my new paris.

Image via my Instagram

Being a new mom in Paris I feel like I'm seeing the city afresh. New experiences abound! I've seen the city through the eyes of a tourist (cue in my silk floral scarf, bonjour la France!), as a new resident (cue in being broke, bonjour baguettes for dinner!) fast forward seven years to being someone's mother (bonjour, holy shit.) I find myself doing things I have never done before like taking the bus since my métro doesn't have an escalator, clipping diaper coupons only to be told by the clerk after I paid that it was expired who then instructed me to stand on another line for fifteen minutes in order to correct the 20 centimes discrepancy and a newfound aversion to my once-upon-a-time afternoon glass of wine. 

It was my third week being a mom. Aurel was back to work after his two-week paternity leave and my mom who was in Paris to help me had returned to New York, so it was just me and my little Georges. I remember looking at him that first day alone and saying, "So, now what to we do?" 

It was a sunny late-autumn day, so I figured I'd take him for a walk and if ambition struck, we'd go get a drink at the corner brasserie. Dreaming big.  

In the past, a trip to a local brasserie usually involved enjoying a cheap glass of wine with a book. But having little interest in wine these days and with it being my first trip out with my freshly born son I was, of course, going to order something else, but what?

I don't drink that bitter Café Richard espresso, I think paying 5€ for a small bottle of Perrier is ridiculous, and even more ridiculous is paying 6€ for a pot of hot water and an 8 cent bag of tea. So, what do I get? I wondered, looking at the menu before deciding on a chocolat chaud. I was a maniac that day, let me tell you.

Pleased with my choice, I got settled into the tiny little chair my thighs were dripping over because the booths were for parties of two or more (apparently my son hadn't reached human being status yet) and looked down at my baby who was compact like a little cornish hen in the Bobawrap. This mommy thing isn't so difficult, I got this, I thought as I looked out the window on this gorgeous autumn afternoon in Paris. Then I realized that I didn't order a chocolat viennois. A hot chocolate with whipped cream...the best part. Fuck. 

My hot chocolate shortly arrived in the nude without his fluffy whipped cream coat in a wimpy little cup. Boo. 

One thing I try to avoid here in France is having conversations with servers in brasseries (not restaurants...brasseries) because they're mean. I like to just order. Have it arrive. And eat it. Anything beyond that in my experience becomes a situation.

So, what to do? Do I let the whipped cream go because my fat ass didn't need it? (I didn't like that idea.) Do I send it back and order the chocolat viennois? (Ha. Ha. Yeah. Right.) Or do I ask for a side of whipped cream? Asking for a side of anything isn't really done here, but I thought it was the most reasonable out of the three. 

"May I have a side of whipped cream please?" I asked the server who  I had to practically lasso back over to my table.

"But you ordered a hot chocolate."

"I know, I forgot that I was supposed to order a chocolat viennois."

"Well, yeah, that comes with whipped cream."

"I know. May I have whipped cream on the side?"

"You have to order chocolat viennois for the whipped cream."

"I know now."

"That one is with whipped cream."

"I'm not French."

"Oh, okay."

He returned moments later with an embarrassing martini glass filled about a foot high with whipped cream. There I was: sitting in a tiny chair. Wearing my child. With a glass filled with whipped cream. He then plopped a new check down on the table...for three. extra. euros. The additional check brought my hot cocoa trip to a whopping 8€, more than the price had I just ordered the chocolat viennois from the start and more for a pot of tea.

To my left were smug teenagers who side smirked each other at my apparent overall discomfort. To my right was an elderly woman who eyed my Bobawrap with obvious disgust because my child wasn't in a proper pousette. By now I'm used to getting scolded at by French old ladies on the street about everything I'm doing wrong as a mother, but that day being the first time, I just felt like I had royally failed our first time going outside and wanted to cry.

I wanted to leave. I just wanted to get out of there. I was annoyed, embarrassed, getting hot and still kind of wanted my whipped cream but not like this. So, I called Aurel to complain and to threaten to him that I was going to leave.

"You can't leave. You ordered it."

"I didn't touch any of it," I whined.

"Now we know never to go back there but since this is your first time out with the baby, it's complicated as is. Just pay and go." 

