connect!

both sides, now.

Me. Circa 2003.
In the throws of dating in my 20s. 

Having had a mild holiday season, last week we finally got that bone-chilling, stay-at-home, gloom and doom January that sweeps through town every year. While it is nothing compared to what the east coast got this past weekend (I hope everyone stayed safe and warm indoors), with the exception of today, which is mild and sunny, it's been, well, January in Paris. 

Yesterday, to beat the Sunday early evening blues (that I honestly thought would dissipate after high school), the three of us decided to go to our favorite local café for a drink. 

Because it was around 5 o'clock on a Sunday, the place was empty with the exception of a couple sitting at a corner booth drinking tea. We chose a table at a respectful distance from them, only to be told by the server that they had reservations coming, and was asked to sit at the table right next to the couple. 

I usually don't love practically sitting on top of the only other patrons in a restaurant, especially these small Parisian cafés, but in this particular case, I felt bad for them, a young couple in their 20s. I imagined they didn't want a baby sitting right next to them, but they seemed super engaged in their conversation that thankfully they didn't to notice.

Upon minutes of sitting in the empty and not to mention silent café waiting for the menu, it took all of 30 seconds for us to realize that the couple who were so engrossed in their conversation next to us, next to us as in we shared the banquette, next to us as in my arm was rubbing against the guy's bag, was in the process of breaking up. 

Not awkward or anything.

As we sat there, the tension and hushed drama as the girl plead and negotiated in a frantic loud whisper for the guy to stay with her was just painful, as Aurel and I scrambled for small talk to mask the heartbreak that was taking place a mere foot away. At one point I heard her complain that he hasn't "liked" her photos in over a week, and then my heart really broke for her. For both of them actually. Dating in your 20s is already tough. Dating in the heightened age of social media sounds like it must be a nightmare. It is already rife with uncertainty and insecurity, but now you have to worry about "likes." Oy vey. These poor kids.

While it's been years since I've had one of those heart-wrenching breakup talks where the conversation just goes around in circles, I certainly have not forgotten them. We all have a file stored in our memory comprised of all of those breakups and people we've dated, where you just shake your head wondering why. Why was it such a big deal? Why the drama? Because it is a big deal at the time and I understood the pain this girl was feeling right then and there. Being married with a baby certaintly doesn't erase the memories of what I remember to be one of the most confusing times of my life. The pure torture of wanting to work it out with someone who you know in your heart isn't the right one for you while being all dramatic in the corner listening to Wilco's "I am trying to break your heart," sadly made up certain parts of my 20s. (I'm pretty sure I was humming that song in the above picture. I recall not being thrilled on that gorgeous evening on an L.A. rootop bar over ten years ago.) Maybe it's a rite of passage before entering your 30s, and by law of maturity, that you have to have at least one of those really fucked up relationships, sometimes with such an awful person, that when you meet the right one, you cherish them like the preciousness that they are. 

I wanted to scooch closer to the girl and say, "Hi there, you don't know me but I'm you in like, five, maybe ten years. Trust me when I say you will one day look back at this moment and feel empowered that you got through it, and maybe just maybe you will even be friends with this guy. You will bounce back from this." But as her tears dripped into her cold cup of tea as she was getting dumped on a Sunday evening (talk about Sunday night blues...shit), asking the guy on repeat why it wouldn't work out between them, I could see she was lightyears from this reasoning and probably wouldn't want to hear from some exhausted-looking lady who was wearing her baby that t'inquiète, ça va s'arranger! 

As their breakup continued to fill the room, Aurel and I quietly looked back at some of the past relationships we've had that resulted in one of these talks, nodding in recognition the exhaustion of it all. When our drinks finally came, before we took our first sip, we acknowledged our baby who began to squirm around in his sleep, oblivious to the life and experiences he will one day have to trudge through, and smiled with relief that those crappy relationships that you emotionally wear like a battle scar are long behind us. If it weren't for those tests in life, we may have never met, and if we never met we certainly wouldn't have met our baby Michaud. So with that, we clinked our glasses to being a little older, a little more seasoned and for having graduated dating in our 20s. Thankful for being able to look at it from both sides, now.

