the smell of my desperation has become a stench

Le secret de Paris, from someone who sure does talk about balls a lot

When people found out that I was going to be spending three weeks in Paris, the reactions broke into two distinct camps. People were either, “Oh my god, what are you thinking? I’d get bored after four days! You’re going to want to go home after a single week!” Don’t worry. I punched all of those people straight in the balls on behalf of the rest of us. If any of them fell to the ground in pain I’d say, “I’m sorry, I’d help you stand up, but I may get bored while reaching out my hand. Not risking that scenario!”

The other camp was like DUDE. Are you fucking kidding me? Can I come? No, seriously. Take me with you. I can fold myself up in a tiny ball. I’ll fit in your carry on and I promise not to be hiding any liquids or make jokes about terrorism.

People had two different visceral reactions, and now that I’ve been here I’ve come up with a theory as to why. First let me say this: I did not have a single moment in my schedule to get excited to go to Paris. Not a single second. People asked me, “Aren’t you really looking forward to your trip?” And I was like, “Which trip? Paris? I’m going to Paris? When? What idiot made that decision? Won’t I get bored?”

Because I got back from Montenegro and a week later the girls and I were on a plane to Austin. When we got back from that trip I had to throw Marlo a birthday party and meet two deadlines before I left seven days later for a trip to Aspen for a conference. While there I attended a few days of intense panels and networking events, and when my plane home got canceled—just flat-out redlined, like, the woman working the United desk was YOU WILL NEVER GET HOME ASSHOLES—I rented a car and drove seven hours from Aspen to Salt Lake City. You want to know what a woman who loathes driving more than any other activity in life loves to do? Spontaneous road trips by herself! Through treacherous mountain passes in the dark so that she has to white knuckle it three-fourths of the way! Makes me wet just thinking about it!

I then had two days—TWO MOTHER TO THE EFFER EFFING DAYS—to meet a deadline and get my kids ready for New York. Give it up to the Avon World Sales Leader who got Leta ready for camp, an activity that could be a full-time job for a professional event planner. Except any professional event planner would look at the job description and go, “Are you out of your goddamn mind? I am not qualified to do this! No one is!

Ah, my friend. You have never met my mother.

Thank you, Mom. You deserve public acknowledgement for what you managed to pull off. And Leta’s kidney is yours if you ever need it.

While in New York I had to work on another project, and then I came home to two more deadlines, the Fourth of July, and three days to get everything ready for my departure. I was sitting in the Salt Lake City International Airport downloading translation apps on my phone not even 15 minutes before boarding my flight, that’s how close I cut it. And it was then, 15 minutes before getting on a plane to leave my home for three weeks, that I suddenly realized, “Oh shit! Coco! COCO! I hope Coco can let herself out!”

Hahaha! Haha! Please believe me. Please believe that I would do that. Those of you who want to believe that about me, please do. I will let you. All that work I did on behalf of animal welfare is a farce! Animals can totally suck it!

Stupid animals.

I was walking along a random street the other night after having written for about eight or nine hours during the day—this is why Paris in the summer is perfect for a project like this; it stays light outside until almost 10:30 at night, so I can work during the day and explore for hours and hours and hours at night—when that question came to me like an echo from a past life: “Aren’t you really looking forward to your trip?” I started laughing out loud to myself.

And because I am not trying to cram this city down my throat in less than four days, because I am not mapping out a route each night and making myself meet each point at a specific time, because I am letting it unfold in front of me as I walk past each majestic street, past the miles and miles of sprawling man-made beauty—WAIT. This is another point I need to drive home. This is important. Listen to this part. The rest of this post is just trash.

Someone asked me why I think Paris is so amazing, and I thought about all the walking that I’m doing with no destination in mind, how I can go mile after mile and not once hit a street that looks like something you’d see in the states. It’s like I’m stumbling through a gorgeous, wooded mountainside with waterfalls and rivers and fields of wildflowers, except it’s all man-made. It’s all carved and built out of bricks and stone and iron and wood. Humans made all of this, and to try to comprehend it—the sheer magnitude of it—is like trying to wrap your head around the beginning of time. Each question generates a thousand more questions.

