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Café Oy Vey!

Illustration by Equin-co Designs

When leaving the house and emerging onto the streets of Paris, unlike in New York, I actually pay attention to my appearance. None of this just "run out in Randy Goldstein's party favor Bar Mitzfah t-shirt, with Uggs slippers and a pair of Free City sweatpants" malarkey. That just won't fly in these parts. While I'm not saying that we are all prancing down the street in Dior Haute Couture 2012, in Paris there is somewhat of an expectation to be presentable, at the very least. 

I woke up on this first cool morning, turned on the espresso machine and realized that there was no milk. I had forgotten to pick some up at the market yesterday because I was too distracted by their "autumn wine fest" promotion they've been hosting this week. Instead of the two cartons of room temperature milk that I was supposed to pick up, I grabbed two bottles of half-priced Bordeaux, which seemed like a good idea at the time. I'm also a sucker for visual merchandising and the fake plastic grapes and vines they have hanging over the aisles were just hypnotizing, making me feel that I was personally invited to the celebration.

Needing immediate coffee consumption, for the first time, I repeat the first time in my Paris history, I ran out in my pyjamas. I supposed I could have thrown on a pair of jeans, and perhaps I was just being defiant, but I simply did not want to get dressed to go across the street. Call me crazy. So in my oversized, butch cut-off sweatpant shorts that makes me look like an extra in "Million Dollar Baby", a shrunken turquoise t-shirt that reads "Somebody Loves Me in California", and red patent leather Repetto ballet flats, off to Franprix I went. The outfit was completely ridiculous but for a three minute trip, it was worth offending the Fashion Gods. I didn't care. I needed my morning latte tout de suite!

I arrived at the sliding glass doors of my neighborhood Franprix, and they didn't open. I waved my hands around to trigger the sensor but it still wouldn't open. I looked inside and the lights were all on, the cashiers were at their posts looking back at me, and one of the employees approached the door and just stared at me from the other side of the glass. "Bonjour," I mouthed to him. Actual human contact like this was not what I wanted as this was supposed to be a three minute trip to get milk, which was now turning into a five minute trip. The man, a middle-aged Indian man, looked at me and nodded his head no. No what? He mouthed that they were closed. Closed? What time was it? I don't own a watch and barely own a cell phone these days, so I certainly didn't know the time. "Il est quelle heure?" I slowly and dramatically mouthed to him as if he was the foreigner here, and it came out sounding less French and more yenta from Brooklyn. He nodded his head no...again. What was with this "no" business? No what? What time was it?

It wasn't worth interacting with him anymore, he was unhelpful and completely annoying. I'm sure I didn't hide my irritation either. A senior citizen who had suddenly appeared with his canvas shopping tote on wheels, watched our interaction and kindly informed me that it was 8:58. 

Franprix opens at 9. 

All of the clerks were there. The market was ready for business, but because it wasn't 9 on the dot, they wouldn't open the doors. They preferred to stare at us awkwardly from inside. In all fairness, I guess I wouldn't want to work the two minutes for free either if my shift started at 9. Fine. I get it.

During this downtime, I had a chance to get a good look at my ensemble through the door's reflection. There was no denying the fact that I looked like a complete moron. The outfit was just wrong, I had a black shadow from yesterday's eye makeup under one eye (just one), and a fresh pimple planted on my chin reminding me that adult acne doesn't phase out in your 30s. The only plus was that my hair actually looked amazing. I'm not kidding. Since we have a few mintes, two to be exact, I'll fill you in on last night's beauty treatment. I put in a leave-in thermal hair mask by a company called Nubian Heritage, and I have to tell you, this stuff works. I look like a lioness, think Diana Ross in her disco days, or maybe Shakira would be more accurate. My curls are shiny and fabulously out of control. J'adore! All these years of spending money on "anti-frizz" products, when I could have spent less and gotten better results with products for African hair. What an awakening.

The two minutes of waiting were going by painfully slow, and the gusts of cool autumn wind was making my appearance go from heinous to absolutely offensive as "I" was peaking out from my thin t-shirt like bullets with butterfly wings. I was avoiding all eye contact with the Monsieur who was properly dressed in a perfectly tailored navy blue peacoat and knotted scarf. He made no effort in hiding his confusion and made several comments on how cold it was, and that perhaps I should have left the house with a coat and proper pants. Thank you, Sir. Had I known I'd be waiting on the street for the longest now, three minutes of my life, I would have certainly reconsidered this morning's "look". 

The doors of Franprix officially opened at 9:01 (sadists!) and I beelined for the milk, bought two cartons and ran back home, never again to disgrace the streets of Paris in last night's old rags.

I have learned my lesson that curveballs happen, especially in major cities and especially in Paris, and to always dress accordingly. You never know what will get thrown your way. All this drama for the love of coffee. Oy vey!

32 comments:

  1. Oh so it is the foire aux vins? They had some promos on at Monoprix yesterday, but they did such a half-arsed job that I wondered. I think a trip to one of the big hypermarchés is in order for old Gwan!

