Paradox, “the passion of thought” in Paris
Paris is the gaiest it’s ever been, Paris is the most hostile it’s ever been. The most Nietzschean of philosophical paradoxes: il fait un froid d’enfer.
Recently, in public transportation on Fridays, I have heard a voice that says in what is certainly the gaiest tone I have ever heard on this side of the Atlantic, that everything is just wonderful, no problems, the best news of all and enjoy taking the C train! I would have thought pigs would fly before hearing such a message broadcast in public in Paris over the métro’s loudspeakers. WERE DRUGS INVOLVED. Employees in Paris just don’t ever talk like that, there are strict clauses in work contracts that outlaw cheerfulness on the job. It’s just not allowed. It was so fantastic and out of character.
Nevertheless, the tone was contagious and also inspired more morale than has ever been transmitted on this side of the Atlantic. Particularly because, since the terrorist attacks, who could not be on edge. I for one am always on my guard, because who knows what public place could be the next to be decimated by a hail of hundreds of bullets. To hear an ratp official announce over the intercom everything is wonderful! was a salve on the worry since the senseless violence in Paris, and that on a large scale continues to haunt the rest of the world. It was a pleasant surprise to hear that at least the line C, it’s the best of all possible worlds, or at least that’s what the announcement made it sound like. Such a message is so exceptional as to be a true comfort.
On the other hand, today a man shouted in my face (so close the force of his breath was a violence) that the book I was carrying was at least 500 pages! It is worth noting that women reading books at all is still an affront to some, and that a woman with a 1000-pager is an aggressivité aux yeux, god forbid. I may start a riot with such a doozie in my arms. When will it stop, sexism is so tiring. Like in Brooklyn the religious freaks who refuse to move an inch to allow women walking in the other direction to pass, because they do not recognize women as human beings and won’t even make eye contact. They consider themselves superior. And earlier this week as I walked past a gang of guys with an attack dog straining vigorously against its leash, one of the guys walked right behind my ear and barked extremely loud. I said furiously OH, you think that’s funny in French and they looked at me like I was out of my mind because they were 5 big guys and I am one 5'2" girl, they kept heckling me but I held my ground. God knows why because they even acted as if they would let the attack dog go on me.
Within the past few weeks, I showed a friend who lives in the same hood the nearby flea market. We had both gone to get pizza right before and had the leftovers with us. Ninety percent of the individuals at the flea market could not leave it alone. Everyone had to make some sort of comment about our pizza boxes. I explained to my friend that it’s because people in Paris never take home a doggy bag. Some of them even made very lewd comments, which brings me to my next point: as a 5'2" foreign woman in Paris, it is hardly comfortable to go anywhere alone. It is absolutely exhausting to be imposed upon all the time by such a weird, violent culture of heckling. If you are a small woman, it is particularly bad, Paris is a city in which if there are mean people, they are in your face, you will get bullied because somehow people here think it’s normal to bully so shamelessly.
I suppose it also depends on the neighborhood and if you are near a tourist trap. But also, historically, Paris is a tough city, and no one ever smiles because to do so would be to gloat in a place where there is no end to the poverty and suffering that are part of the shock of wealth inequality, of a brutal and real dog eat dog world that pre-exists the Eiffel Tower and the economical predominance of tourism.
Paris, ville de déracinés.