When the partially homesick desperate expat wife goes to certain big cities, she might suddenly and surprisingly find herself longing for a new expat experience.
In New York for example, she gets all confused, wanting to be Carrie Bradshaw (or at least have her job) instead of Susan, or – God forbid – Charlotte instead of Bree. Or… no, better leave out Samantha as well. (You do know these ladies, right, they’re not that old?)
She’d be in one of those new apartment buildings overlooking Central Park or the Hudson River, or why not in one of those tiny reddish rows of houses you see in…well, Sex and the City for example. It doesn’t seem to disturb her that this seductive picture doesn’t have a family with children in it, rather her as – well, quite a Bradshawish character. Strolling down the avenue so happy, she leaves her local Wisteria Lane behind.
In a New York state of mind, she lets the city get under her skin. Not smoothly, but explosively. The intensity, the vibes, the noise, the flows, the pace. Park Avenue and East 42nd. 5. Avenue and West 53rd. Creative green spaces. Elderflower cocktails. Shoes.
In an Empire state of mind, she sees that the city never ends, yet she sees the earth curve.
Paris is less explosive, but still under her skin and deep in the heart of her, and whenever she goes there, the radar for apartments for sale with a rooftop terrace in a spotless, white Parisian building is automatically turned on. Before her very eyes, the terrace fills up with sophisticated people enjoying – well, a cocktail. (Why exactly? She doesn’t even like cocktails much, except the elderflower one).
Zap from SATC to TCM and a movie from decades gone by. If she were to time travel in Paris, she would join Woody Allen and go back to the great writers and artists of the1920’s, or the little man in the absolutely adorable Oscar-winning Le Ballon Rouge (the Red Balloon) from 1956. Nostalgia and reveries. But despite this little man, and although the Cacharel children playing with boats on the pond in Jardin du Luxembourg or learning to walk at the Place des Vosges could easily star in one of these films, there doesn’t seem to be any children in this picture either.
Now somewhere in that head of hers, spinning with avenues and art, chique chicks and cocktails, she knows that her expat experience in one of these great cities would not be like this. After all, who can spend $15 plus tips and taxes on cocktails all the time? It’s not like a column in “The New Yorker” is awaiting her either, nor an inbox overflowing with invitations to rooftop terrace parties. And although, in the case of New York City, it seems ex-mayor Giuliani and his successors have done quite a job cleaning the city up, lit(t)erally and metaphorically, there would still be dirtier, darker and drearier sides.
So, she goes back to her Wisteria Lane, thinking this is fine, thinking she won’t move until it’s time to go home and that there will be a time to go home.
Thinking “man, is this really the tallest building they’ve got here?” and “where IS everybody?”
Thinking – maybe, for a year, when the children are grown up, and she’s still young enough to enjoy the streets of New York City or the month of May in the city of Paris. And shoes. And cocktails.
Thinking daydreaming is a good thing. Especially in the summer.
Top of the shelf and if it were only you – where would your next expat experience be?
Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard.
– Mary Schmich (often credited to Baz Luhrmann)
“Oh, but Paris is such a big place.”
“No, Paris is very small for those, like us, with such a grand love.”
– From the movie “Les Enfants du Paradis” (1943-45)
Text and photo by Unni Holtedahl, July 2014