Le secret de Paris, from she 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. Some would say, “Oh my god, what are you thinking? I’d get bored after four days! You are surely 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’d say, “Which trip? Paris? I’m going to Paris? When? What idiot made that decision? Won’t I get bored?”

Because I got back from a trip to 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 flight home got canceled, I rented a car and drove seven hours from Aspen to Salt Lake City. Can you believe that schedule? And that was one of the slower weeks of my life.

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 — just two slim days — to meet a deadline and get my kids ready to head to New York to spend the summer with their father. Give it up to my mother 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 say, “Are you out of your goddamn mind? I am not qualified to do this.” Why have they made a children’s summer camp so complicated. Why.

And to any professional event planner, I’d say, “You obviously 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.

Sidebar, folks: My mother was once sitting in a window seat on a first class flight between Salt Lake City and Los Angeles, and right before the plane took off Robert Redford boarded the plane and assumed the seat next to her. Halfway through the flight he looked over her shoulder at her laptop and said, “You know, my mother worked for Avon.” And then they spoke for over an hour about business. Turns out he was far more impressed with her than she had ever been with him.

While in New York I had to work on another project — yet another one — and then I came home to two more deadlines, the Fourth of July, and found myself with only 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 of the house!”

I really hope you believe that last paragraph. Please believe that I would do that, that I would somehow ignore the importance of my dog. 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, you see. Animals can totally suck it, right?

I was walking along a random street the other night after having written for about eight or nine hours during the day. And 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 — and now, wait. Hold up. There are two points here that I need to drive home. This is important. Listen to this part.

First, the Tinder action in Paris is a riot. It is the stuff of legend.

Second, 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, it’s like trying to wrap your head around the beginning of time. Each question generates a thousand more questions.

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. Just go ahead and try to count that high. I’ll sit here and wait while you do it.

If you have never been to Paris and want to come or have plans to visit, and if the way I like to explore a city resonates with you — this 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:

Are you buying a house? Stupid and lame in comparison. Gunning for a promotion at work? I am doing the jerk off motion right now just thinking about it. Having a baby? Meh. 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 her middle and forefinger, and ask you if you are doing okay. And it will ask 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, “Ratatoutille!”

P.P.S. Tomorrow is my birthday and guess where I’ll be? You’ll never guess. Paris. She is the most intriguing bedfellow. I will be in Paris on my birthday, I will. 

Life, I love living you.


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

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I am Heather B. Armstrong and this is my website. You can read more about me here or here or here or here. Pick a link you like and be sure to check back regularly for more from the archives. Wink, wink, motherfuckers.