By SARAH BYRNE
Surprise! I’m in Paris for the semester. How’s the snow over there in Ithaca? You don’t need to answer that –– just because I’m across the Atlantic doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten the perils of winter in Upstate New York. But don’t worry, Paris has its flaws too. When the average person thinks about Paris, I would venture to say that largely pleasant things come to mind: croissants, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, etc. One might think, “How could there be anything bad about a place where cheese is basically a food group?” I assure you that if you try hard enough (and I did), something negative can be found about even the most idealized city. Indeed, Paris is the city of love. But as someone who’s not really in on said love, it can be a bit, well, lonely. Allow me to elaborate.
1. The Paris Metro is full of kissing: This is something I was 100 percent unprepared for. Usually, when it comes to public transportation, I assume that no one will openly make out in front of me. In the street, I find it cute. In clubs and bars, I put up with it. But yesterday, I saw a couple with their lips just glued together. I don’t even think they were actively kissing; they were sitting with their lips touching. Maybe they were conjoined twins. I don’t know. And again today, I literally had to tap the shoulder of a guy leaning against the Metro door as he made out with his girlfriend, just so I could exit the train. Never have I ever been so awkward.
2. There’s no one to share food with: Paris is full of so much food that it’s ridiculous, and I am enjoying it very much. However, as I sit in a café eating my pain au chocolat or crepe, I inevitably see a couple across the room sharing the very same dessert! Maybe the way Parisians all stay so skinny is by sharing all of their food. If I ate half as much, I wouldn’t have to exercise either.
3. Most restaurants in Paris only accept reservations for two: As if I didn’t already feel badly about eating twice as much as everyone else, I’m barely even allowed to go to a restaurant without having a boyfriend. You cannot eat alone here. Remember that episode of Friends when Rachel learns that it’s all right to eat out alone, that it’s fun to just enjoy your food and not worry about being on a date? French people reject that concept. Even when I go to restaurants with my friends, most of the people around us are clearly on dates. I love that you love each other, but do you need to sit on his lap during dinner? The answer, apparently, is yes –– and also we must constantly be attached at the mouth.
4. Traveling alone is twice as stressful: I haven’t traveled too much outside of Paris yet, but even when exploring the city, I have to be so much more aware of my surroundings when I’m alone. What if someone tries to steal something out of my backpack? What if I can’t carry all of my suitcases by myself? This really happened, and a nice Parisian man helped me up the stairs. Maybe I should have kept him around. When someone else is there to literally and figuratively watch your back, you can relax a little more –– not to mention have a conversation while traveling, rather than stare aimlessly at the graffiti-filled walls of train stations.
5. Heat is not really a thing: Here’s something you might not know about Paris: They’re not big on heating buildings. Most of the newer buildings are heated the way I would expect them to be in the United States, but I live in a very old apartment building. Not only do the floorboards creak whenever I walk across the room, but any heating is rendered pointless by the paper-thin walls and un-insulated windows. As a result, the French mostly just decide to forego heat. This is not really OK with me. In the U.S., I wear shorts and a t-shirt to bed. Here, I wear heavy socks, fleece leggings and a sweatshirt. But all those layers would be unnecessary if I just had someone to cuddle with. Who am I kidding? Maybe I’ll just buy a thicker blanket.
All jokes aside, Paris is wonderful. But it’s just a wee bit too full of love for my taste. At first, I thought the couples were mainly tourists, many of whom come to Paris for a romantic vacation. But as time goes on (I’ve been here a week, so I’m an expert), I notice more and more French couples. There is definitely a culture of romance. No big deal –– I’ll just be over here, eating a whole cake and shivering in my cold Parisian apartment.
Sarah Byrne is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let It Byrne appears alternate Wednesdays this semester.