Day 18: Move On.

Today is a tough task to endure.

Reading chick-lit and watching girly things like Sex and the City have been comforting and all but I can't help but not completely relate. All of these women who have been left out in the cold by the men that they loved have had a strong network of friends who supported and cared for them, unconditionally. I couldn't say that I had the same privileges when the chips were stacked against me. 

I had made friends here in Paris, witchy American girls who I thought were my true friends, friends whom I myself had helped out in their housing crises, break-ups and unplanned pregnancies. Sadly, when it came to my crisis of being dumped by a man they all loved and enjoyed to be around with when he and I were inviting them out to drinks and parties, they became less than my friends. I now understand the definition of fair-weathered friends.

After leaving the home I shared with my ex, I needed to briefly stay with people who I thought were people I could count on. These were friends whom I always defended when my French friends had asked me why they have been here for two years and didn't bother to learn the language. Friends who had put me to work while I was staying at their apartment? I was asked to clean up after parties, do laundry and go grocery shopping which I did as I was just grateful I had somewhere to stay. I also tried to stay out of the flat as much as possible to keep out of everyone's way. I was merely buying time before my new apartment had become available and three days before I was able to get the keys I was asked to find 'another situation' because they needed their space for dates and felt that they had helped out enough. They were the only friends I knew that had enough space to take me in, all my other friends live in studios with their significant others.

In an effort to forgive and move on, I must accept that everything truly happens for a reason and a time of trauma shows who your real friends are and who are not. I am slowly making new friends and am accepting that life works in mysterious ways. Do I want to leave Paris because of this unfortunate situation? No. Will I be more selective in the future who I choose as my immediate circle? Absolutely. Do I regret helping others who were incapable of offering the same? Never. A good heart never goes unnoticed in the bigger picture. 

Today is about practicing compassion from a distance...even when I don't think I can...

Day 17: Free Yourself.

So it's Day 17 of moving on and about two months since our initial break-up and today something important needs to be done, something I have been debating on for quite some time, something I did not want to do as I was hoping for a reconciliation, something that may come across as immature but my intentions are sincere in an effort to move on and heal. I must delete him from Facebook...stupid Facebook.

I am done avoiding Facebook and missing out on the minutia of my friends and family in the States whom I never see in fear of what I will find out about him. I let my imagination run rampant with the anxiety of him changing his status from 'engaged' to 'single' and seeing all of the 'likes' from his female friends who I knew never liked me. Why didn't they like me? When I came along they suddenly they weren't the center of attention and could no longer call him four times a day at any hour with their guy drama. Just like his female friends, the like button holds an annoying power that would undoubtedly hurt my feelings. 

I resisted adding him and announcing our 'status' in the first place in order to avoid this moment and finally accepted his request when I felt 100% secure that this moment was not in our future. I thought that we were invincible, a unit that couldn't be broken. To quote Wallace Shawn in 'The Princess Bride', this moment seemed 'utterly and if all other things completely and totally inconceivable.' But now here I am, faced with the inconceivable, faced with a problem my mother and father never had to deal with and now must make a decision.

Do I keep him as a 'friend' to be nice and risk getting set back when he eventually changes his status and starts dating again or do I take care of me and protect myself from finding out something that I don't want to know? This goes back to my question if ignorance is bliss or is knowledge power? In my opinion ignorance keeps winning and I have to stay on my path of focusing on me and not on him. With that being said, homeboy has been DELETED! Au revoir!

Day 16: Soyez Une Petite Coquine!

Illustration by Sarah Mensinga

It has been almost 2 months since I have moved into my new flat and realized that I never got myself a house warming gift. Having the place come already furnished and equipped with kitchenware, bedding, towels and even a case of Heineken, I didn't feel the need to buy anything other than some scented candles to warm up my surroundings a bit. I wanted to treat myself to something and couldn't quite put my finger on what. And then it hit me. It was all too obvious. 

Now that the initial shock of the break-up is fading and the idea of pleasure doesn't make my eyes well up with memories of past passion, a purchase was meant to be made. Too early to share my bed with someone, I opted for plan b; I needed to buy a vibrator. I don't know if this would be categorized under self-improvement but I do know that it was time - time to start being a functioning 20-something year old.

I snuck over to Passage du Désir with a baseball cap and sunglasses to explore the world of self-love and other delights. To clarify, I was not disguising myself because I felt shame of going into a 'Love Store', the disguise was necessary because the store is down the block from Monsieur Flâneur's restaurant. Could you imagine? That's all I needed him to see me doing on his way to his many coffee breaks; replacing him. Replacing him with something with feathers and vibrates at a speed that no man could even attempt - so undercover I went.

