During one of my unhappy moments in early July, I made a list of ‘things to make Paris easier’. One part of this list included rewards for doing things which I found difficult or had been avoiding (e.g.: having my first real conversation in French, working my first week over 20 hours, buying things in a French market, etc.).
A few weeks ago, I realised that I’d ticked a few things off the list and I hadn’t rewarded myself. Unfortunately I had no money. However, when I moved into my current abode and my money troubles eased, the wheels started turning . . . Travel? Yes, it’s a good reward, but I wanted something immediate. Cake? Certainly rewarding, but I wanted something that I could keep.
Finally I decided – French lingerie.
After I finished work, I headed to level 3 of the Galeries Lafayette for the first time. Level 3 was the floor for lingerie and ‘seductive fashion’. I walked around the beautiful and expensive store, admiring the lace and silk. I looked at the pretty and practical matching sets, as well as the more extravagant bustiers, garters and suspenders.
But, every time I saw something that I quite liked, I could see a pouting French sales assistant standing nearby with her arms crossed over her slender torso. Every designer had his/her own small section of the floor, and each section had a sales assistant guarding the treasures from the riff-raff.
I considered my outfit – a grey suit with a wine-coloured shirt. Perfectly acceptable. At least, it would have been if I wasn’t wearing flats and hadn’t lost enough weight to leave my pants hanging limply on my hips.
I slunk around the floor, pretending to look at stockings (is it just me, or does €31 for a pair of stockings seem to be a bit extravagant?) as I contemplated my next move. I couldn’t buy anything, I realised. Even if I didn’t approach the sales assistants, they would probably ask if I needed help. I could imagine answering in my bad French, not knowing the names of any of the garments I was interested in, or my European size.
The sales assistant’s eyes would narrow as she looked me up and down. And I knew that she would know that, not only was I not wearing designer underwear in the Galeries Lafayette, but I bought both pieces from Target and they didn’t even match.