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.

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9 Comments so far
  1. Shelly Li June 26, 2009 8:04 am

    This is honestly one of my favorite blogs. I’ve never been to Paris, but reading your descriptions of the city in many of your blog posts, with details of the shops, your house, the culture, I feel like I’ve been there, like the place is already laced into my memories.

  2. kimmi June 27, 2009 7:20 am

    Morning, Ms. Steel,

    This is not too unlike having a common job, i.e go to day job, work, stress, then come home, play and relax. On one hand it sounds exciting but on another it sounds routine. When I read this I see a list; a routine if that makes sense… I wonder what would happen if you broke the routine, perhaps you’d gain some insight and new opportunities — friends ( a man to share your life ). Who was it that said we are only seven people away from the person we need to be with … Hugs to you, sweet lady.

  3. Juli June 29, 2009 4:00 pm

    I can totally see you becoming one of the women of your novels. Finding that sweet love right when you weren’t expecting it. What a gift that you get to live the life you want. You are truly blessed. I know that you know that. As for me Paris will probably remain a dream but I’m OK with that.
    I just finished Matters of the Heart and can’t imagine the research you must have done on sociopaths. Gave me chills- probably because I could relate personally (back from a time in my youth). My only complaint about your novels is that they end too quickly:) Hope you enjoy your summer- whereever you choose to spend it. xoxoxoxox

  4. mary pratti July 1, 2009 7:09 am

    I am a new reader to your books I can not tell you how i enjoy them i have read 7 in the last month and going strong..I know you are a very busy person and do not expect you to answer me but i wanted you to know how much i enjoy your writtings i just can not put the book down till i finish it..i had gotten 9 to read after my hip replacement and i have read 7 already my surgery is july 15 …

    i just can not get enough of your books
    thank you for writting them I LOVE THEM


  5. Avanti Scriven July 1, 2009 12:02 pm

    It’s nice to read about the difference between you Paris and San Francisco life. Now, check your email.


  6. Rita Medeiros July 8, 2009 3:17 pm

    My friend and English teacher have introduced you to me, actually to read your books became my everyday homework. She always says the more you read in English the better you write. I have always read books in Portuguese and thought that if I read books in English I would probably have to have a dictionary by me and should open it every single paragraph to check for an unknown word and then I would lose my pleasure of reading. What I want to say is how much I enjoy my “mandatory” homework which became an addiction.I’ve just finished “Loving” which made me feel nostalgic. I do apologise my mistakes. In that case to carry on the improvement of my writing I will never stop reading your books.

  7. Holden July 8, 2009 7:24 pm

    How silly! If you love to dress up and go out, why wouldn’t you do so wherever you go? I live in San Francisco and I’m rarely seen without heels. This might have something to do with my past career in fashion, but I don’t see any reason not to embrace style and a wealth of life in every city.

    Whether I’m in Paris or SF or Chicago or the Caribbean, I feel it’s absolutely necessary to balance work and fun and to do so feeling I look beautiful.

    As much as possible anyway. We all have our days.

  8. Michel Alan - Brasil July 22, 2009 3:48 pm

    Danielle, Seus livros são verdadeiramente maravilhosos, você é uma grande escritora, adoro ler seus livros, me envolvo nos acontecimentos e me transporto a lugares maravilhosos.
    Obrigado por me proporcionar tal prazer através de seus fabulosos livros.

  9. Loran April 14, 2014 4:47 pm

    That’s a shrewd answer to a tricky qutsoien