After the helpful shop girl showed me their full and somewhat overwhelming selection as well as their vinyl costume collection including an 'Alice in Wonderland' get-up. I decided to skip 'Alice' as I don't need visuals for myself and opted for a lovely little hot pink toy with a functioning glitter bunny 'feature'. It amazes me that sex toy designers even bother with these aesthetic details. I don't plan on showing my 'new gift' to anyone and if anything will need to well conceal this accessory that looks like it could come with Malibu Barbie's Mansion.

Not ready to jump into fits of passion with someone who will feel like a total stranger, a girl still has needs and today was the day to explore them. Roar.

22, rue de Pont Neuf
Paris 75001

Day 15.5: Get A Rub Down.

After months of carrying bagged lunches, notebooks and transporting  heavy tax documents to the post office before the daily cut-off time, I realized my back was in serious need for some TLC. Not having my head on straight these past few months and not knowing where all of my things are, as I am still living out of post-break-up boxes, it escaped my mind that I had the golden ticket to temporary paradise. A portal into a life that does not exactly echo my own, but for two hours, I could fake it. Upon rummaging through folders and boxes that had been stuffed in a frenzy, I finally found it. The gift certificate for an hour massage at the Dior Spa in the Hotel Plaza Athénée.

After a sent e-mail request through their website, the pertinent and helpful staff promptly responded with availability options for the following morning; an ideal way to spend yet another quiet Saturday afternoon alone.
The Dior Institut is located in the timelessly chic Hotel Plaza Athénée. Yes, the same hotel where the final episode of Sex and the City was filmed where Carrie Bradshaw keeps saying “Merci beaucoup, merci beaucoup” to the reception while spinning around and touching her hat. (I kind of hate that scene.)

Entrance in to the decadent hotel welcomes guests with an attentive staff who are set in the background of jewel-tones and rich ambience that conveys true Parisian opulence. In contrast to the old world style hotel foyer, the spa itself fashions clean lines, chrome details and signature Dior cannage accents upon descent down the discreet spiral staircase located to the left of the lobby.
Once I had checked in the with the friendly and bilingual staff, a tour of the facilities was offered where I was escorted to the ladies lounge, just past the complimentary gym and exquisite mosaic reflecting pool. The small lounge featured your basic spa accoutrements a sauna, steam room, vanity table, take-home toiletries and two walk-in showers, that are without question, the size of my apartment. 

Not to make the same mistake as I did, keep in mind that there are two shower nozzles: a traditional fixture in the wall as well as a large rain shower head on the ceiling for a full massaging shower experience. Take note of the faucets to avoid being unexpectedly soaked! The aroma of the ginger infused steam permeating from the signature Plaza Athénée bath gel created a sense of awakening while provoking total immersion into relaxation. 

No spa trip is complete without slipping into a plush over-sized velour robe after utilizing said walk-in showers to wash the grime of the city off. Once in full spa attire, I padded down the quiet hallway as the robe dragged on the marble floors to my appointment.
Shortly after waiting in what I would describe as a ‘beauty lab’, I was greeted by Mariam, the masseuse who briefly wanted to discuss any aches and pains that she should focus on recovering during the treatment. Could she massage a broken heart? Resisting the urge to ask her that, I gave her the basic run down of my tight shoulders from carrying heavy file boxes to my sore lower back from hunching over a copy machine. 

The hour and a half massage using only Dior creams, essential oils and serums showcased that she was a thoroughly trained and was able to detect kinks in target areas while understanding my comfort needs. The session ended with a deliciously tingly scalp massage; the climactic end to total bliss, leaving me feeling lighter, relaxed and reluctant to get up.
The Dior Institut is a small piece of paradise off the ostentatious Avenue Montaigne making anyone feel like a Princess Parisienne! Turning back into my melancholy self on my metro ride back home, I prepared myself a gourmet dinner of chicken soup in a box from the Monoprix and reflected on a lovely afternoon spent visiting another world.

Things will turn around one day, right? I have faith that it will...
Dior Institut Spa at Hotel Plaza Athénée 
25 Avenue Montaigne Paris 75008

Day 15: Attack Yourself!

I woke up this morning at 10:00 which is an accomplishment in itself. I'm having trouble sleeping these days so these extra hours of sleep was a lovely treat. I had a quick espresso and headed straight to my gym to take a class called 'Body Attack'. Oh là là! An attack indeed; it was aerobics on steroids! I kicked, shuffled and jumping-jacked my little heart out. The instructor was an adorable ball of energy named Antoine who kept morale up with high-fives and encouraging prompts. With the extra weight I have, I felt my butt hitting my lower back and swaying left to right with each jump! Mon dieu! I left there drenched in my own sweat and with a positive outlook on this gorgeous Saturday.

On my way home, I stopped at the Farmer's Market by my flat to pick up locally-grown fresh veggies to make a delicious protein packed egg scramble while bopping around my kitchen to my love, Serge Gainsbourg (skipping the song 'Je t'aime...mon non plus' for obvious reasons).

Stay tuned and bon week-end!

Day 14.5: Accept the Silence.

