Yes, we went. We went to go and stand in front of the Eiffel Tower holding hands, and to go and get a picture of ourselves with our cheeks pressed together in front of a croissant. She even wanted to go to Disneyland. Disneyland! No. I put my foot down. We went anyway.
I did, however, manage to salvage some of my self-image eventually. On the last day, our flight home wasn’t until the evening, and we had done all of the things which you’re supposed to do in Paris: Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe, each of them swarming with couples, desperately trying to live up to the unrealistic romantic expectations set by the location.
We set out towards Bastille, and negotiated Paris’ weird metro, which has doors on its trains which you have to open yourself with a little latch. Essentially, Bastille is just a tiny Amsterdam, but without the drugs or the prostitutes. You might think that makes it a disappointment, but you’d be wrong.
The quality that sets Bastille apart (and I realise this isn’t a ground-breaking observation) is that the French are arrogant. This manifests itself in a rudeness not dissimilar to that of Londoners, except that you get the impression that, whilst ours comes from self-consciousness, the Parisian brand comes from the belief, nay, the knowledge, that they are much better than everyone and anyone who walks past them, stands close to them, or exists.
At first, this is annoying. You get caught up in being affronted; you crease your forehead impotently in the general direction of people who haven’t even noticed you, and you stop holding doors open for old ladies. But this is only because you’ve forgotten your own power: you, too, can be arrogant.
You too can wear a mac, look at the sky like it’s stupid, and communicate exclusively with your eyebrows. I threw myself into this task, buying a coffee that I didn’t even want to drink, and hastily taking up smoking. I even managed to criticize a passer-by effectively without moving my face.
Sitting outside a graffiti clad café in Bastille, with my new
second-hand vintage coat on, surrounded by people who thought themselves too cool to acknowledge my existence, I realised I’d finally found people who were more pretentious than me. All I had to do was rise to the challenge.