts embarrass me and I have never experienced impostor syndrome quite like what hit me after being knocked down (white coat prior, black-smudged after) on my way into Sacai. These were all things I haven’t felt since those first few awkward years out of college, and to feel them was really important, a reminder that my skin isn’t so thick, nor have I even begun to see it all.

The shows take place in these rooms that are so grand, so baroque, you spend the first ten minutes waiting for anything to begin with your neck craned and your chin up. You’ve no choice but to be dumbfounded and awestruck. Then the clothes come out and you remember why you care about fashion or any of this in the first place: because when combined with music and lights and the fumes of either exhaustion or magic (take your pick), it puts you at the tip of a paintbrush. You’re five again and have an imagination. Everything is a scary possibility. You’re pretty sure your professional opinion might be wrong — but you have to write about it anyway.

Later, when you eat, drunk on the cliché that you’re in Paris consuming wine and cheese, you realize that this could be the worst bottle of anything you’ve ever poured into a glass, but it doesn’t matter, because you’re doing what you never thought would be your reality. Then you walk home and the Eiffel Tower is twinkling — or maybe you see the sun set over the Seine — and it’s almost funny. It’s almost too good, too romantic. It makes you want to roll your eyes a bit, because Paris is that guy who knows he’s good-looking, who’s developed a habit of raking his hands through his hair just to rub it in. Paris is that guy who wouldn’t make a lot of sense back in New York, but in this context, he has the charm to turn you into a total sucker.

You can’t bring him home with you, of course, and thank god for a million reasons. But it’s so nice to carry something back with you other than a suitcase, like the memory of a city that wiped you of your cynicism. A cheesy souvenir that reminds you to live a little upon landing.

Photo by Phil Oh for Vogue; Amelia wearing RAEN sunglasses.

Read about Leandra’s reaction to Paris. Unpopular opinion: she doesn’t like it.

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  • Anne Dyer

    “You’re five again and you have an imagination. Everything is a scary possibility.” Love. Magical writing. And exactly how I feel going from LA to NY. I suddenly lose my sunset over the Pacific Ocean while eating sushi next to celebrity? (Eye roll) done it. And gain this oh my gosh I’m walking past those chess tables in Wash Park with a bagel and a coffee excitement.

    • Amelia Diamond

      you know what I get that feeling in Wash Park sometimes when it’s really sunny out too (ny i still love you)

  • tmm16

    “Later, when you eat, drunk on the cliché that you’re in Paris consuming wine and cheese, you realize that this could be the worst bottle of anything you’ve ever poured into a glass, but it doesn’t matter, because you’re doing what you never thought would be your reality.”

    This! The only wine I drank in Paris was probably 2-3 euro. It didn’t taste good, but it didn’t matter because I was in Paris and it was fabulous. All I wanted to drink was red wine and eat cheese and foot-long baguettes and I did just that. I was the happiest there (and probably gaining some weight but whatevs!)

  • OH my gosh Amelia!! YES GURL!!! This is why I celebrated my 30th in Paris. This is why my Passport is covered with CDG stamps. I love Paris. I adore the city. I smiled the entire time while reading this.

  • me

    Sis: this love/awe is exactly how I feel about DC.

    Even though I’ve lived in the metro area (aka ‘burbs, ugh) for many years, I *still* feel like a slack-jawed tourist when I’m roaming around downtown. Or anywhere near the monuments. (Dont feel this about the WhiteHouse these days, sadly.)

    Meandering in DC truly is a thrill that Never gets old for me !

    • Amelia Diamond

      I want to explore DC so badly. I’ve only been twice (weddings) and never for enough time at all!

      • Michelle Bruni

        You will love Georgetown!! So much European (especially French) influence. The restaurants and shops are so fantastic. It’s one of my favorite towns/cities in the US!

      • You have to go during cherry blossom season!! (Coming soon!)

  • Alexia Mickens

    I would give my pinky finger just to walk the streets and be amongst the amazingly fashionable ladies at PFW!!!! I cannot wait to visit the city!

    See my latest post:
    // downtown in my favorite jeans
    born bred BE – a blog by Alexia

  • Thank you for your Paris positivity!! Trust in Manrepeller restored!

  • i read man repeller every day while eating my sad desk salad, but i’ve never commented. however, i just had to tell you that this is honestly the best thing i’ve ever read on this site. I loved it so much. thank you.

    it reminded me of a much more eloquent explanation of how i sometimes cure my cynicism re: living in new york: after a rat has run over my foot, or i’ve worked 100 hours in a week, or i’ve wondered why i don’t join the peace corps, i’ll sometimes go for a walk around central park or the west village, or my neighborhood in brooklyn, and i’ll imagine that i’m visiting my 16 year old self in my hometown, and telling her all about what my 30 year old self is up to, and what i did last weekend, or what my husband is like. i know that 16 me would be so excited to hear that i’m living the life i’m living in the city i’m living it in, and that what can sometimes feel mundane or toxic or frustrating to me would be so sparkly and unbelievable to her. gets me every time.

    • I love this!!! The idea of visiting your younger self to share stories of your current life warms my heart.

      • ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ highly recommend it

    • Robin

      I do this too! I tell my younger self what im doing. It helps reappreciate things you forgot you should

  • After reading this I feel like I’m in love. Not with Paris or that guy you described, just very much in love.

  • Naaah… great writing though.