11 comments:

  1. You couldn't pay me to be in my 20s again (I would gladly get my 20s' waistline back, but that's it). I find that the older I get, the better life is:) My 30s were great, but my 40s are set to be even more interesting:) I remember thinking along the same lines as you as I heard of my friends' dating woes when I was studying in the UK with people 20 years my juniors. It's good to look back and take stock of everything you've learned and, hopefully pass it on:)

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    1. I'd take my 20s metabolism too! I remember feeling so uncomfortable in my skin sometimes, which made me feel like my 20s were just an extension from high school. But aside from the postpartum anxiety that's going on, my 30s are going pretty well. I hope it only gets better from there and my 40s are even better! My mom loved her 40s too. Thanks for commenting!

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  2. My daughter. In her late 30s is just going through the breakup of her 16 year marriage. Frim the wisdom of my third marriage my heart breaks for her, but I know she'll survive and be stronger for it,.. But it doesn't get any easier. And I can't do it for her, sadly.

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    1. Hi Denise, It's so nice to hear from you. It's been a while! I'm sorry to hear about your daughter. I hope this post didn't read that once we're married off with kids, we're in the clear, so to speak. Of course not. Marriage is work too. My parents divorced when I was 2 and my mom divorced my step dad when I was 12, so I'm all too familiar with that story (from the perspective of a kid, that is.) I'm sure as a mother, nothing is more painful than to see your child going through so much pain. I'm sure you are doing a great job. She lucky to have such a wonderful mother to turn to. Thanks for dropping a note.

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  3. I'm sure many of us found ourselves nodding in recognition of our own pasts while reading this. I then had to go listen to "Both Sides Now," which I find a moving song.

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    1. Such a great song, right? I'm listening to it again now. Bon week-end and thanks for commenting!

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  4. Ella...
    Hi. I just started reading your blog cover to cover as I just moved to an apartment on rue de Saintonge with three of my friends from the states for a semester abroad. Weird reading about your life here in 2011 and feeling like you're a block away from us. I have so many questions !! Does Monsieur Flâneur's family still have a restaurant here? Where would you go on the weekend if you were us?

    Meagan

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    1. Hi Meagan,

      Welcome to the Marais. You're staying on such a great street. I used to live on Vieille du Temple, so I know the area well. No, MF's restaurant is no longer there, it's a frozen yogurt shop now. : ) Where to go on the weekend? Let's see...I've always loved La Pearl for drinks. I also like La Perla for fun margaritas. A wine bar that I used to frequent is La Belle Hortense, a cozy little spot. Oh, also Les Etages is fun for cocktails. As for food, Glou and Les Gars dans la Cuisine do a nice dinner. These are all on rue Vieille du Temple. Oh, and Rachel's on Rue du Pont aux Choux is great for salads and cheesecake. Also... check out the Haven in Paris and Paris by Mouth blogs who have their thumbs on the pulse of what's new for other suggestions.

      If you have any other q's feel free to email me. I'd be happy to help if I can.

      Thanks for reading the blog and for dropping a note! Have fun in Paris!

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  5. My heart breaks for the young woman -- even with the knowledge that there are life passages that we must all endure, it certainly doesn't make them any easier. On a happier note, I loved reading that the "three of you" decided to go to a local cafe. :) Treasure your moments with those other two. Time passes all too quickly.

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    1. Hi MK! I know, I was just so sad for this girl. I keep wondering how she's doing. I am however, glad it was last weekend and not this one. Getting dumped on Valentine's Day (even if it is a silly little day) would be just heartless!

      It's so nice to hear from you. I hope you're settling in seamlessly in Prague and hope we can connect the next time you're over here.

      Bon week-end!

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  6. So nice to read you again! Ahhhhh yes, I so remember those dating sagas. I couldn't be more grateful to have those be a thing of the past now. What especially rang true with me was the line about wanting to desperately hold onto this person that you know in your heart not to be the one for you. Why do we do that? Is change really that frightening? In any case, you captured the before and after beautifully; I can so relate to both. Sending love to you three! xo

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