Monday, February 13, 2012

Girl in Tight Place: Paris

Tell us about yourself. What would you like"Girls in a Tight Place" readers to know about you?
I am a scholar-mother (full-time art history prof with four young kids) whose personal mantra is “Do More.” Interests/obsessions outside of work and home include feminism, Zumba, the hip-hop scene, France, fashion, food, running, and yoga. I drink far too much Diet Coke and consume far too much chocolate. I am a recovering attachment-theory parent.

Are you in a tight place right now? If so, what are you doing about it?

Given my mantra, I’m always in a tight place. In fact, I’ve long suspected that it’s a ruse of the patriarchy to tell women that they can’t have it all. Not everything all at once or all the time or perfectly balanced/blended, of course. But I think this is a worthy aspiration and I thrive on tightness. Not everyone does, of course. And in the end of the day—which is often the wee hours of the morning—I find that I am generally pretty satisfied with my life. One could even say that it is “tight” in the vernacular sense of the word . . . . you know, really cool.

I paint myself into tight places. I don’t like to say no to anyone or anything. I just said no to a publication opportunity and it killed me to do it. I’ve had to resist the urge to write to the editors, to plead temporary insanity, and to take up that essay with a vengeance. But I am slowly recognizing that too much tightness is . . . well, too tight.

What do you want to get done this year?

Intellectual: submit my book manuscript on art, fashion, and women in post-Revolutionary France. Physical: run the Ragnar Wasatch Back (I’m all about that sticker). Social: start a dinner club. Spiritual: increase powers of discernment. Overall goal: turn 40.

What inspires you?

Nonconformity in life and art. Whole food cooking. The optimism and energy of youth. Really loud, brash hip-hop music. My children as they unfold before me.

What is your favorite legwear?

And I love tights. As in I wear them around the house after work or church or an evening out. I even take naps in them. I love the way they hold things in and smooth things out and the way a colored pair takes uninspired, spent clothing to the next level. Come to think of it, my general aversion for summer has something to do with the fact that it’s impossible to wear tights for a season.

A Girl in a Tight Place Goes to Paris

So I just returned from a 10-day jaunt to France. NBD. Yes, one of the most enviable aspects of my tight life is that I get to travel. My specialty is nineteenth-century French art, so this means that the City of Light is in many ways my second home. It actually is my spiritual first home. I remember the first time I went to Paris and hit the streets at dawn an overwhelming feeling of coming-homeness. I realize the triteness of this sentiment and that many harbor those Midnight in Paris fantasies, but I defend my attachment on the grounds that I spend a good part of my mental life in this city.

As the attachment grows, so does my need to return. My husband recognizes this need and he was the one who urged me to escape the dreariness of January in Provo and take a quick research trip. This meant making all kinds of arrangements for my classes and children and that I slept on average about four hours a night while I was there because I had to keep things going in Provo. But I didn’t mind the tightness.

I was staying in the apartment where I stayed for a month last summer; it is in the 5th—just a half a block from Seine and Notre Dame in one direction and the Place Maubert, with its outdoor market and string of specialty food shops. A typical day included falling asleep at 3 or 4 in the morning, getting up and running in the Luxembourg Gardens, researching in the Bibliothèque Nationale for several hours, visiting an art exhibition in the afternoon, shopping in the bookstores and clothing boutiques of my neighborhood in the early evening, and then a museum visit or film in the evening. Food—shopping for and eating—is an important part of my Parisian experience. While I love eating at nice establishments when I have company, I prefer to eat from the markets when I’m traveling alone, and so I ate lots of salads, cheese, and fruit. And chocolate—lots and lots of chocolate (the French take chocolate very seriously; grocery stores typically have an entire aisle devoted to it). And then I’d spend the late evening and early morning answering work emails, skyping with my family, and planning the next day’s adventures.

If it sounds divine, it was. Even though it meant that things were tight post-trip—as in tight funds, tight deadlines, and tight skirts. Expansive living cannot and should not be sustained. While some inhabit the plains of steady, even keel living, I’ve always preferred the unpredictable environs of peaks and vales.

And did I mention that I wore colored tights every day that I was there? And returned home with several pairs in the most delectable shades of cherry, caramel, and berry—a veritable sartorial feast that will have to sustain me until next summer’s sojourn.

1 comment:

  1. i love your "do more" mantra, heather. it's inspiring. also, your idea of the expanding out and reigning back in when "expansive living cannot be maintained." there's something sad and a little boring about a too balanced life. . . .