When I’m not writing for self-indulgence, or for chasing lofty goals, I write for money. So far, the people giving me l’argent have asked me to write about all sorts of topics from macarons to bunions. But this weekend my subject is: romantic getaways to Paris. Which brings me to the issue of… romance.
Paris is supposed to be the most romantic city in the world. Blah, blah, blah. You know what song I have heard here at least three times in the last week? “Everyone loves loverssss… except when you’re alone.” And every time, I have thought to myself:
“I will look at the next adorable couple that walks past me exchanging saliva and coo, to prove I’m not bitter.”
Because Paris is full of people slobbering on each other. Public transport’s the worst – you’re practically nestled into someone’s armpit and you look up at them to see their tongue in someone else’s mouth. In case you hadn’t guessed by the tone of my description, I’m not a huge fan of public displays of affection. I’m probably making myself sound crotchety and old by saying this, but yesterday on the bus I actually had to watch a man nibble his way around his girlfriend’s ear while she made disturbingly orgasmic noises. A good friend once marched up to a couple getting dangerously intimate in public and demanded: “Have you no shame?!”. Yesterday, I was going to do the same, but then I realized I don’t know how to say to it in French.
When I was younger, I was all about P.D.A.s. There were at least 4 occasions when I was caught kissing the boy of the moment by one of the teachers at school. (We were there 24 hours a day – what else were we supposed to but make out behind the cricket pavilion?) Which makes me wonder: What happened? When did I get all puritanical and proper? Ok, that’s complete rubbish. Let me re-phrase: When did I get so puritanical and proper in public?
I imagine some of you might be thinking that there’s some correlation between my attitude and the presence (or absence) of a French amour in my life. That as soon as I find the right be-stubbled man, I’ll hop on the back of his moped and be covering his neck in hickies before you can say “je t’aime”. But you know what? I think it’s more than that. There really is part of me that thinks there ought to be a difference between the form your romance takes in public and the form it takes in private. And it’s not even just to prevent the embarrassment of people forced to watch.
When a couple are so completely engulfed in one another that they can’t part lips for longer than a quick breath, it’s as though, to them, the rest of the world doesn’t exist. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the I-can’t-think-about-anything-but-you romance, but sometimes, I think it’s good to let in a little oxygen. Two people that melt together into an indivisible couple often seem to lose some degree of their ability to engage with the rest of life. They become so wrapped up in each other that they don’t interact with others – don’t go out and try new things – don’t notice that the light on the Pont Alexander III is stunning this evening.
I like to think that, normally, being in the public sphere provides that breather. That “propriety”, if you want to call it that, forces you to take a step back from each other and realise that there’s more to the world than just the two of you. Maybe if and when I’m next paired off, I’ll be convinced there’s nothing better than what I can find just between us. But for the moment, I can tell you, the wider world is full of some pretty sweet stuff, and I’d hate to miss it.