Illustration by Angel.Ge

Friday nights...sigh. Fridays nights have been tough during this transition into singlehood. Me, being someone who goes against the grain of common twenty-something rituals of going out, Friday night has always been my favorite night to stay in to répose, take a bath, watch a movie and have a quiet dinner with a few glasses of wine, and for the past few years I have had a partner who shared the same Friday night interests as me. 

Friday night was the night we declined party and dinner invites from friends as it was our night to unwind from a busy week - together.

Coming back to the present, my painful reality is that my boss let me go early when the office was practically a ghost town by 4 pm. My co-workers were taking weekend trips to Germany, had friends coming in from out of town, or dinner parties to rush home to plan for, and I had a hot date at the gym or a lonely night at home. 

For the first time in my life, I didn't want to be let me go early because I was dreading the silence that was ahead of me. Knowing this, I stopped at the English bookstore, WH Smith, and treated myself to the company of Colette, Anais Nin and a fun chick-lit book that practically read my story back to me, making me feel like less of a loser and relationship failure. 

With the sun now setting at 10:00 pm, the days seem irritatingly endless and coming home at 6 pm after a long day, the sun still shines cheerfully through my windows as if it was mid-afternoon. I could've and probably should've gone to the gym to release endorphins but I opted to crawl in to bed, my  safe place and stare out the window. I was only aware of the time that was passing by the bells from the nearby church that struck on the hour...every hour.

These days I am focusing on action and advancement but tonight I couldn't avoid acknowledging the stillness and sadness of the evening and of my life. I must recognize the quiet time, albeit sad, it's necessary during this evolution into the next phase of my life. 

I get it...I need to be alone right now, but why does it have to feel so empty?

Day 14: Get Your Freak On!

Illustration by Karen Luk

Being freshly single has taken my ambition to new heights to do things that I would have put off back when I was in the nook of coupledom. Since relinquishing my responsibilities of maintaining a home for two, spending time with his family who I actually think I miss more than him and entertaining his friends, I have more free time for me. Excited to check out some of the fun classes that are offered at my gym, I saw one that caught my eye. Something I have been wanting to do for years but just never got around to it. Well I can't think of a better time than now to shake, shimmy, wiggle and jiggle my blues away with an hour of Belly Dancing! Bada ba-ching, ching, ching!

Leaving straight from work and not having enough time to run home and get the belly dancing costume that I don't own, I grabbed the gym bag that I keep in the filing room (a.k.a my office) and off to shake my groove thing I went. I arrived just in time to find myself sitting in a room of beautiful women adorned in gold tassels, red silk and turquoise beads who all sported gorgeously cut torsos. I tried my best to blend in with the girls by tying the red shimmy scarf that was offered to me around my waist. Unfortunately David dominated my look last night. Suddenly, the lights lowered and the serious and severely in-shape instructor came in wearing modest black stretch pants and a crop top that boasted a stomach that you could bounce a quarter off. There might as well had been a smoke machine to announce her entrance, that's how intense her stride across the dance floor was. Without skipping a beat, she commanded us to spread out and to stand up straight with our legs slightly apart as the sound of a banging Doumbek pumped through the speakers.

I haven't swiveled my neck, popped my hips, oscillated my butt and pumped my shoulders so hard in my life and this was only the warm-up! The ladies in my class were beyond impressive and had all the moves down as they gyrated their midriffs with effortless ease. I, on the other hand, was having trouble disconnecting my stomach movements with the rest of my body and just looked like I was getting electrocuted as I was trying to vibrate like everyone else. I was having a ball laughing at what a poser I was. I was dramatically coping their expressions with finger fanning and touching my face while looking left to right and shuffling around the dance floor barefoot. It was fantastic! We learned a choreographed dance that I don't think I quite got down but the teacher informed me that we would be working on and adding to the same routine the following week and that I will feel more comfortable the more I come.

Belly Dancing accomplished my mission, I left there feeling beautiful, challenged and excited for next weeks class. My goal is to be as graceful, confident and sexy as the pros in my class.

Day 13: Express Yourself!

While my French is better than I give myself credit for, I can afford to flower my words up a bit. So everyday I would like to expand my vocabulary by one word so it isn't so flatlined. "Things are good. Things are bad. I'm happy. I'm sad." That's me. In French. There are so many better ways to express yourself and damn it, I want to be profound in French!

Today's French word for today is Le Disjoncteur. Sounds sexy, right? Depending on what turns you on, it could be. It means fuse box, a word would that would have come in handy last week when my power went out forcing me to call the electrician who kept telling me to check le disjoncteur. I know now it seems like an obvious request. But being in a state of hysteria as my T.V turned off in the middle of 'Glee', I had no idea what he wanted me to check. Well my friends, my limited vocabulary cost me. Cost me money I don't have. I paid 50 euros (like 70 US dollars) for a visit for him to come over and literally press a button on the putain de disjoncteur! Day 13: Improve Vocab. Stat!