A post shared by Heather B. Armstrong (@dooce) on

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If you were to try to cram this place into four days? You’d walk away exhausted and beaten to near death. You’d say to someone, “Paris? Ugh. I can’t take more than four days.”

I have been here for eight days and I have not even scratched the tiniest edge or pulled back the first layer. And I have walked over 100,000 steps since I got off the plane at Charles de Gualle.

If you have never been here and want to come or have plans to visit, and any of the way that I like to explore a city resonates with you (that part is kind of critical because someone who needs to stick to a schedule would have a heart attack just thinking about wandering around without an agenda) then this is what you need to know, especially if you don’t have time to think about whether or not you are excited to come here:

Buying a house? Stupid and lame in comparison. Promotion at work? I am doing the jerk off motion right now just thinking about it. SPEEEWWWWW! Having a baby? YOUR BABY CAN TOTALLY SUCK A BALL. None of it compares to this place. None of it! This place is going to blow your head right off of your body. And when you try to put your head back on Paris will wait for you, a cigarette lolling gently between it’s middle and forefinger, ask you if you are doing okay—in English because it knows your French is terrible, don’t even try, please, shush, it deals with us all the time and is now used to the fact that we come here not having any clue that a city could possibly be so violently beautiful—and then it will rear its right leg and kick you squarely between the eyes.

I cannot comprehend this city, and I don’t want to.

Hands down, this is the most magnificent place I have ever been.


P.S. It’s happening. I’m dreaming in French. Really terrible, broken french. And my verbs are all wrong, I’m sure. But I woke up this morning mumbling, “Lasissez the bon temps rouler.” I know. Roll your eyes. At least I didn’t sit up straight and shout, “RATATOUILLE!”

P.P.S. Tomorrow is my birthday and guess where I’ll be? You’ll never guess! PARIS! I will be in Paris on my birthday! And I said this in one of my Instagram photos but it bears repeating: Life, I love living you.

  • Amy G

    2017/07/18 at 10:10 am

    Glad you are having such a wonderful time!

  • Raquel

    2017/07/18 at 10:12 am

    Bon Anniversaire, Heather! What a great place to celebrate the #41. Good planning! I’ve not spent 3 weeks there on any of my trips, but think it’s magical too. Amuse-toi bien!

  • Katie

    2017/07/18 at 10:20 am

    I just wanted to say that if you had only remembered about Coco at the airport, I am one person who would not judge you. Our dog is almost 10 and we’ve had her since she was 3 months old, and at least a year we make plans to go away for the weekend or something and then as the weekend approaches we say “oh shit, the dog!” and then have to scramble to find a kennel with space. Luckily that doesn’t happen with the kids. But it is a mystery that after almost 10 years it’s not automatic. So glad you are having a wonderful trip. 🙂

  • ZestyOlive

    2017/07/18 at 10:20 am

    Lovely post. Lovely photos. I want to visit Paris. i don’t want to think about getting there; I just want to BE there. Living vicariously through your photos and words until then…

  • Jan Propst

    2017/07/18 at 10:34 am

    Sounds like a much needed vacation. Enjoy the sights but take time to have some good food and good wine and relax. Just reading about your life gave me anxiety.

  • Christiane L

    2017/07/18 at 10:38 am

    So happy to know that you met “my” Paris, the one I haven’t finished discovering even after living there for a year! Joyeux anniversaire!

  • Josey

    2017/07/18 at 10:44 am

    I read this entire post with a smile and a sigh (and a good amount of jealous and nostalgia). I always drives me nuts when people say “UGH, PARIS. People are so rude there.” Without fail, those are the 4 day people who crammed a bunch of tourist spots into their itinerary, made zero attempt at learning the language (or even a few key phrases) before going and expected it to somehow be different than Times Square on NYE. Meh. The way you are experiencing the city is the way it should be done. Wandering down side streets and breathing in the feeling of the world around you. <3 Good for you for getting those moments to breathe and just BE.

  • Alex Bunardzic

    2017/07/18 at 10:45 am

    My condolences. Your life is now officially ruined (same thing happened to many of us, and it ain’t pretty).

