Day 267: Sparkle!

After publishing my first contribution to Ma Vie Française, I proudly sent it out to friends and family to share with them a little piece of my French beginnings. My mother who remembers the special-Ed math crisis all too well and is the least articulate writer that I know, sent this e-mail: "Hi. The school..what jerks! Good story. I love you. Momma" Her text messages are even more painful, if you can believe it. And leave it to my French friends to point something out to me. They have spent the past two days making fun of the chambre de bonne caption I wrote under Fifi's gorgeous illustration of an apartment in the 7th. "Ella! What chambre de bonne do you know is on the first floor, has parquet floors, floral window dressings and a gorgeous view of the Eiffel Tower?" my friend Thomas mocked, "You're lucky if you can see the top of a tree in a chambre de bonne!" 

I should know better, I live in one.

I guess labeling this expensive piece of real estate in the chi-chi part of town, a chambre de bonne is not exactly accurate. I couldn't escape their playful ridicule but also couldn't go back and change it, and just hoped that my story is entertaining enough that it would be overlooked.

So last night, I was invited to a dinner by my dear friend Jean (who has never called me by my name, to him I am Bijou Américaine) at our mutual friend Gaultier's new apartment, a chambre de bonne.

This is his view...

Well, well, well, would you look at that? A chambre de bonne with not a view of the Eiffel Tower but the view of the Eiffel Tower! Do you know how satisfied I was when I saw this? You bet I sent this photo out in a mass text with a smiley face.

Dinner was absolutely lovely. I have not seen Jean and Gaultier in over a year and a half. Jean followed his dream and moved to Japan last year and Gaultier whom I know through Jean has been overwhelmed with his last year of school and up until recently was commuting from the suburbs and as life is, we've all been doing our own thing. I was also in hiding after the MF catastrophe and wasn't reaching out to anyone during this dark period. Now that it has been almost a year since everything has happened, I am able to talk about it openly (and briefly) without my eyes watering up.

Catching up with old friends over bottles of red, saucisson and hot bowls of creamy pasta on an icy, winter's night was just what I needed as a welcome back to my beloved city. 

There was so much to talk about: Jean impressed me with his fluent Japanese and recounted his tales of being an expat in a foreign country, Gaultier shared his exciting new job, showed me photos of his new girlfriend whom he clearly adores, and as I was launching into some of my news, they stopped me mid-sentence. Immediately, I assumed something was stuck in my teeth or I had red wine lips and hovered my hand over my mouth while looking back at them with wide eyes. "Bijou, you speak French," Jean said proudly with Gaultier nodding his head in agreement. Oh yeah, I guess I was speaking French and it hadn't even occurred to me. 

Back when I met them in 2009, they spoke English with me because my French wasn't fluent. I couldn't even "practice" with them because I was simply unable to convey a point or retell a story as it would put a strain on the entire social gathering. Fast forward almost three years later, I don't even realize that I'm speaking it. So for all of you who get frustrated or discouraged, please believe me when I say that it only gets better with practice and time. If a special-Ed math girl like me can do it, I trust that you can too.

As the meal progressed and the second bottle of wine was being popped open, Jean confessed that he was pleased that I let go of my former toxic friends whom he used to label "The Crisis Group". Looking back, he was right. My first batch of friends here were a bunch of hooligans who cared nothing about learning French, made me feel like I was a show-off for trying to communicate in the country's official language, would talk horribly about one another - mostly me, and get drunk and start fights with people on the metro or at parties - in English. Not surprisingly, these were the people who turned their backs on me when I was in the merde. Who needs friends who want you to sparkle less in order to make them feel more comfortable? I did that a lot in my twenties, I downplayed my hard work and played stupid to make people feel better about themselves. How sick is that?

Like I had mentioned in previous posts, when you are new to a city, your standards are lowered as you desperately search for your niche and core group of friends. Perhaps this isn't the case for everyone but it certainly was for me. I didn't want to be alone in exchange for some company, even if it meant insulting myself.

These days I understand that quality trumps quantity and if you have a small group of true friends, then you have everything. It took four months of pure solitude to finally understand this.