Day 12: Join A Cult.

Yesterday, my boss treated our hard-working office to an end-of-day cocktail hour that consisted of wine and what he said over ten times; 'light snacks'. I ended up consuming a little more wine than snacks, which rendered me sleepy on my commute home and immediately hit the hay at an hour appropriate for children under the age of 5. 

A few hours later, I woke up to the sound of my phone beeping like a maniac to inform me that I had received a text message. My budget SFR phone's text message alert is set to keep ringing until I acknowledge its presence by pressing a key. Needy phone.

The message was from Jonathan wanting to know what I was up to this week. How nice. Jonathan wants to know what I'm up to this week. As I thought about my plans for the week and what I could tell him and when I could see him, it hit me. Jonathan? Who the hell is Jonathan? I searched my mental Rolodex in my wine and light snacks haze and couldn't meet the name with a face. Really, who in tarnations is Jonathan? I got up to raid my fridge and after two Tzatziki covered blinis, a random Google search and a glass of water, it hit me. Yes, Jonathan, the cult leader wanting to lure me into his house of worship under the ruse of a date. How could I forget? No, my self esteem isn't that low these days that I'd think someone would rather recruit me into a cult than actually date me, I really do think he is part of a cult. I'm feeling bad but not that bad.

So how did this happen? Let me backtrack: It was last week when my favorite ball-busting friend, Thomas called me. He happened to be in my neighborhood and wanted to treat me to falafels at L'As du Falafel over on Rue de Rosiers. After getting our take-out chow, we opted for the best seat in the house; propped up against a near-by building on this busy little street to eat like slobs and people watch. As Thomas and I were woofing down like there was no tomorrow, a man who was walking by stopped in front of me and intensely locked eyes with me as if he knew me and then continued to walk on. Thomas and I looked at each other and as usual Thomas accused me of provoking him somehow, even with yogurt sauce encrusted on both corners of my mouth, he was convinced that I encouraged that moment of weirdness.

After devouring our smashed chickpea goodness, Thomas looked at me with concern and seriously asked how everything was goingThomas, being an old friend but also not the most sensitive friend of my crew decided to offer his two cents, which is rare. In his thick Brittany accent he assured me, "Don't worry, Ella, you'll be back to your old self in no time." Oh well that was sweet, I suppose he's right. "Come on!" he continued as he didn't see my shared enthusiasm "You'll go back to being your old gold self..." he said with an encouraging pull of my shoulder. Okay, Okay, I will Thomas, I will! I started feeling better with his assuring words. "... you'll go back to being a horny slut who falls in love too easily and hits on every French guy she sees. Mark my words." That's more like it. Thanks, Thomas. Not helpful but if nothing, he's consistent. 

Just as he was done 'consoling' me, the man from earlier returned and appeared to be coming towards us again, this time he was holding a book. He was an attractive guy and despite his creepy approach, he met all my physical requirements: small build (check), dark hair (check), beard (double check). So I did what always gets me in trouble here, I did something no respecting French girl would do; I smiled. This opened our communication like flood gates and he introduced himself to me as Jonathan. To me, not to Thomas, if he wasn't even there. "You seem sad," he observed with an extended hand offering me the book. That was his opening line? So far, not impressed. "Oh, I'm fine, just having a falafel feast with my friend Thomas," I said while forcing Thomas' existence into the conversation. "Bon soir" he coolly said to Jonathan. With his offering in my hand, I nervously thumbed through the book that was titled "Courage" and the cover art was a photo of a man and a woman running on a track. Is the woman supposed to me? Am I running on the track of life?

"I would like to see you again," he said with confidence and again ignoring Thomas. "Okay perhaps I should read the book first and then definitely maybe, but be warned with my schedule, it might take a while," I responded with a shoulder shrug. 

Just then, I heard Thomas scoff at my cheesy brush off and was probably secretly annoyed that he was being excluded from me and Jonathan's bizarre exchange. "You don't need to read the book to see me. I would like to go out. You are very pretty with your sad eyes," he continued. "Sad? No, not sad, just in transition," I responded with a half smile. "Well that's perfect. Then we can have transitional drinks as you go into the next stage of your life," he retorted. Oh geez, now I've heard everything. I'm clearly not my sharp self these days because I actually gave him my number. What was I thinking?!

Forgetting that I wasn't alone, I turned in slow motion to my right to see a baffled looking Thomas staring back at me four inches away from my face. "Why did you give him your number?!" Thomas asked with wide-eyes and flailing hands. "At first I was going to give him my fake number but I forgot my fake number, because I was too busy trying to remember how to say numbers in French and decided that maybe I would just give him my real number!" I rambled frantically. 

