I’ve been faithfully going to the gym since right after Christmas. I don’t love it, but I’m distracting myself from the tedium with books downloaded onto my iPad. A recent selection was My Paris Dream, by former Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar editor Kate Betts. After her graduation from Princeton, rudderless Betts returned to Paris after having fallen for the city during an earlier trip with friends.
The book tells how Betts found a room, then a job, then an apartment, then a better job. Along the way, she learned to speak French like a truck driver instead of a school girl, cracked the code of Parisian fashion, and found love with a Frenchman, at least for a time. What she learned most of all, however, was what made her tick. Once she had learned all of the lessons Paris had to teach her, it was time to return home to New York and pursue a new dream, although her job in the fashion world brings her back quite often.
The book has some entertaining anecdotes, such as careening through the woods in a Citroën 2CV to follow a highly ritualized boar hunt in Brittany and turning down a pair of custom-made Louboutin shoes from Christian himself before he was the hottest shoe designer in the world. Betts certainly had amazing insider access to the biggest names in fashion when they were still at the beginnings of their careers.
The part of the book that really struck me, however, was that Betts started her adventure in 1986, when Paris was going through a wave of terrorist attacks. Paris wasn’t on my radar then, so I knew nothing abou these events. A bombing campaign rocked the French capital in September 1986, killing 15 people and wounding over 150 others. The bombings were carried out by the Comité de soutien avec les prisonniers politiques et arabes et du Moyen-Orient (CSPPA) with the aim of forcing the release of terrorist Georges Abdallah from prison. Strangely enough, I found learning about these attacks comforting in light of the November 2015 attacks. Paris has been through waves of terrorist violence before and come through. Although she was afraid, Betts showed courage in pursuing her Paris dream.
The word for a dreamer in French is un rêveur (uhn rev-ur) and the feminine form is une rêveuse (oon rev-uz). My Paris dream gets lived out each summer when I work there, but maybe some day… I can dream, can’t I?