A day of complete terror and one we’ll never forget.
One of my dearest friends’ birthday.
Also the day five years ago that I had my heart broken – and if my memory serves me correctly, I haven’t been asked on a date since and to be fair, I haven’t asked anyone on a date either.
I’m not going to deny the fact that it can be annoying for a person (c’est moi) who makes every effort to look nice, who always wears a face of (minimal but considered) makeup, who refuses to leave the house in an un- ironed shirt, who makes (from time to time) interesting conversation (and every morning- the bed), who is learning a new language and who hasn’t got a criminal record – to be coming to the end of her glorious 30’s absolutely more single than a lamppost after Armageddon.
As I child, and in my early adult years, I held big dreams of being a mother- after all, if you go through basic biology books (usually dished up in middle school science), you will come to understand that men and women are capable of many things – making children being one of them. Therefore, it is equally as easy to understand why people go on to have children- it seems pretty natural and obvious really, and, amazingly- these days, men and men and women and women can also start a family and fulfil the maternal and paternal desires that the vast majority of us are born with, and there is nothing more wonderful than seeing people of all ages, stages, sexes and complexes, become parents.
I’m now 38, and I am so often told that I should create an online profile to meet someone ‘it’s not embarrassing, everyone is doing it,’ or, ‘someone is just around the corner’ (I’m giddy from racing around corners for a peek) and ‘you don’t even need a man – go it alone’ and the best, ‘but you’re SO young- you’ve got years ahead of you’.
The reality is, the ‘years ahead of me’ are my early forties which (if they are anything like my 30’s) will suddenly be another decade flattened by the power that is the speed of light, and statistically, if I do the mathematics on how many people have shown even the remotest romantic interest in me in my entire life, I will probably meet someone when I am aged between 60-80 years old, which kind of dashes all hopes of ever becoming a mother.
One thing I will say, is that I’m a realist. Not negative, not down on life, but 100% on the page with ‘today’ and what I know I am capable of achieving- ‘today’. The other thing I will say, is that I am not writing this as a sorrowful piece, and while the default response to this type of conversation is to reassure me that I am really young and I have years ahead of me, and ‘do I know that I can now have a baby alone?’. This is not the purpose of this piece- I know all of these things and I know in my mind, this advice comes from a caring place. I also completely respect any woman of any age who deals with her own life, be it single or otherwise, in the way in which she wishes to.
One of the measures that I have taken to dealing with the reality of being single in a group of friends who (as a majority) are not, and rather than making the long nights alone at home by myself with a glass of wine and a salad for one following a long day at work, an ordeal – has been to make baby steps (puns, love them) towards full proofing my late 30’s ‘just in case’ I didn’t fulfil that dream of being a mother and ‘just in case’ no one turned up on a stallion dressed in full armour (told you, I’m a realist).
That’s not to say a friend of mine didn’t (rather cheekily) set me up with an online profile a year or so ago, which lasted about 3 days and where I found men (often sans underpants) called Todd (actually, I pulled that out of a hat but I think there might have been a Todd) suggesting that we ‘hook up’.
I’m not sure what these guys were thinking my response to a ‘hook up’ with a guy I’ve never met and with statistics showing that this could potentially end in a murder, not a white carriage shrouded in baby’s breath and roses, would actually be- and I don’t feel so bad that I didn’t take further steps to finding out. Having said that, a handful of some of my favourite women in the world have had success finding love online and, in the year 2017 it really doesn’t matter where you meet the love of your life- the days of the 1950’s ‘coming out debutant’ are well and truly over.
Realistically, I’m probably more likely to meet someone at a bar with mascara running down my face after too many ‘skinny bitches’ (as a curvy person, vodka soda is a dietary requirement), than I am as a guest at a wedding in the guise of a young woman who has it all together and desire for dresses and red lipstick. Simply put, I don’t have the patience to sift though online profiles of the ‘shocking’ asking for a ‘hook up’ from the ‘dreamy’ (wine? a long walk in the park anyone?) when I could be at a gallery, or a movie, or drinking wine with my friends, or babysitting my god children, or drinking wine with their mothers while pretending to babysit their children, or reading a book, or going to life drawing. All of the latter things are my favourite fallback activities, and they have formed a large part of my glorious 30’s.
