Paris Cured My Cynicism
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.