"How about you give him no number?!" Thomas said logically.
"This isn't America where you always have to be nice and crave being liked! And while we're on the topic," he sidetracked "Can you study your French numbers some more? You were ridiculous in the post office a few weeks ago when each time the clerk said a number to you, you'd write the number down on a piece of paper and hold it up to her like it was 'Wheel of Fortune', to confirm that it was the correct number." He's right, my numbers in French suck.

Thomas then snatched the book out of my hand and began reading it. After five minutes of him absorbing it he looked up at me as he was shaking his head. "This is a cult. You know that? You agreed to join a cult," he said. "I didn't agree to anything. I agreed to go out with him, sort of but messed up with the fake number part, but I'm just getting a drink, Thomas," I argued. "What kind of girl are you? Every girl knows how to properly give a fake number. Only sluts don't know how to to do that!" Thomas, a man who has a way with words.

We stopped and looked at each other and started laughing. I can always count on Thomas for a good laugh with our banter and his annoying comments that he simply can't resist. As the sun was setting over the Marais, kissing the sky with cocktail hues of pink and sherbet orange, he walked me home. Before leaving me in the lobby of my apartment building, he looked at me and in a serious tone told me to please be careful, gave me my double-cheek kisses and left to go home to his girlfriend who thinks we are secretly in love with each other. Not true.

Looking back, it was pretty impressive that Jonathan knew I had been under the weather. Maybe he isn't a cult leader. I mean, really how could he know I was upset just by seeing me inhale fried food in a pita? Maybe I'm not seeing the obvious here. Either that or I look more tore up than I think and my heartbreak is written all over my face. As predicted, Thomas was not impressed or enlightened by my Jesus theory and hung up the phone before even entertaining a response. 

I still feel weak and defeated, but at least I ate well at Paris' most celebrated falafel restaurant, got a good laugh, and saw a dear friend whom I never see.

L'As du Falafel
34, rue de Rosiers
75004 Paris

Day 11: Don't Sweat It.

Is Ignorance Bliss?
My secret to beating the weekday blues is to make dinner plans with a friend so that there is something to look forward to during the longest day of the week - and that's just what I did. 

Tonight, I met up with my dear friend Phil, an American professor at one of the top business schools in Paris to catch up over burgers, vodka (for him) and mojito royales (for me). We went to our favorite local dive, La Panfouliathe Parisian hipster version of "Cheers". The same locals can be found at the bar night after night being served by our favorite wait staff who depending on whose ipod is connected play either really great music or the worst songs ever to be recorded between the years of 1976 and 1982
I take comfort in my dinner dates with Phil, he has become family to me and is one of my favorite friends to torture with my on-going existential crisis' as well as I someone whom I can count on to give me annoyingly honest career advice or depending on my perception for that day, career criticism. 

Phil was filling me about his assistant whom I am fascinated with, this lucky girl who works a whole 15 hours a week, gets paid the salary of an executive and knowing Phil, is not demanded to do too much. I always vie for her job but Phil is pretty sure that she will have that job until she retires. Vive la France! 

The conversation shifted to a recent event where he gingerly  informed me that he had bumped into Monsieur Flâneur on the street recently. Having my bloodstream coated with rum and mint, the mention of his name didn't startle me as much as it would have a few weeks ago, but I guess a clever combination of alcohol and the cold fact that I'm focusing on getting my groove back will do the trick. I started going back to the gym (a day ago!)to lose the heinous 15 pounds of boyfriend-turned-break-up weight, have been reaching out to old friends, getting rid of toxic ones and making new ones, pulled out my goal list and started checking things off (I always wanted to learn how to play Sudoku...check!). I was in full "Operation: Moving On" and the results were starting to show where I am laughing again, enjoying dates and the bounce in my step as I walk down these tiny streets is coming back. 

Feeling smug in my effort to move on, I entertained the conversation and asked Phil how Monsieur was doing which left me prodding for more answers. I saw myself going into the red as I inquired further but I couldn't stop myself, I just had to know. Based on my inquisition as well as having a few drinks himself, Phil told me that he had some "information". Information? Well, this was a surprise, given the fact that Phil and Monsieur do not speak the same language. What could have possibly been communicated between them? I should've told him not to tell me and moved on to another topic but my curiosity, as usual, got the better of me and insisted that he continue. 

Based on their broken Franglais conversation, Phil gathered the missing piece to our break-up. The missing piece? Ok, this has got to be good. Continue. The reason for our sudden break-up was because something supposedly happened when we were in New York for the Christmas holiday that he saw as a 'red flag' in our relationship and he therefore felt that I was not the right one for him.
Excuse me?
Something happened over Christmas? Christmas as in what feels like a lifetime ago as I am wearing shorts with my window wide open? Let's run through the dates here, Christmas holiday lasted until January 4th and we broke up in February. My mind started to slowly process the fact that he waited almost two months, insisted that I don't move back to La Motte Picquet (at my suggestion because we were already having trouble) and to fully commit to living together so we could build our future, had me spend weekends with his lovely grandparents immersing me deeper into his family unit while knowing this whole time that he was planning to break things off??!!