He was right. Adding the hysteria of a "dine and ditch" on top of everything else would be just asking for it.

As I was cumbersomely pulling my wallet out of my bag, which set off another grunt from the woman because I had to ever-so-slightly lean over, Georges began to cry. But not because he wasn't in a pousette, but because he was too hot. Now dine and ditching was really off the table, as I couldn't stealthily slither out of the restaurant with a screaming baby.

To comfort him and get him to some air, I pulled him out of the Bobawrap, but the fabric of the wrap got a hold of his little baby sweatpants and a sock. So, the new image of us in the café was me holding up my three-week-old son. In October. Wearing one sock. A bear coat. And no pants.

Before the comment even escaped the woman's mouth, I turned to her and said, "I know, madame, my child should be wearing pants," slapped the money on the table and booked it to the bathroom as one hot mess.

This is my new Paris: I'm externally pregnant with my Bobawrap, I order hot chocolates, I look kind of ugly these days, and I bicker with elderly woman out in public. Paris may be a city steeped in its historical past, but for its inhabitants, it's a continuous evolution. Bonjour, my new Paris.


  1. My friend Sarah and I have this phrase about the moments when you're really nailing the mom thing, 'We're so doing it.' Unfortunately there are more moments where we text each other saying "I'm so NOT doing it today..." So if it's any consolation, your friend in the 17th is 99.9% of the time not doing it.

    1. After I read this, I sliced my finger while washing the blade of our food processor, the water on the stove was boiling, Georgie was crying in the other room, and the doorbell rang. I was so NOT doing it. Glad I'm not the only one. So looking forward to park date on Friday!

  2. You've encountered the "Cold Baby Brigade"!;))

    You could never look ugly even if you tried:)

    Baby G's name is in print, now?:)

    1. Yes, according to many women I pass on the street, my baby is cold. What is seldom put into consideration is that wearing your baby generates so much body heat that the baby is more often too hot than cold. I feel like I'm walking around with a mini radiator attached to my chest that when I get stopped on the street to be told Georges is cold, we are both usually dripping in sweat!

  3. Come on, you're a New Yorker, you're tougher than that!
    Since when do you let a couple of teenagers, an old lady and a sad waiter run your agenda! Paris is expensive and waiters are rude but you need to let the Hillary Clinton come out in you (is that correct English?) and not take things personally! You have a wonderful king George! I'd kill to have a baby (still in the process of making sure I found the right baby daddy) and go have a one-on-one drink with him! No one could ruin that. Much love

    1. Two words: postpartum hormones. They're no joke. Oy vey. I was always on the brink of tears the weeks after the birth. A rerun of Roseanne did me in, just give you an example. I'm starting to see glimpses of my old self but it takes time for everything to level out. Good luck with finding Mr. Right! He's out there. I promise. : )

    2. OMG. So me (sans bébé) in any given Parisian restaurant. Sometimes I wonder: Is it me? Or is it Parisian restaurants? It's like everything is 10x more complicated, or for some reason, more difficult to get. JUST PUT SOME DAMN WHIPPED CREAM ON MY HOT CHOCOLATE JEEZ!

    3. We shall see when I meet you in Paris in May. What will Paris restaurants throw our way? I see a necessary cocktail in our future. So excited, by the way.

  4. Great story about how a seemingly simple request can turn into a big hullabaloo. What is ridiculous is I'm sure the viennois didn't cost three euros more than the hot chocolate.

    Also, I'm sure you don't look ugly.

    1. Yeah, it ended up being more, which annoyed me even more...mostly at myself really. Now I know and I order (in a different restaurant) my chocolat viennois with finesse.

      No, you're right I'm not ugly. I'm just exhausted and get annoyed when I see my face sometimes. : )

  5. Great story about how a seemingly simple request can turn into a big hullabaloo. What is ridiculous is I bet the viennois didn't cost three euros more than the chocolat chaud.

    And I'm sure you don't look ugly.

  6. Great story about how a seemingly simple request can turn into a big hullabaloo. What is ridiculous is I bet the viennois didn't cost three euros more than the chocolat chaud.

    And I'm sure you don't look ugly.