  • Josey

    2017/07/18 at 10:45 am

    Ooh, and happy birthday in a few hours!

  • Michael Mathews

    2017/07/18 at 10:46 am

    I am one of those who always writes a schedule, yet Paris was where I learned to just be. Wake up and set out down a random street and see where it takes you. Hop on a new Metro line. I love it and I am very happy you get to spend a decent amount of time there.

  • Susan

    2017/07/18 at 11:00 am

    Same way I feel about cruising in Alaska; the adventures I’ll find every time I disembark to a new place. ALL BY MYSELF.

  • Peg White

    2017/07/18 at 11:20 am

    Heather, you are such a good writer! You had me hanging on every word and hoping it wasn’t going to be last word of the story. The only other author I’ve ever felt that way about was Pat Conroy! As a 71 year old still learning old gal, may I be so bold as to suggest — try this method at home, at least once in a while. Learn and teach your girls to slow down and really savor and appreciate life and all it offers. A simple walk in the woods can do wonders as does a nap in a zero gravity chair in the backyard in the shade. The world won’t quit turning if you learn to slow down and take time for yourself, even at home. Happy Birthday!

  • Lindsey

    2017/07/18 at 11:32 am

    Haha, my husband and I were totally people who crammed as much as we could into 4-5 days in Paris (at the tail end of cramming everything we could in 4-5 days in Prague) and we definitely walked away exhausted, beaten to near death & no longer able to feel our feet (we also both lost about 10 pounds eating only bread, cheese & chocolate). But we also walked away exhilarated with full hearts/eyes/souls and eager to return for a longer stay someday. We did our meandering & getting lost in Venice in-between Prague & Paris. We’d never been to Europe before so we went a little nuts in our planning. I am excited to someday go back to Paris with enough time to explore without a sense of urgency. All your posts & photos are lighting a fire under me again to hurry up & get back there. (Also thank ye for all the D’Orsay photos – I only took one because I was scurred of getting caught!) ^_^

    p.s. Someone on Instagram recommended seeing Saint-Chapelle in lieu of Notre Dame but if you have the time/inclination, I would see both! Saint-Chapelle is quite stunning – it’s fascinating to see something so grand in a much smaller space.

  • Lorrian Ippoliti

    2017/07/18 at 11:32 am

    My first trip ever to Europe was Paris, the week after Christmas. My hubby and spent 5 days and it was EVERYTHING and way, way, way too short a trip. I’m so happy you get to enjoy three weeks there…I’m living vicariously through your Instagram. The only rude people we encountered were “ugly Americans” who expected to be catered to. The Parisians were lovely and welcoming and so appreciative of our delight to be in their glorious city.

  • Karen Walrond

    2017/07/18 at 11:51 am

    I totally cooked my phone the first day I was here (turns out that a waterproof case that you bought for a beach vacation a year ago, may not be waterproof a year later, HEED MY WORDS), so despite the fact that I promised to texted you HAPPY BIRTHDAY from St. Martin ON your birthday, this will not happen. So Happy Birthday early, here on this here weblog, and I’ll send you a private Facebook message on your actual day. I am thrilled –THRILLED, I say — that you are having the time of your life in one of my favourite cities on your planet. A friend once told me that the way you ring in your birthday is a symbol of how the rest of the year will be with you, so here’s hoping it true, and your year ahead is full of culture and art and beauty and exoticism in the most amazing way. Also, I hope our paths cross again. Much love and best wishes, friend.


    (P.S. I just realized that you and I are both spending our birthdays in French-speaking countries, and IF THIS ISN’T A SIGN THAT WE’RE BOTH LIVING LIVES TO BE GRATEFUL FOR, I DO NOT KNOW WHAT IS. Cheers, sister.)

  • kmpinkel

    2017/07/18 at 12:45 pm

    You are doing it exactly the right way!! Envious but so happy you get it. Paris is everything.

  • Erin Reece

    2017/07/18 at 1:16 pm


    I love this. All of this.