And of all arenas to casually mention it, passing someone whom I consider family on Rue François Miron, a piece to my broken engagement that I wasn't privy to. Who was this guy? Perhaps something was lost in translation between MF and Phil. Who knows? But after calming down I realized that I was focusing on the wrong questions. It didn't matter if he said it or why he said it. The debate is if knowledge really is power or is ignorance bliss? The truth enables us to see things as they are which runs the risk of being hurtful but does this help us move on or is creating your own reality away from a past love where you are in control of your happiness the answer? 

Unfortunately, this piece of information set me back in feeling less than fierce and fab...tomorrow is another day...

La Panfoulia
7 rue, Saint Croix de la Bretonnerie
Paris 75004

Day 10: Appreciate.

Last night, I went to see Woody Allen's new film Midnight in Paris and despite what the critics wrote, what my friends say and what the general consensus has been, I thought the film was just darling and enchanted me even more than Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona. Seeing the opening scenes of Paris made my eyes mist over a bit. Why? Well for two reasons, the first being that one day I may not be able to live here due to logistical complications that will take effect later in the year and the second being the fact that I do live here. Now, this very second. This realization made me appreciate and recognize the present and all the gifts that I do have in my life. 

Owen Wilson's character Gil who was relishing in the history and culture of this very special city reminded me of a younger, greener version of myself, back when this city could do no wrong. Before I knew the realities of RER crooks, the sporadic pattern people have of walking down the street (which is enough to drive any New Yorker insane) and the hardest to get used to; the non-existence of customer service. 

Perhaps, the film is selling a glittery and glossy idea of Paris, but if I wanted to see a film portraying Parisian realities, I'd watch the violent La Heine or the mellow dramatic Dans Paris - there are plenty to choose from. This film brought back the fantasy, the dream of Paris which is what inspired me to come here in the first place. Today I forced myself to remember how I felt my first few weeks here, before I knew a soul and Paris being my only friend was more than enough. 

Day 9: Get Fit.

With each day more beautiful than the next, it is clear that summer is a-lurking here in Paris. Oh God, sunshine and happiness and I feel like death with my heart covered in weeds of a terrible winter gone by. With reluctance, I decided to finally unpack all my suitcases to unveil my summer staples of effortlessly cute dresses, tank tops, sheer blouses and cuffed shorts. At the bottom of my suitcase was the pièce de résistance, my favorite high-waisted wide-legged Marc Jacobs jeans that channel Parker Posey in Dazed and Confused but hold on, there was a problem. I could not get my fat ass into them, no matter how much I tried to stuff it in, it wasn't going in. 

Well, I wasn't expecting this. Oh, who am I kidding? Sure I was. I took a minute to reflect on last summer and how these were my absolute go-to jeans and were in fact, a tad loose around the waist. How could this have happened? Did I put them in the dryer? Ha! Wishful thinking. Upon a horrific naked inspection in my full-length mirror, it became painfully clear that I had put on a good fifteen pounds of lumpy fat since last year. 

How did I let my ass get so big, my stomach so mushy and my arms so flabby? Apparently walking up six flights of stairs twice a day isn't enough. Without a doubt, the first 10 pounds came from being in a relationship. My ex, the king of 3 am pasta drenched in creme fraiche and lardons (the Poor French Man's Carbonara), I could never resist "tasting" which meant devouring the rest of the pot. Add that with the endless pounds of cheese his grandmother used to send us home with after family weekend dinner. And finally the last five pounds coming from post break-up blues washing my sorrows down with rich red wine and living off Chinese take-out and baguettes. I'm fat. I wasn't even going to go near mentioned cuffed shorts imagining my legs exploding out of the bottom like sausage links. 

Well, something had to be done. I am 29 years old and have the body of someone who just had twins. Un-freaking-acceptable. What better day to go to Fitness Club Les Cercles de la Forme to join?

The gyms here aren't as common as they are in the States, less state of the art and more expensive. There aren't any 20 dollars a month deals like they are advertised in the U.S but I am desperate to get back into my jeans and to start looking my age again.

Upon flipping through my new membership packet, I was delighted to see the array of fantastic classes offered. Unlike the gyms I would go to in The U.S where special classes were offered for an additional fee, my membership includes access to Pilates, African Dance, Ballet, Krav Maga, Butt Classes, Thigh Classes, Arm Classes, there is a class for everything! 

Excited about all of these opportunities to get in shape the fun way, I decided to start easy (or so I thought) and go to a basic toning class taught by an attractive instructor Antoine. Basic is not what I would have titled this sweat-inducing, thighs-on-fire, muscles-quivering hour of torture. This only proved just how out of shape I have become. After just two reps of free weights, my arms were shaking and during the squat segment, the instructor kept coming over to sit on my back because I wasn't getting down low enough. 

