I was invited by Andi of the wonderful blog Misadventures with Andi to post about my passion for Paris. What’s below is the full version of my story about how and why I wound up in Paris.
Paris: A Love Story
by An Alien Parisienne aka Paris Karin
Roses – pariskarin aka karinlynn68 @ flickr
Expatriates in Paris seem to wind up living in Paris for three reasons: for work, for love of the city, or for a loved one. Of all the blogs and books I’ve read about how and why people have come to live in Paris, it is invariably one of these three.
I’m not here for work, and I do not have a natural affinity or passion for Paris: I arrived in Paris because the man I love, an American in his mid-forties, has lived here for twenty years. Paul landed here because of a cute little French Girl (is there any other kind?) who captivated his fancy at that time. A marriage, two kids, and a divorce later, he’s still working at the business English training center where he began teaching eighteen years ago. Paul’s life is well-rooted in the City of Light.
I, on the other hand, am from Colorful Colorado, the Mile High City of Denver.
Janet, Karin, and Paul – 1985
Paul and I first met in the mid-1980s when I was in high school, 17-going-on-18 and he was a 22-year-old about to graduate from Michigan State with a degree in Creative Writing. Paul is the oldest friend (in terms of length of time) of my best friend, Janet, who has also lived in France on the Côte d’Azur for the past twelve years. Paul was on a spring break skiing trip to Colorado, where Janet and I lived and went to high school together. During that trip, Paul fell in love with Tanja, Janet’s and my mutual friend. Paul and Tanja were passionately in love for about nine months. My first understanding of Paul was through the glowing expressions of youthful love from my friend. After that relationship cooled and ended, several months later Janet herself entered into a long-distance romance with Paul. They had known each other since she was four and he was nine, and it seemed to be a natural step in the evolution of their friendship to see if there was more than just being friends. After twelve months or so, it was apparent that romance was not in the cards for them, but their friendship survived.
The last I had heard about Paul for many years was in the spring of 1990. Paul and Janet had mended fences, fixing the sections being in a romance had damaged, and she informed me in our Twentieth Century American Literature course at Colorado State, while we were reading The Sun Also Rises no less, that Paul was leaving the job he’d been working at for the past couple of years, was selling everything he had, and was planning to go to Pamplona, Spain for the annual running of the bulls. He wanted to actually run with the bulls.
Run with the bulls Paul did, and upon meeting French Girl during his subsequent European adventures, he settled with her in Paris.
I did not know about any of these things until sixteen years later, however.
Enter the day and age of “blogging.” I’d first heard of blogs and blogging in about 2003, and had even made some early attempts at reading and writing them as far back as that, when blogging was in its nascency. It wasn’t until the birth of my second son when Janet, in an attempt to renew contact with one another’s lives, invited me to join the blogging community at the now-defunct Yahoo! 360°.
One of her contacts and blog readers, and, in fact, the person who had invited her to join the blog community, was Paul.
All three of us writers at heart soon became passionate about posting blogs and keeping up with the details of one another’s lives. We also connected with many others who became not only good online buddies, but fast real-life friends as well.
The intensity of involvement on this written level for over a year became fairly consuming to the point of revealing the fault lines in my second marriage. It was at this point when Paul and I went our separate written ways: it was too much pressure for the both of us with the distance involved, with my being married and having two kids, with the added complication of not really knowing if the passionate feelings gestating within both of us would really lead to a viable life outside of the virtual world. It was too soon for any serious decisions to be made and the wrong time for them to happen. The relationship aborted.
One rocky year later, Paul and I resumed our correspondence. My marriage also took an irreparable turn into separation and divorce proceedings. Our relationship once again became pregnant with possibilities. There were moments in the following six months when the tumult in my life caused the relationship to falter, and it was at risk of miscarrying, but this time, things carried on. In the spring of 2008, I visited Paul in Paris and we cemented our feelings for one another.
I decided to visit Paul again in the summer, after my duties as a high school English teacher were completed at the end of May, 2008. The initial summer weeks we spent together were a blur. I was exhausted from the prior year and feeling a bit upside-down with life. I had left things somewhat open-ended with our end-of-summer plans, but I also with a hopeful heart gone ahead and wrapped up my life in Colorado, selling or giving away almost everything I had and settling my affairs to the best of my ability.
After spending June and July in Paris, Paul invited me to stay at his family’s summer home in Ontario, Canada for the month of August. We had talked about how, if Paris life disagreed with me and if leaving family and friends in Colorado proved to be too difficult, I had the option to return to the U.S. after the end of the month in Canada.
The end of August arrived and I chose to return to Paris with Paul. Almost two years later, I am still in Paris.
While some people take to Paris like a duck in water, I often feel like a squirrel trying to swim. I’m here for love, but not love of the city. I imagine my relationship with Paris as what an arranged marriage must be like. I’m currently reading Antonia Fraser’s biography of Marie Antoinette. While reading, I’ve noted that my relationship to Paris has parallels to Marie Antoinette’s marriage to the Dauphin: it took them some seven years to get the passion going in their marriage bed. I’m trying to find passion for Paris by doing what I can to interact with the city and find that near-orgasmic pleasure about which the bloggers I call “The Paris Cheerleaders” write – the fans of Paris who cannot have enough of her, praise her charms and benefits, and share with the world what a grand place she can be.
I’m getting there. We’ve had a few moments which feel like getting to at least third base with her, such as the time I tried a Ladurée licorice macaron, or the time I broke down a year ago and finally visited the Eiffel Tower (which I had deemed as being “too cliché” before actually seeing it in all its tremendous wonder). Paris and I are figuring it out.
The Eiffel Tower
When approached by Andi to write this post about having a passion for Paris, I had a completely different piece in mind. I was making mental notes to write about how my love for Paris is growing not at the Louvre, or the Champs Elysées, or the cafés in Saint-Germain, but in the mostly unknown places that have grown near and dear to me in the 19th arrondissement, where I live.
The 19th arrondissement – view from the Parc des Buttes Chaumont
I realized, though, that my entire blog, An Alien Parisienne, is geared toward coming to terms with how I have come to be in Paris and how to find a passion for Paris. My blog exists as an attempt to bloom where I am planted and learn to love where I live. I invite you to visit there [ummmm, here — this part was in the guest post, lol] for more of the continuing love story that is me, Paul, and Paris.