I fell out of love last summer but it took me months to acknowledge it. Our 12 year relationship had been passionate and I had no doubt that we were made for each other. I did try to leave a few times, but I always came back convinced that my initial choice was the right one.
So all through fall we woke up and fell asleep next to each other and as time past I felt weary, I lost interest. I stopped planning picnics, arrived systematically late at dates, stopped attending gallery openings and inaugurations of new spaces. I even grew tired of our rituals; wouldn’t go hide with a book in our favourite cafés or roam around empty museums on weekdays, stopped my life long quest for the perfect chausson aux pommes and had no patience to look for that special piece in obscure second hand shops. And then it hit me; I did not love Paris anymore! After praising it, exploring it, studying its stratification, spending hours at its terraces, I was sick of it!
Up until then I would tell anyone who cared to listen that Paris was by far the best city to live in because of its size (somewhere between a metropolis and a village), its excellent public transportation system, its free universities, its continuous urban spaces, its ethnic diversity and its throbbing cultural life. I remember going to Berlin seeking bigger, less homogenous spaces and coming back after two weeks tired of walking huge distances in the mud, smiling tenderly at Parisians with their shiny shoes and elegant black coats hopping from one Haussmannian block to another identical Haussmannian block. I remember giving into the temptation of richly flavoured snacks at every turn of new Delhi streets then rushing to the Paris airport cafeteria right after landing and melting with pleasure at the taste of fresh baguette with butter.
But now all I could see was a stagnant old city, stuck in its past glory, governed by people I didn’t agree with and full of codes and attitudes that I found irritating. Feeling annoyed and impatient with your soon to be ex-lover is part of the process of breaking up, so I gave into it. In fact I was so over Paris that I bought tickets I could barely afford to get out of France as soon as I could and spend some time in the USA with friends and family. While I was away I was exposed to quite a bit of ‘French bashing’ from all kinds of people; I felt like everyone agreed with me that Paris was ‘over’ and anywhere else in the world was more stimulating for a young professional than the old city of lights. Then Janine di Giovanni wrote ‘The Fall of France’ in Newsweek in early January 2014 and five days after the release of the article, Scarlett Johansson confessed to David Letterman her disappointment in Paris and its inhabitants on the Late Show. Instead of adding these two testimonies to the pile of evidence I was collecting against my city of residence, I got angry and went on a crusade to defend it and show how these foreigners’ arguments failed to make a coherent case.
My conclusion is the last step of a break-up, the construction of a mature and healthy relationship with a city that participated in making me who I am and gave me the opportunity to grow and create within its boundaries. I realized that a lover does not lose his or her intrinsic qualities once the feeling of love is gone, and that all the reasons why I fell in love in the first place are still there, alongside the imperfections that I did not see or refused to see at first. So now Paris and I have parted but we’ve kept in touch, and I know the city is there for me because it knows me better than any other place in the world and I’ll always care about its well being because it’s a big part of who I am.
Words by Nada Diane Fridi
Photography by Linus Ricard