Although I know I’ve said it to you before in describing my life, I am always struck by the contrasts between my Paris life, and the one I live in San Francisco. Paris is my play life, and San Francisco is my work life. The moment I arrive in Paris, all I want to do is go out, see friends, shop (when I can reasonably do so, depending on my budget!!), play, and have fun. I make an effort to get ‘dressed up’ here, and even if not dressed up, at least to look nice even casually. People seem to pay more attention to how they look in Paris, than in the more casual setting of Northern California. (Hollywood has an impact on how people/women look in LA. Women always look sexy to me in LA, with blonde hair, skin tight jeans, stiletto heels, sexy outfits, lots of cleavage, with even older women looking younger than they are. In San Francisco, most people look to me like they are ready to go hiking, or wearing work out clothes. Northern California is all about athletics and the outdoors—-both of which are not my thing. And standard footwear you see on everyone in San Francisco are Birkenstocks, rubber flip flops, Crocs, or Tivas, or running shoes at best. People in Northern California dress for comfort, not necessarily how they look, and that atmosphere is contagious, and I find I do the same when I’m there. I feel silly all dressed up in San Francisco). But Paris is very different, even people who have very little money make a big effort to look well put together. No one dresses the way they used to anywhere in the world. (When I first went to San Francisco in the late 60’s, you couldn’t go downtown without a hat and gloves!!! That all disappeared a long time ago!!) But women in Paris really care how they look, and it always inspires me to make more of an effort here in Paris. Also, French men look admiringly at women of any age, and I think that subtle difference makes a woman want to look her best. (I think American men are much more obsessed with youth, and young women. Here in Paris, all women get admiring looks, no matter what their age). Whatever the reason, I find I make more effort here, get dressed nicely almost every day (although even in Paris, I still have some sloppy days at home, which are good for the soul too. We all need down time with messy hair, and jeans, or at least I do).
And there is just a lot more to do in Paris, more to see, more exhibits, more events. People entertain more, so I get invited to dinner at friends’ houses several times a week. Americans are more stressed by their work lives, women have big careers, and less time to socialize. I have a much fuller life in Paris, with more people in it, more to do, more to see. And it’s a lot more fun for me. It’s a life I was never able to lead when I was married, had many young children at home, and was building my career. My life then was constantly a game of ‘beat the clock’, and no day had enough hours in it. With my children relatively grown up, no husband to share my life with anymore (one of my great regrets, life just isn’t as much fun alone, although occasionally it has its benefits being able to do what I want when I want. but still, life as a twosome has always seemed better to me), and with my life divided between two cities, one where I work, and the other where I play, I have a lot more free time in Paris to do the things I never had time for before: leisure time to read or stroll, time for lunches with other women or friends in general, evenings when I can go to friends’ homes for dinner, without worrying about helping with homework, or staying home with a sick child. Paris is the leisure and free time I never had before (I’ve had a husband and kids at home since I was l8, and that has been the great joy of my life and the focus of my world). And now, when I go back to San Francisco, it is to make up for the time I took off from work in Paris. So the moment, I land, it’s all work and no play. I rarely have time to see friends, I catch up with my children and spend all my free time with them. I work almost non stop, very intensely, and have no social life there anymore. And since I don’t, I don’t bother getting dressed up. I unpack my bags when I arrive, attack my desk, and go to work, and for all the time I’m in San Francisco, I wear old sweaters and jeans, don’t care how I look, and work long, long, long hours. San Francisco has become an intense work experience for me, a work camp of sorts, with whatever spare time spent with my children. And none of the self-indulgent leisure time that I enjoy in Paris. My two lives are completely separate and different. I speak a different language in each place, do different things (play vs. work), I have a social life in one city and not the other (although I miss my San Francisco friends and no longer see enough of them. I see more of them when they come to Paris). It really is a very odd life. I have kids I love in San Francisco, and only visiting children in Paris. A house I love in SF, and an apartment in Paris. My dogs are in San Francisco, and I miss them too (the trip to Paris is too far to bring them, so I don’t. The flight is just too long for them). But I think that my time in Paris gives me the time and inspiration, and the energy, that fuel my work life in San Francisco, and the books I write there. It is a crazy life divided that way, but for now it seems to work. Things change, lives change. Mine changed considerably when I moved back to Paris part time, and perhaps one day it will change again if I have reason to spend more time in San Francisco, or Paris. But for now it is divided between two cities, and two entirely different lives. And I am very grateful to have both. It would be too intense if all I did was work, as I did for many, many years in San Francisco. And I am so grateful for the fun that Paris has put back into my life. It’s a huge blessing for me, and an amazing way to live, between two cities, two cultures, and two worlds.