  • Suzanne D'Atri

    2017/07/18 at 2:44 pm

    Paris wasn’t even on my bucket list, but when I got a chance to go for a friend’s wedding, it BLEW ME AWAY! The magnificence is indescribable. Happy birthday and enjoy!

  • bmrsoonr

    2017/07/18 at 2:51 pm

    My first trip to Paris was with my oldest daughter and she was pregnant with our granddaughter who is now 25 years old. Julie and I climbed to the top of the Eiffel Tower. We’ve always kidded Chelsea, telling her the next time she sees Paris, we hope she has a better view. I adore that city and feel fortunate to have gone there several times. Your pictures are lovely and your post mesmerizing.
    Happy Birthday ?

  • Gwinn Appleby

    2017/07/18 at 3:44 pm

    I lived in Paris off and on for about 8 years and am so happy to read experiences like yours: you _get_ it. Paris is a never-ending magical wonderland of little streets, alleys, random stores, insanely lovely buildings, some weathered, some not – and an endless array of fascinating people to watch. I love it so much! I cry whenever someone tells me they’re “stopping in Paris for a couple of days on our way to ” – I just want to cry “No!”

  • Babydoll Brea

    2017/07/18 at 4:13 pm

    What a beautiful post — especially the part about punching the Camp Boredom people in their junk. They’re probably all the same obnoxious Americans who all those ‘rude’ French are mean to.

    Anyway. I was thrilled to hear that you were going to Paris. I had an opportunity to go with my daughter and my dad’s wife a year and a half ago. It was a gift for my daughter’s high school graduation. Through an interesting turn of events, my dad’s wife was sick with a double ear infection and couldn’t fly — and it ended up just being the two of us. Pure magic! It’s my hope you can take your girls to experience Paris one day together. Happy birthday!

  • Jenna

    2017/07/18 at 6:17 pm


    Stupid animals.

    Your baby can totally suck a ball.

    Happy Birthday, Heather. Let the good times roll.

  • Lorena Bravo

    2017/07/19 at 2:38 am

    Some years ago I did a trip by myself to England and a friend suggested that I went to Paris by train… even if is is for a few days… “You can’t no go to Paris…” so I went and it is the most in loved I felt without having anyone to love at the moment. So beautiful! I want to go back so much one day… Enjoy the rest of your stay!

  • Katie

    2017/07/19 at 5:20 am

    Happy birthday! I’ve been to Paris once, and I had exactly one day to spend there. ONE. But I did it the way you do — wandered the streets in the rain. Ate a warm Nutella crepe from a street vendor. Visited the Louvre. Had an 8-course meal at an 8 table restaurant. Wine. I could have a baby any day now (that’s what that cramping feeling is, right?), but nothing has gotten me more excited recently than reading this post about Paris. Don’t tell my baby.

  • Tami in NY

    2017/07/19 at 10:54 am

    I was an exchange student in ’88 in Normandy. It took me 3 months to become truly bilingual and fully immersed. High School french didn’t help all that much. The proprietor at a cafe where I used to go taught me “MerdeConCueBiteCul” to help with my pronunciation. Don’t say it too loud. Miss that country and would love to go back for an extended stay. No four day trips not for Paris!!

    Joyeux Anniversaire!!

  • Kim

    2017/07/19 at 12:35 pm

    I started reading this comment and nodding my head along, and then I realized it was you. Hi, Jose! Paris is one of my favorite places on the planet, and I’ve never spent more than 4 days there, but oh man, I want to go back. Always.

  • Josey

    2017/07/19 at 12:55 pm

    LOL, well, I started reading dooce about the same time I found you online, Kim! Close to a decade of feeling connected to strangers through the www. Pretty cool. 🙂

  • Carla DeLauder

    2017/07/19 at 2:03 pm

    This post. Dooce at your absolute freakin’ best.

    And you somehow only said the F word once.

    Just Command F the F word for yourself.

    Once, I say. ONCE!!!

  • KristenfromMA

    2017/07/20 at 2:07 pm

    I’m all for ditching the idea of a schedule and wandering around, but dude, you have to go to Sainte-Chapelle! Seriously, you won’t regret it. Happy Birthday!

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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