  • Greer Clarke

    Hahah is that very first sentence a direct response to Leandra’s piece on Paris

  • Áine Hegarty

    “You’re pretty sure your professional opinion might be wrong — but you have to write about it anyway.”–Yes! Who cares, say it anyway!

    Also earnest attempts at accents embarass me too.

  • MMR

    this is such a beautiful piece, Amelia! I really felt every word and feel like a lot of people have THAT place, that dream place that will forever be “the memory of a city that wiped you of your cynicism”… loved it!

  • ByeBeckz

    I’m so glad you had such a wonderful time exploring Paris and the way you expressed everything was so perfect. I walk around Paris feeling the same jittery excitement over the cliché-ness no matter how often I go or how long I stay. It never gets old. Despite stinky metros, constant rain, rude waiters, and a poor bottle of wine- all I have to do is look up and marvel in the history and culture around me and I just feel alllll the feels and am so grateful for the opportunity to see such beauty. Thank you, Man Repeller, for posting a contrary opinionated piece!

    And thanks, Amelia for this: “Paris is that guy who knows he’s good-looking, who’s developed a habit of raking his hands through his hair just to rub it in.” Never thought of it this way but you nailed it- gotta quote this from now on.

    • Abe Luther

      My favorite part as well. I’ve seen and fallen in love with this guy far too many times during my morning commute on the metro in his dark navy suit and grey silk scarf. He will never get old.

  • Whatever, Paris is (mostly) beautiful and the cheese alone makes the trip worthwhile. I’ll join you in being uncool 🙂

    • Senka

      If it wasn’t thoroughly uncool/complicated, I’d schlep cheese from my every trip. Mustard too possibly. But I normally just bring back skincare stuff.

  • I have lived in Chicago for the past six years and I’m ACHING to leave. However, every time I feel jaded I just remind myself to look up; the architecture of downtown Chicago is amazing (imo). Nothing gives me more of a thrill than driving through the city and just feeling the buildings that surround me. Is it obvious that I am the daughter of an architect? Yep. Painfully so.

    But anyways, where you live can be magical, even if it has grown dull. You just have to remember where ya found it (the magic) in the first place!

  • Bree

    Earnest anything embarrasses me!!!

    Loved this article Amelia 🙂

  • Sophie

    Dear Amalia, lovely summury of an impression which lasted a week!
    Thanks to you when I’m walking home tonight I’ll see the beauty of Paris more than I have in years 😉

  • Rosie

    This is so wonderful Amelia!!! I’m from North Carolina and am living here full time now, but was in Philadelphia for a few years post college. And most of the time, if I thought about it too hard, my life was really stressful. I was struggling finding a job in my profession (online writing/editing, which I have a career doing now, thankfully!), working part-time retail and part-time nannying, wondering what the fuck I was doing with my life. But then I would walk around the city — take in the murals, and the people (so many freaking cool people), and the historic buildings and the food (oh the FOOD), and I’d get giddy. Like, how is it possible that I’m allowed to live in a place this magical? And I never would have expected it from a place like Philly. If you (or anyone on this thread!) haven’t been, I BEG OF YOU, give it a shot. I miss it every day.

  • I absolutely loved this, Amelia! I, too, get that breathless excitement when I’m in Paris. It’s so uncool, but who cares about being cool anyway? And my love for Paris increased ten-fold when my fiancé proposed there in June last year. It was simple and sweet and we celebrated with petit ecoliers, grocery store cheese, and haribo gummy rings (as there was no actual ring) and it was the best darn week of my life.

  • i feel this so hard. I just got back from paris last week (i’m studying abroad right now) and there’s just so much magic in that city. it was my first solo trip and i was able to roam around on my own accord and sat in front of the eiffel tour with a pain au chocolat and a cheap mini bottle of wine while waiting for the sun to set and the lights to turn on and if it weren’t for the abundance of photos i took i would have thought that it was all a dream.

  • Peter

    Same. But a cult-raised Southern boy who fled as far West as possible at 18 and sometimes needs to come up for air and spend a day with his feet in the Pacific wondering how a magical place like California can exist.

  • Shea

    “Then you walk home and the Eiffel Tower is twinkling — or maybe you see
    the sun set over the Seine — and it’s almost funny. It’s almost too
    good, too romantic.”

    This is exactly how I felt during my first ever trip to Paris last Spring… in the best way possible. I remember eating chocolate by the Eiffel tower one night while listening to La Vie en Rose from my iPhone speaker and just being so happy that, in that moment, my life was about as cliche as possible. I think that we all need that cheesy, awe-stuck, is-this-even-real-life-or-am-I-in-a-rom-com feeling every now and then.

  • Inaat

    I know this is not entirely related, but I am newly single after eight years. I would love to travel alone but have no idea where to start. Would love it if you guys could do like a travel/shopping guide, with suggestions on where to go alone!

    • Adrianna

      I recently went on vacation to Sweden, Spain, and Portugal. Barcelona and Lisbon were the top cities we visited.

      A super memorable part of the vacation was Kiruna, northern Sweden. Admittedly something not to do alone, but to keep in mind for the future. There was just something so surreal about being in the Arctic Circle.

      • Inaat

        I’m from Norway, so I have been a great deal around in scandinavia. But never Kiruna, I’ll have to Google it. Thank you!

        • Adrianna

          I flew to and transferred at Oslo on my way to Stockholm!

          I was born in Poland but lived in USA for 20 years, so it was simultaneously familiar and very different