I also had a go at meditation but spent the whole hour sitting in a room with people who hummed diligently as I sat with my eyes wide open, thinking about where I would put the furniture if I was to go home and rearrange the house.
Therefore, in search of some homework and a challenge to fill the hours between 5-10pm (I had 9-5 covered), at 35 and 3/4 I took up French lessons. I have always rather preferred Italian as a language and, while I’m at it with being honest, I actually prefer Italian food (and men if I’m going to be doubly honest), but as a student of the arts, I’d always been a bit curious about the French language. And, many of my artistic and literary heroes have (at some point) called Paris home throughout their lives.
I had enjoyed several trips to France (first as a 19 year old with no idea) and later, throughout my twenties and early thirties, and I’d completed one term of French in year seven at my country high school. Our teacher pronounced ‘la fenêtre’ LAUGHIN- ATCHYA (as in, laughing at you but I was actually giggling at her and I still giggle at windows in France) – my knowledge of French as a mature age student was ‘limited’. Oh, but I have been known to organise a rendezvous from time to time.
After a year of French classes at the Alliance Française in Melbourne, I decided to take all of my annual leave from work to spend the winter in Paris. Admittedly, as a romantic at heart, I had always had a bit of a soft spot for Paris, and that was about the extent of my Frenchness. The first winter spent in Paris was life changing for me, not only did it teach me a lot about being alone, but it also made me realise that I don’t actually have to ever be lonely. There were so many hoops to jump through in order to negotiate tiny things like photocopying and even ordering a coffee, that I had very little time to think about being alone, because for the first time in a very long time, I felt completely fulfilled.
Both mentally, surrounded by a beautiful language, and physically, through long morning runs in the freezing winter chill followed by endless, day long meanders around this magical city.
Addicted (and admittedly tragic to have ever left), I came back for a second winter a year later which paved the way to a realisation that this is a place that I could write and be inspired and realistically, I could make this home for now. I had a burning desire to write and explore a side of me that had otherwise been muted in an office job, while living a life where I wasn’t feeling completely fulfilled – for a whole manner of reasons.
Following months of paperwork, planning, selling everything from my car to my home, I arrived back in Paris in June with a suitcase and a full heart- knowing I was doing the right thing for me at this stage in my life. A life that is fuelled by good health, perfect eyesight and legs that work, and one that I am adamant that I will live to full capacity and not just exist in as I wait for things to happen that, quite frankly, may never happen.
Yesterday, as I emerged out of the metro station with my passport tucked into a plastic envelope full of documents to rival the guy who invented documents, I looked up at a full blue sky blanketing the beautiful Haussmann architecture and shed a little tear. Not because I was sad or confused- quite simply put, I ‘got it’ and I felt very, very privileged in that moment. That little blue skied window provided me with a much sought after sense of clarity- my purpose on this earth at this moment in time, is to write, to dream of being published, to aim for fluency in a language that I love and loath, to continue to draw (in recent weeks I’ve filled the apartment with flowers and pencils) and to contribute positively to this earth in any way that I can. And, at the risk of sounding completely trite, I read plenty of stories in the news suggesting that health and freedom are the two things that are hugely sought by women around the world, and sadly, not afforded to the people who need it the most.
In my document pocket was a newly acquired and much anticipated ‘carte de séjour’ – a privilege, and one that is stuck firmly into my passport after a morning at the visa office, stamped 11/09/2017. It’s not a birth certificate, but it’s a milestone and one that will see me through the next steps into the complete unknown.
This stage in my life has been half plotted and half accidental and I’m often told that I’m ‘lucky’ to be here in this social experiment of which I have no actual idea of the outcome. I believe that ‘lucky’ was the day we all went swimming towards the darkness of our mothers wombs and made it to the finish line. Because if we hadn’t, we wouldn’t be here. I believe that happiness comes with plenty of planning, and just a little bit of luck – and I know that most people reading this also have the privilege to create their own happiness, in a world where many others don’t.
Who knows what might be around the corner? In Paris, it’s unlikely to be a man named Todd.
Pictured: My walk home.