Some days in Paris are a series of little moments that end with me remembering that Paris is a special place.
Yesterday I ventured to Neuilly-sur-Seine, a close-in suburb (think Bethesda to Washington, DC) for an appointment with my osteopath (no, nothing serious, just an ongoing shoulder issue). I love this osteopath because, in addition to being good at his job, he has a fantastic sense of humor and, frankly, he's easy on the eyes.
Walking up the main boulevard in Neuilly, there seemed to be an unusual amount of commotion as well as a sizeable group of men standing in the middle of the street shouting. I later learned that in fact these were taxi drivers striking for the day. They were choosing to strike by a) not working, b) parking their cars in the middle of a major boulevard to thoroughly annoy all other drivers, and c) throwing eggs. This last part I did not see, but my osteopath peeked out the window at one point during my appointment and informed me as to this development. He seemed unamused by the egg-throwing, yet also unsurprised.
In what has turned into a moment I share with many Parisians, at one point the osteopath asked me how I like living in Paris. I replied, as I always do, "It's great!" And he replied, as most Parisians do, "But the people? You like Parisians?"
When I hesitated just a beat before answering, he assured me, "Don't worry, you can tell me anything, I am Parisian." And just then I came up with a new theory about Parisians, which I proceeded to share with him. "You know what I think?" I said. "I think you Parisians are extremely proud of your reputation as unfriendly jerks, but the truth is, you aren't so bad."
At this, he started to laugh and after a minute replied, "You may be right!" So this is my new working theory - that Parisians are purposeful curmudgeons, but it's more about the reputation than the reality.
In the afternoon, I conquered a significant remaining fear - I got my hair cut. Yes, we've lived here for a year and a half and this is the first time I've had my hair cut in France. I'm not particularly choosy about hair style - a combination of laziness and frugality lead to me cutting my hair just a couple times a year. My reticence for the French coiffure experience was based entirely on my fear that my lack of French vocabulary coupled with the reputed strong opinions of French hairdressers would lead to disaster. One friend told me that one Parisian hairdresser simply gave her bangs without asking.
But I'm having a baby in less than 2 weeks and I really wanted a hair cut. Fortunately, the Christine Keller Salon in the 6th was exactly what I needed. On my way to the appointment, I looked up the word for layers since that seems to be something that always arises in a hair cut. However, Google Translate told me the word was "couches" which is also the word for diapers. Terrified that I would ask for just a few diapers on my head, I went in armed with my best dumb American smile.
Christine Keller, though she did not actually cut my hair, is one of those timelessly elegant Parisian woman - think Catherine Deneuve as a coiffeuse (hairdresser - but coiffeuse sounds way better). Actually, even better than coiffeuse is the term visagiste, which translates as beautician but more implies someone who is going to know exactly how to best present your hair or skin to make you look your best.
I also appreciated how both the girl doing my hair and Christine Keller made sure to tell me several times how great I look. They informed me that many pregnant women start looking very tired in the face towards the end, but I do not! There was some general banter and joking which I did not understand (if forced to tell you, I would have to say there was a joke about how if my baby was born on an airplane, it would get a free haircut, but I'm fairly sure that was not what they were saying). I just smiled and smiled, and left with a great hair cut.
My final ah-Paris moment of the day came on the metro on my way home. I was sitting across from your average young French professional - dressed in his skinny suit, with his skinny shirt, looking as dapper and elegant as you can in dark gray and black (which, in Paris, is pretty darn elegant). And then I saw his shoes - black, of course, but with magenta-colored laces!
It was a good Paris day.