The night was coming to an end as the clock struck 11 on the dot, the Eiffel Tower started its on-the-hour light show spectacular. Just like Aurelien got serenaded in New York by my cousins with Billy Joel's "The Piano Man", I got the French version when Serge Gainsbourg's "Initials BB" came on the radio. I couldn't have asked for anything more, I had two adorable French men - who incidentally were both wearing turtlenecks - smoking cigarettes, drinking wine and singing to me with the glittering Eiffel Tower staring back at me through the window. 

I truly felt like a sparkling bijou américaine and I make no apologies for that.


  1. I love this post! Your "Ma Vie Française" post was amazing as well. I totally agree with you about quality being better than quantity when it comes to friendships. I have many associates but only about 5-7 people so far who I can honestly call my true friends. Your friend has such a gorgeous view of the Eiffel Tower. It made me wanna pack my bags and take the first flight out of Dallas to Paris. Lol

    1. Thank you Elsa!

      It took me a while to understand the difference of an acquaintance (drinking buddy) and a true friend.

      I also think as we get older having tons of friends is less important than having a few great ones. We get set in our own ways, we have less patience for b.s and detect when someone doesn't have good intentions. Last year, I ignored red flags that were waving in my face...! I was so dumb.

      How gorgeous is his view!? It's worth climbing up the eight flights of spiral stairs!

  2. thats awesome about speaking french fluently! I've been here since 2008 and I still struggle ugh. WELL DONE!

    1. Thanks! I'm sure you speak beautifully! We're our own worst critics, you know? :)

  3. I'm sure you hear it all the time, but your story is a-fucking-mazing. I was reading yesterday and for a second I thought that there is no way it could be true. Unlike the disappoint I felt when I finally figured out the Merde series by Stephen Clarke was actually fiction - I wouldn't even care if it was. (I know your stories true, but come on, really! I thought breaking an engagement in a foreign country was going to be the worst part of your year).

    And now you are riding around Paris on a Vespa while your ex holds your jacket hostage because he's still miserable? That's when I knew it was all true. Because my ex did the same thing. I wonder how many girls are wandering around cold because their creepy exes are sleeping with their coats and sniveling all over the sleeves.

    1. Thanks Emily.

      This blog was not at all supposed to be about the shittiest year of my life. The idea was how to grow each day, learn things about myself and Paris and reach goals. Not get robbed, betrayed and be puffy jacket-less in Paris!! But I think everything that has happened was a result of the break-up.

      For example, I obviously didn't have my head on straight when I let that little creep into my apartment. So how could I be surprised that she robbed me? Looking back, she was really weird when I met her and if my judgement was clearer, I wouldn't have let her in. So that's why that happened.

      As for the puffy coat. I could have used it yesterday because it's freezing here!!

  4. I'm glad you picked up the pieces of your heart, cobbled them together and put your big girl panties on (you know the ones the orange troll later stole) and took back control of your life.

    For me and my Jacket Hoarder, I think things I was doing/not doing/avoiding/bottling up etc. led me to even date him in the first place and that exploded in a perfect storm of life lessons that I had to learn all at once, very quickly and painfully. Now that I am all caught up on my life lessons, life is much better.

    I don't know if you are as sentimental as me, but I have bracelets my dad made for me and shoes my grandmother never got a chance to wear, and I love taking those things with me when I got to different countries they never got a chance to visit. And when I miss either of them, it's nice to have something they touched that I can still touch. It's not like he has and H&M jacket you got on sale. He knows it means something to you.

    My point is Mr. Enfant Pourre Gate (spoiled rotton kid) - Give Ella back her coat and stop reading her blog. She doesn't love you anymore and keeping her stuff isn't going to change that.

  5. Ella,

    Thanks to MK's Out and About in Paris blog, I found your blog.
    Since I had to know all the history, I started from the beginning; it's taken me about a week to get to here. :)

    And, let me tell you, a person is never too old to make a big mistake (I'm 62); a few years ago, I became involved with a complete fool from whom I'm still attempting to become disentangled. My smarts kicked in mid-March of this year, and I called it all off, but can you believe I'm still dealing with the fallout of living with that person for two years.

    Your true life stories can help even us older ladies who thought we had it together but then found out we are still capable of making a grosse erreur

  6. I am enjoying a session of throwbacks this rainy afternoon. God, you are one entertaining lady!!!!!! When are you going to write a novel?!?