    So I would probably have opened up at 8.58 and def not have come awkwardly stared at you, but the people turning up 20 mins early and peering through the doors used to bug me when I would have to open up libraries in the morning. I probably wasn't even getting paid to be there early and fire up all the machines, no way I'm going to let pesky people in, plus it does take time to boot all the systems up, turn lights on, unlock doors etc. Even worse is the end of the day when the buggers are already inside and you're trying to chase them out. Always one who comes up wanting to get books out when you've already shut the machine down. End librarian rant.

    I feel your pain, I was a bit sad when coat weather was over because it meant I couldn't get away with going out in dodge trackies any more! Although I walk 15 mins to and from the gym in my workout gear without feeling like a hideous embarrassment (except when I cross paths with the cute militaires who are always wandering about near my gym), so I don't really know why it makes such a difference to me.

    Sorry, comment almost as long as the blog! At least our embarrassing moments are always good for blog giggles :)

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    1. Hi Gwan! Yes, it is for the Foire Aux Vins, not "autumn wine happy celebration let's get drunk fest" like I had initially thought.

      Yeah, it was annoying that they wouldn't open the doors 2 minutes early, and it was more annoying that he kept saying no to me. I wanted to hiss at him yesterday when I saw him but Seb stopped me. He thought it might come across a bit aggressive. I wonder why....

      But I get it, if I was there like twenty minutes early, that would have been annoying, and I would have gone back upstairs and waited at home, but two minutes isn't long enough to go back home, but just long enough when it's cold to be irritating!

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  2. the same has happened to me in Spain! I feel so ashamed if I go outside in my "indoor" clothes or heaven forbid, my glasses! Everyone stares and sometimes they ask me if I'm sick.

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    1. It's definitely a European thing. They just don't do the "shlep" look.

      You get looks when you were glasses? Why? Glasses are chic! ;)

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  3. hahahah I love this!!! so so funny and fantastic. of course they wouldn't open until 9 on the dot... but I bet if they wanted to close at 8:45pm, they would be able to do that. and you had me laughing at "randy goldstein's bar mitvah 1995" you know everyone is wearing those shirts all over murray hill on saturday morning... x

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    1. They DO close ten minutes early, and they don't let anyone in 30 minutes before closing, AND while you're in there, they're already closing the gates making me feel like I will be trapped in Franprix! They have no problem closing early.

      Randy's bar mitzfah was a good time. His theme was Halloween and I danced with Adam Rosenberg. I want to bring Randy to Paris. I love that t-shirt. I have a matching duffel bag.

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  4. I haven't walked out in PJ's but I have while wearing partial painting clothes or just amess! I try not to do it anymore b/c it just makes me feel worse! But, like you said, sometimes you 1) need your coffee or 2) mad hungry or 3) the mailman shows up at the door/called to pick up a package. I have scared and confused quite a few people on the streets of Grenoble (including walking back from the Bastille last night in a black hoody) and I cannot imagine what it would be like in Paris! You can always just wear sunglasses and a scarf and be almost proper enough right? I often have a scarf and/or a blazer thrown on top of my mess of a self..

    Mdr @ "Sadists" !

    Ps - Need to get me some Nubian Heritage !

    Pps - and I'm finally following on on FB! Love your extra pics! I just created my own (inspired by you of course): http://www.facebook.com/Grenobloise

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    1. Hahaha! They were sadists! They knew I was cold. I was very dramatic about displaying my discomfort and irritation. They were getting evil pleasure out of it.

      The Nubian hair mask was amazing. I put the mask in, put my hair up and wrapped it tight in a plastic bag for an hour. I was pleased with the results. : )

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  5. Thanks for the Like!!

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  6. Oh man, oh man. Does that mean college sweatshirts and leggings aren't allowed either? What am I going to do? That's my go-to errands outfit in the winter!

    p.s. Reading your blog has totally inspired me to start my own in honor of my move to Paris. Maybe I'm jinxing myself by starting this blog prior to my move but whatevs. I'll take the chance...

    www.dumpsterdivingfordiamonds.wordpress.com

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    1. College sweatshirts if they look super American might be okay. They are very popular with French teens who I swear secretly want to be American. At cafes after school, you see groups of them sitting around drinking cokes, wearing letter jackets, high taps, baseball caps and hoodies. It's great.

      Congrats on the blog!!! You've been added to the b-roll! Looking forward to being able to catch up with you now. : )

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  7. Hahaha, this cracked me up. I did this same thing with basketball shorts in Milan...except that I left the apartment for Nutella. I got the feeling I had horrified everyone in my 3-block radius. Never again (except maybe for coffee...)

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    1. Yes, it's definitely a Europe thing, not just a Paris thing! Basketball shorts! I can see that getting some looks in Milan! It's the shorts part that they don't love! I would so run out in rags for Nutella...or Speculoos. : )

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  8. One of the things I'm most enjoying about being away from Paris is walking out of the house wearing what ever I have on (and asking people to look in the overstock in the back of the store for something I can't find and them actually doing it with a smile).

    People really do notice, and will make comments if you don't look presentable in Paris. It's not a fun lesson to learn.

