I believe my obsession with France started with my nana. When I was eight, for Christmas she bought me a sweater dress (the height of cool in 1986) with a leather approximation of the Eiffel Tower on it, as well as the word Paris and the French words for the numbers 1-10 — I know it sounds hideous but I assure you it was very chic. I wore that sweater all the time and if I weren’t a middle child and anyone had thought to take pictures of my childhood, I would offer you photographic evidence of how cute I looked in my favorite outfit.
That sweater dress is where it all began. In the fourth grade, I rocked an Esprit purse that wasn’t French but sounded like it. In fifth grade French class, I tasted my first croissant that didn’t pop out of a can. This was followed by berets, entirely too much Chanel perfume, reading and re-reading Collette, and, during college, using the fake name Tatum Desjardins.
I’ve watched Amelie more times than I care to admit.
I also own more striped t-shirts then anyone ever could possibly need.
I once helped Salty paint an Eiffel Tower mural in my bedroom. And by helped, I mean, mostly watched.*
Still, though my love for France ran deep, it was a long distance romance as I had never actually set foot in the country.
In my late 20s, I wrote a book. It was never published but when I finished it, I fantasized it would be and it would be a wild success and I would tour the country and then, when that was over, I would visit France where I would live for several months, writing my follow-up novel. During this time, I would celebrate my birthday, alone, at a French restaurant with banquette seating along the back of the room and a mirror above it. I would start with a martini, while I read the menu, dine on steak au poivre, and finish with a cigarette and a glass of champagne from the bottle someone sent over (remember, I am a famous, but not too famous author at this point).
By my early 30s I started to realize I might never become a famous author who gets to write novels in France. But that wasn’t going to stop me from having my French birthday dinner. And because I thought 40 was something I was going to dread, I decided to make it something to celebrate.
Which is how we got here — me, getting ready to go to Paris to celebrate my 40th birthday.
*An earlier version of this post didn't correctly identify Salty as the artist of my Eifel Tower mural. But please don't ask Salty to paint a mural for you as every time she does something like this for someone, they move shortly thereafter.