Needless to say, I am in pain right now. Not to mention the fact that I should have paid attention in the 'Parts of the Body' Lesson at Alliance Française because I was struggling to respond to the commands and was doing everything on a three-second delay as I copied my neighbor. 

Advancement for today: Getting in shape and improving my vocabulary? Sounds like a case of two birds with one stone, if you ask me. I will keep you posted on my progress.

Day 8: Eat Frogs.

Photo by Paris Panam

Nothing nurtures the soul like time spent with your family, especially when you are living abroad and are in crisis mode. Just in time for French Mother's Day, my Mom had leaped the pond to see her little wounded soldier.

I left work a bit early on Friday in excitement to see my mom who was waiting for me at her hotel. My friend Eric who is my uncle's driver when he is in town for business, does his rounds in the same neighborhood as my office had an hour to kill, so he graciously offered to drive me to my Mom's hotel in the 13th. As usual, he filled me in on all the juicy gossip of his high maintenance clients(hopefully my uncle excluded). His patience for these divas is god-like. I don't know how he does it.

Seeing my mom was just what the doctor ordered in nursing my open wound. I'm fortunate to have an honest relationship with my mother and can be candid with my feelings where I don't have to pretend that all is well, because all is certainly not well. I feel terrible. After catching up, I knew that what we needed was some food and some wine. Lots of wine. I took my Mom to La Butte Aux Cailles neighborhood for dinner. My mom being jet lagged and famished didn't care that it was only 6:30 on a Friday evening and the fact that we would be eating alone in a cafe as no one sits down to eat until at least 9:30. Her response? "I don't give a shit. I'm hungry." Fair enough. Amidst the plethora of restaurant options, we chose a darling corner cafe, Le Samson, a family run restaurant by two brothers who boast a menu of typical Parisian fare. I ordered a goat cheese salad with layers of philo dough, reminiscent of Greek spanakopita for my mom and fried frog legs for me. Mostly to torture and dangle in my Mom's face for her reaction. Never one to fail to deliver, my Mother with a cigarette in one hand and her thick Long Island accent called me 'a bitch'. I love my mom.

After a morale building visit with my Mom, I'm ready to take on the challenges that I'm faced with and continue with my mission to heal and repair my broken heart. Never underestimate the power of Mom. Bonne fête des mères.

9, rue Jean-Marie Jégo 
Paris 75013

Day 7: Be with Family.

Throw Mama From The Train
Friday. You're here..thank God. After a long week that featured delights of a quick run-in with food poisoning (steak tartare isn't always a great late-night snack idea), and a misunderstanding from the IRS regarding my return (yes, you still have to pay US taxes even if you are in Europe.) But alas! The weekend is here and I have four words for you. My Mother is coming. Paris beware. This is a woman who insists on announcing each metro stop in her thick Long Island accent (Odéon! Sévres-Babylon!), a woman who gives Brasserie servers a wide-eyed "see, my daughta speaks French" look when I order as if it was contested, a woman who will smuggle my favorite American goodies into French territory but more importantly a woman who I will share a French Mother's Day with on this lovely spring weekend in Paris. She is a five foot tall tornado by way of the Long Island Expressway! If you happen to live in the Marais area, I'd advise you to stay in.

Bon Week-end.

Day 6: Date?

What's So Funny About Pizza, Love and Understanding?

Getting back into the dating scene after a break-up is like being pressured to watch a youtube video that someone insists or even demands that you’ll love. You never really want to do it, it feels forced but you go through the motions of smiling and laughing at all the right moments and it always seems longer than it really is. 

Getting back on the wagon after being a part of a pair was something I was dreading but life does go on and have had more than enough time to process my feelings through wine, Golden Girls and over analyzing in my head. I woke up one morning and realized that I'm in Paris, in the spring time and seriously, it was time to get the hell out of my house...I suppose.

I had paid my two month heartbreak dues and it was time to dip my pinky toe back into the mating pool and call back Jean-Michel, the La Defense banker that I met at an art show a few weeks earlier. Jean-Michel was cute and had a different style than most of the guys I had dated. For starters, he was tall, very tall which was a nice change from the petits I normally date, had deep brown eyes with long eyelashes and buzzed hair. He was far from the short and hairy men that I typically gravitate towards. 