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    1. That's one of the greatest joys in the States; happy and helpful employees. Enjoy your customer service while you can!

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  9. Hee hee - great post! Very amusing, and a great insight into the nitty gritty of what it's like living in Paris (I love living vicariously, ha ha!).

    It must be so weird moving to a place where people stare and are so unhelpful and rude - what a culture shock! I'll bet the supermarket people couldn't have been more shocked if you'd have landed in a spaceship.

    Gwan's Mum x


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    1. Thanks Gwan's Mum! ; ) I'm glad your enjoying slices of my life in Paris.

      At first, living here felt weird and I felt trapped because I wasn't able to properly communicate and express myself. Now that language barriers are out of the way, I feel much more liberated and less timid.

      My big culture shock moment of the month really was the raw meat with a cracked raw open egg that we were all eating last week. Gross!

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  10. See, when you sleep in the buff, you don't have to worry about galavanting about town in your pajamas;)

    Haven't you adopted the French neutral basics with a splash of colour? I did a long time ago because I'm not bothered to shop for clothes and I like my wardrobe to be as simple and versatile as possible since I travel a lot, so I'm all about black, grey, navy and white with a splash of colour (usually bright turquoise, cobalt, emerald green, fuschia or red scarves;)) I found out a long time ago that I get bored pretty quickly of anything that is not a solid colour.

    I prefer to buy books. I know: Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz;))

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    1. You're so right! I should just sleep naked! I know someone who would be very happy with that arrangement! ; )

      I love neutrals with a splash of color. my favorite combo is mixing greys and adding a splash of neon, like a scarf of ballet flat. It's so fresh and fun. For my birthday, Sebs mom bought me a magenta scarf that I have been mixing with an all black or navy outfit. I am a big fan of this style! A scarf changes everything, doesn't it?

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    2. Scarves are the best! So versatile! Been wearing them since the age of 15:) I must have about a hundred of them!

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  11. That would be that uncommon of a sight up here in the North. Well, at least not in Valenciennes. Okay, so it's usually the poor people coming from the poorer surrounding towns that are in sweats, but still... it's quite a common thing.

    My mother always made me change out of my PJs when I got up (as she does), so I never got in the habit of wearing them anywhere but straight into the bathroom for my morning shower. Even at university, I was the one dressed in jeans or a skirt while all of my classmates were in sweats or PJs. It was a welcome thing to see more people like me in France!

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    1. Good on your Mom to teach you this at such a young age! She's right. We should get dressed shortly after waking up. That and make your bed!

      Me right now, it's 10 am, on my second cup of coffee and am still in my pjs. Old habits die hard. : )

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  12. Very funny story! Coats - they're what I love about winter because they cover a multitude of sins. I have a friend who will never let me forget that I told her that I was usually (always?!) wearing my pajamas under my coat when I dropped our kids off for school at the ungodly hour of 7:00 in the morning (!!!) in Switzerland.

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    1. Hahahaha "a multitude of sins". Love the drame! This makes me wonder what kind of sins you're hiding under your coat!

      7am to drop your kids off in pjs is totally reasonable! But that just be the American in me just being lazy! So funny that your friend was and is still so shocked by it!

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  13. I love this. I went to the Franprix yesterday feeling a little bit dressed down and felt very weird to do so. In the US? Not so much.

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    1. Thanks Jacki!

      In the US, or at least on Long Island, if I go out in like a sun dress and sunglasses, people look at me like I'm fancy. In France? Not so much. ; )

      I don't think I'll ever stop getting a kick out of the fun comparisons between the two countries!

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  14. I've had a similar experience once and now I just think "dress as if you're going to run into your worst enemy today" now, I don't have a worst enemy or any enemies really but it definitely keeps me in check. There's a vending machine in my building, I don't even go to that in my pajamas or take out the trash in my pajamas! But being defiant certainly has its charm. And that thermal hair mask sounds amazing! xoxox

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    1. Hi Vanisha! Welcome!!

      That is a great rule to go by. I actually did bump into someone I had a falling out with and was very happy that I was not wearing my "Franprix outfit". I'll always go out looking cleaned up from now on, because you just never know.

      Yes! The mask is fantastic and was really inexpensive! I also have one from L'Oreal that I'm going to try this week. If it's as good, I'll let you all know as L'Oreal is more accessible than Nubian Heritage. ; )

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  15. OMG... so freakin funny... they do the same thing here in Norway. Lord forbid they open the door a min early. LOVE your blog... I'll be following. :-)

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    1. Hi there and welcome!!

      Thank you so much for your sweet comment! I love meeting new readers, especially new readers with blogs!

      I'm not surprised that this happens in Norway too, it's totally a Euro thing. From now on, I vow to leave the apartment looking chic, or at least polished up because I feel an ex-boyfriend run-in creeping up....

      Heading to your blog now! : )

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  16. I hear you, definitely crazy to stare at you for the two minutes. Although, I will agree with Gwan, I work in a doctor's office and we close for lunch for an hour. There's always a little sign with a clock that says we will be open again at 115p and people constantly come up and try to open the door and then just stare at me. It's 30 min until 115 and I'm not opening!

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