I never thought of my life as clichéd in any way--it's been far too awkward, bumpy, and uncharted to truly fit that designation--but that hasn't stopped several people from pointing out that my path, which has led me back to France to fulfill a strong desire to live "differently," is actually a stale and hackneyed idea boasting absolutely nothing novel about it.
"If I'd moved to China instead of France, my life wouldn't feel so clichéd," said a friend who really had her heart set on a future in non-hackneyed Asia. That was before her heart really became set on a guy who just happened to live in Paris, and two years later, she's grown somewhat accustomed to life as a walking, talking stereotype.
I don't see her or her life that way, though.
I mean, I see where she and the others are coming from. France is sort of an obvious choice, right? Just watch one of those wistful and dreamy 1950s musicals set in Gay Paree; is there anyplace more romantic, more beautiful, more wonderful for a starry-eyed American girl (woman? old lady?) to reinvigorate her life? And am I the first one to want to give it a whirl? Uhm, no.
Paris is definitely not as adventurous as a move to, say Kabul. Or Kinshasa. Or even Kiev, for that matter. But it's also not San Francisco, or New York, or Los Angeles, which is where--I think--most Americans' minds go when we think of "fulfilling the big-city dream." And besides, I've proven my ballsy spirit with months of travel in India, Cambodia, and Indonesia. (And I'm still aching to cross Sri Lanka and Algeria off my must-visit list.)
Frankly, I'm just grateful that I didn't end up "settling down" in Loomis or Penn Valley. That's not living the dream, is it? Well, for some, it is, and they're entitled to that dream. In fact, you can have it all to yourself! I'm happy to share my dream with thousands and thousands of others. Rough And Ready, California, is all yours!
France, however, is steeped in clichés. And it should be--the French invented the word, after all. It's from "clicher," a typographer's term that relates to moveable type, otherwise known as "stereotype." And while I might fit into the cliché category, the others who share that spot with me are really much more interesting. Take striped shirts, for instance.
Ever since Jean Seberg (American in Paris!) hawked copies of the International Herald Tribune in that form-fitting striped T-Shirt in Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless, the French sailor look has gone iconic. Every few years Vogue does a "France inspired" spread that features some pretty young think done up like Leslie Caron or Audrey Hepburn, a stripey shirt on her back and a copy of the Herald Tribune tucked beneath her arm. This cliché is one I like a lot. I hope France keeps it up so I can feel good about adding to my striped-shirt collection.
And the French really do love their poodles, too. And other sorts of chiens, petit et grand. Homeless people here, too, love their dogs. I'd previously mentioned seeing a fluffy, chow-like dog in my old 11th arrondissement neighborhood who I thought had been turned out on the street while his "parents' went on their summer holiday. Turns out he belongs to the homeless boozers who live in the square across from Nathalie's office on rue de la Roquette. He seems semi-well taken care of.
If I have to be a stereotype, I'm glad it's here, in this funky corner of Paris that I call home.
And now, I'm going to go chow a baguette.