After blowing off his two attempts to contact me, I figured Jean-Michel would have given up on me but I took a chance and sent a very delinquent response. To my delight, he was actually happy to hear from me and teased that my phone must have been broken for a few weeks. I apologetically explained that it has been a stressful few months while carefully not mentioning the broken engagement to Monsieur Flâneur and lied that it was all behind me now. Jean wanted to know if I would be hungry in two days. Cute approach. When put that way, I couldn’t possibly say no and immediately agreed to the feeding. Pourquoi pas? 
We went to The Pink Flamingo for pizza - the cure-all and staple form of nourishment for any self-respecting New Yorker. Since he had some pull at this Euro-hipster mini-chain, he was able to get us the exclusive table in the Volkswagen bus parked in front of the restaurant. We climbed in and sat in what reminded me of my older brother’s described living quarters in Northern California while he was living out his late 90′s Phish days. I had never actually been inside a VW Bus before and loved the irony of finally experiencing it, in Paris with a banker. As aforementioned, Jean-Michel is quite tall and the bus ceilings as one could imagine are very low. Jean was a bit crammed in but was a good sport as his knees crowded the front of his face.
I let Jean do the ordering because he knew the menu well. I covered my ears while he chatted with the server because I wanted to surprised. After 30 minutes of drinking Pink Flamingo beer and sharing work horror stories, two steaming hot pizzas arrived in our bus - yes, our bus. The first that was presented before me was Le Basquiat, a lovely pie featuring all things holy; Gorgonzola cheese, figs and ham and in my American honor L’Obama which consisted of grilled bacon and pineapple chutney.  Although not much can compare to a real New York pizza, Pink Flamingo stands on their own merit for creative and delicious pizzas, original atmosphere and good service. What more could you ask for? - especially in Paris!
Nothing can completely put a band-aid on a freshly broken heart and as the annoying cliché goes, time heals all and I guess it really does. I should know, this isn’t my first rodeo. But in the meantime of waiting for the sun to come out in my heart, pizza and adorable men stuffed in VW busses can help distract the grieving process - just a bit. 

In all honesty, I don't think I'm ready. I just want to go to bed...for a year.

Pink Flamingo 
105 rue de Vieille du Temple 
Paris 75004

Day 5: Observe Stereotypes.

My 17 year old cousin Marco recently asked me via Skype if I wear berets and if everyone here is mean. Naturally, I corrected this old blasphemous misconception and told him that no one wears berets anymore! This got me thinking back to my Alliance Française Paris days where we were studying a chapter on stereotypes to teach us how to express ourselves ie: be racist in French. 

My fellow international classmates jovially labeled Americans as fat, money hungry and loud which I thought was pretty funny and agreed at times is an accurate description. While I didn’t mind the generalization, what I did mind was how after the slam on Americans, everyone suddenly became PC in regards to all the other cultures. For example, no one said anything when the guy from Colombia introduced himself and was labeled with the ‘stereotype’ that where he comes from it is hot. If I’m not mistaken, that’s a fact and can think of one blazingly obvious stereotype, but I digress. As I embark on my two-year anniversary in Paris, I have had a run in or two of expected American behavior thanks to old-fashioned clichés. Based on my experiences and encounters while living abroad, I’m going to debunk some of the myths of the often misunderstood American girl…
10. We are uncultured. There is a strong sense of pride when it comes to culture in Paris and if you are educated in something outside of reality t.v and Lady Gaga videos as an American, you are considered well-educated.
9. We are sluts. Thanks to t.v shows like Desperate Housewives and Gossip Girl, American women have a reputation for being easy and chaude. This one never dies. I can’t count how many times at the end of a first date where theres that awkward moment as the guy is clearly wondering if his American dream will come true that night. Don’t they know that any self-respecting American girl puts out on the second date?
8. We are drunks. The standard of going out and having a drink differs between French and Americans, they really do go out for one drink, whereas one drink really means three or four for us. And for this, we look like drunks. Allez!
7. We are rich. Due to years of a booming economy à la the Clinton administration and the never-ending stream of movies and t.v shows depicting the lives of rich kids, Americans are looked as if we are all rolling some serious cash. Hasn’t anyone read the news? The U.S economy is parallel, if not worse than most European countries. We’re broke too!
6. We are ignorant. There is often a look of surprise when I speak correct French while sprinkling in some slang for good measure. While it is true that people speak English better here than the average person in The States would speak French, most Americans who moved here have taken the time to learn the language and respect the culture. Come on, we’re not that self-centered!
5. We are all from Texas. I have never been asked so many times in my life if I wear a cowboy hat when I am in The U.S. I don’t even think Texans where cowboy hats anymore.
4. We support the war. While yes, there are supporters of the war, there are two sides to everything. The general consensus especially with the youth of America, is anti-war. Not one of my American friends here or in The U.S are in favor of the war.
3. We don’t have good taste and hail McDonalds as fine dining.The irony behind this lies in fact that it’s the French that love chez McDo. Just check out the line out the door at lunchtime! Subway is trailing behind where chains seem to be popping up here at warp speed.
2. We are loud. This one, I’m going to have to go with Team Français. You always know when there is a group of Americans around. Why? Because we tend to speak octaves above everyone else making our presence known. I have been trying to make a conscience effort to be aware of this when in the company of fellow ex-pats. I DON'T KNOW WHY WE ARE SO LOUD! I just don’t know…
1. We are tourists. Be prepared to always be considered a tourist, even if you have your carte de séjour, speak fluent French and have been living in France for years. You will forever be a tourist.