Our Parisian Love Story

Paris wall art Albert Einstein love

On Valentine's Day three years ago, my husband proposed. I distinctly remember the evening I met him. It was the tail end of May, I had just arrived in Paris, and I was feeling overwhelmed.  So much to take in with so little time. After all, I was hoping for the proverbial Parisian romance with only six weeks to make it a reality.

Confident that my comfort in French would help me to win friends or at least get the most out of my trip, I didn’t hesitate to introduce myself to the Parisians I encountered in the residence hall where I was staying. It was during a birthday party for one of my housemates that I met him. 

Trying to seduce a good-looking foreign man when you promptly forget everything you ever learned about verb tenses, proper grammar or just piecing together a coherent phrase altogether, is quite the challenge, let me tell you. Still, my uncontrollable blushing and inopportune perspiration must have given off enough of a good impression because we exchanged numbers and were set to go on our first (and perhaps last) date a few days later. I had about 36 hours to pull myself together and regain my confidence in French.

The day of our date, I insisted that two of my new friends accompany me to our arranged meeting point in case I were to have the unfortunate realization that he was just as disrespectful as American men I had encountered and not even show up. Fortunately, I had nothing to worry about. We began at Odéon, where I left my friends smiling and giggling, and I took off toward Luxembourg Gardens where we discussed everything from our families to religion and politics. We walked and talked for hours before ending up ravenous on rue Montorgueil where we got a table outside at Les Petits Carreaux.

So that he wouldn’t think I was a complete gastronomical xenophobe, I agreed to the cheese and charcuterie platter. As a pork resister, this was not the best strategy as I had to find a way to make sure he didn’t witness my cringing face at the taste of runny cheese and ham. I cut tiny slivers of cheese and wedged it between chunks of baguette and before I knew it, I had finished the bread basket. I kept leading the discussion so that I would do the talking and he would do the eating, but I was struggling to stay on top of my game. But if the profuse sweating from the night we met didn’t deter him, surely this scene of baguette binging wouldn’t either.

I was right, it didn’t. We walked off aimlessly, hand in hand, and I knew I had to see him again. The spontaneous kiss on a busy avenue didn’t hurt either.  For six weeks we saw each other frequently. The cards were in my hands.  I was the confident (and dare I say, exotic?) American who approached him directly and had little difficulty expressing her rapidly evolving feelings. We had similar upbringings, shared an interest in the same music, and audibly cracked our fingers (surely a sign of true compatibility).

After emotionally traumatic and damaging relationships, it was refreshing to be in the company of someone who let me be in control and accepted me, despite being his opposite in most ways. But our desires evolve, true colors reveal themselves over time and routine settles in where spontaneity and insouciance once reigned. Our initial encounters sometimes feel like they happened to someone else and romance isn’t necessarily a word that resides in our vocabulary. C’est normal, it would seem.

 In her book, “Project: Happily Ever After”, Alisa Bowman describes a dark period in her marriage where she fantasized about her husband’s funeral. The romance, spontaneity, understanding and communication had completely evaporated from their marriage, leaving them as little more than disillusioned roommates. She needed to figure out a way to turn things around, and fast. Through a comical and heartfelt personal story, Bowman offers very useful advice to revive a crumbling relationship.

Not Your Average Valentine, Carams

It was after reading her book and reflecting over the last five years that I realized it’s the little gestures that speak volumes about us. We can’t replicate the rush of that first kiss or the excitement of taking that first trip together, but we can focus on small efforts to show that we’re still in tune with each other’s needs. On our first date, I told him how much I loved dogs and Alfred de Musset’s poetry. After a few weeks of dating, he took me out for my birthday and gave me a collection of de Musset’s work and a book about dogs. I was overjoyed – he listened! And he still does.

Multicultural relationships have an added layer of complexity but they still adhere to basic truths about love. It invigorates, it hurts, it troubles, it excites, it tires, it fades, it regrows but most of all, it takes work. And I'm prepared to do whatever it takes to make sure that we keep evolving together without ever losing sight of the little things that make up our love story. 

{Photo 3 courtesy of Carams - translation: “Stop sending me flowers. Kidnap me you idiot.”}

Check out my other Valentine's Day post: "Valentine's Day, Parisian Style" and "Love à la Française" which was selected for the author's Pas de Deux series! 

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