Friday, October 7, 2011


This week Elze went to a massive shopping mall half an hour outside of Paris. Elze had previously gone and bought a gigantic and beautiful Michael Kors bag for over 200 € to carry with her to work so she wouldn't feel like such a dork with her backpack full of her chef stuff. (I, on the other hand, look like a dork every day and with every chocolate biscuit dinner I have I'm starting to look more and more like a pudgy one.) Elze was practically beaming with pride at this beautiful bag but the first day she took it out of the house she encountered some serious problems. She had just closed the door of our building when one of the handles tore off. Being forced to use the only one left, it too, ripped off. She then had to carry it like those old school handle-less shopping bags (is anyone else shocked, by the way, at how long it took them to put handles on those?) or a crazy paranoid old lady convinced she's going to be pick pocketed everywhere in Paris.

Elze then was lucky enough to have one of the worst days at her internship and returned talking crazy about how she was going to go home, how she wasn't learning anything, how she was just suffering and was going to hate every second of it here. And to make things worse her baby of a new bag had torn and she'd spent too much money on it to begin with. I tried to soothe her. I knew how she was feeling, I've felt like that plenty here and I knew that she was mostly just venting. So I told her what I tell myself, that she'll look back on this and feel happy, that she'll always feel guilty and a little like a failure if she leaves early, that she may not be learning loads about pastry but she is learning valuable life lessons and growing as a person. All that daily sitcom end of the show lesson crap we all used to get on TGIF when it was still rocking Friday nights.

Most importantly, I told her not to worry about the damn bag. She could return it and get her money back. After we did our research we saw that the receipt clearly stated NO REFUNDS, because this was the Michael Kors Outlet, not the actual store. "Screw that," I told her, "we'll get your damn money. This isn't some hideous bag you thought was cute in the store and then had an epiphany about, this is actually a piece of crap and I'm sure Michael would be horrified if he knew the rubbish his name was on." She begged me to come with her because I talk a big game and as you may have guessed, I have my moments where I can be strong and stubborn and demand to get what I want. Plus I had already learned that this was how the French seemed to want to be treated. So I agreed to be her muscle and go with her on the journey to return the Michael Kors.

I met Elze at the metro after she finished her day at work and the two of us crammed onto a train filled with commuters. It was hot and sweaty and smelled like people. People really don't smell all that great, but I held onto the disease ridden rod they give you for "safety" and we chatted about how her day today had gone so much better. Then we moved to an RER train which takes you out of the city. It also went to Euro Disney so we started talking about how weird it was when people came to visit France and visited Disney. I found it repulsive. Of all the things to do they're going to go to Paris Disney? To me it was like coming to Paris and making a regular stop at McDonalds. Blasphemy. Elze was somewhat more sympathetic but I think that's because she wants to be a nicer person than I.

However, as nice as she wants to be, she didn't tell me until we were in the metro that we were going to have to steal a little bit because we were taking the RER farther than our metro passes covered. So that meant that after another jam packed sweat fest I had to seriously invade someone's personal space and sneak behind them through the metro gates so that I wouldn't be stuck inside like some unwanted orphan. The man I followed gave me a quick suspicious glance, but that was all. We were on our way to the mall. I was less than thrilled.

I'm a pretty terrible girl. I don't get pretty every day. I buy shitty, cheap make up. I don't really know that much about designers. I bite my nails and never paint them, or when I do paint them I paint my toe nails and leave them on until they chip off on their own. I never keep important things like bandaids or clean wipes in my purse, except for a brief period and I got sand in my purse which contaminated all my clean wipes. I have very little patience for girl talk unless it's especially juicy gossip and I like that mostly because I'm judgmental and somewhat of a bitch. But where I really drop the ball is on shopping. I only have a two store limit and then I'm done. I go through a store and grab every single thing I could possibly want to try on in two sizes and pile it onto my arm until it's red, sore, and swollen. I then blow through them as quickly as possible and that's that. I'll do that for two stores and then I want to go home.

But I was excited to see Elze fight with a French man about a bag and even step in if necessary. But it really wasn't necessary. I found that Elze can through a fit just as well as I can. She was on fire. The man "helping" was so obnoxious that I wanted to jab a thumb into his eyeball. He was tall and handsome but thin like most French men are. His legs couldn't have been thicker than my pinky finger. With every word he spoke to us he had this huge smile and undertones of laughter that would flutter out from his sexy stubble every now and then. It was annoying as hell. I think he was trying to be charming and helpful but it came off as smug and indifferent.

Elze explained what had happened, that this gigantic bag hadn't even been able to handle the simple weight of her wallet, phone and a small water bottle. What then, was the point of making a bag so big if you couldn't use it? The man smiled and explained that this was one of their most popular bags and this was the first one that had a problem. Elze said that she found that hard to believe since it was obviously poorly made. You could even see how the stitching on the handles had been sloppily done and if she had examined it more closely she would've known it was a piece of shit before buying it. She explained how the sales lady had told her it was a strong bag and could even carry her lap top in it. The man said that while that was true it could only carry a small one. This continued for a while. She stated fact after fact on how this bag had failed to do its job and he continued to make excuses. Her voice became elevated with each round. When she demanded that she get her money back the man explained, "This is an outlet, we don't give refunds. You can have the bag replaced or get a store credit."

Elze wasn't going to have it and neither was I. She said that she didn't care, that the bag had fallen apart and she didn't want them to just replace it with another one that would do the same thing. She also didn't want any of the other bags. I made only one comment which was that she wasn't returning it because she didn't like it but because it was poorly made and why should she trust any other bag in the store? Sensing that we were not going to give up and that he and his asparagus legs could easily be taken by the two of us, he went into the back to do god knows what. He was probably taking a nervous pee or something like that.

He returned and said that he could give a refund but since the store was new it would take a while. Elze said what was my favorite line of the day, "Well, I'm waiting!" And so he began and Elze got her money back and we were both happy. She had over 200 € in her bank account and I had just witnessed Elze put a twig of a frenchie in his place. It was glorious.

We took advantage of the mall and did some cheap shopping and then after we were both worn out we made our way back to the RER for the train ride home. Since we are lowly interns we stole some more and bought the children's tickets because it's two for the price of one and no one is there to check them. On the ride home we were chatting quickly in english and I noticed a girl next to us taking quick glances at us. I then observed that she had an Illinois University sweatshirt on. She then leaned over and said, "I'm sorry to eavesdrop but I couldn't help but notice the American accent. Where are you guys from?"

I told her that Elze was actually from South Africa but that I was, indeed, a fellow patriot. I asked what she was doing in France, "I'm a flight attendant. I'm just here for two days and I'm getting back from Euro Disney." We both held back chuckles. What were the odds? And of course this girl was American. Here in her sweatshirt, giving us all a bad name, visiting Euro Disney and looking like she'd just went for a jog. But the truth was she was sweeter and friendlier than any French person I'd met thus far in Paris.

We continued to chat and I could immediately tell this girl was somewhat of a dork. I mean that in an endearing sense of the word, not in a judgmental sense. But I could hazard a guess from the ten minutes we talked to her that she probably wasn't homecoming queen. For starters she had a life goal to visit every Disney in the world. Don't get me wrong, I love Disney movies as much as the next girl, maybe even more (I even have some choice Disney songs on my Ipod), but I don't really see the appeal of Disneyland. It's horrible because Christy, my roommate, has actually been to every single Disney in the world and while I nod and pretend that's cool not so deep down I'm asking myself, "WTF?"

My new found RER American, Disney obsessed friend mentioned how her fiance lived in New Zealand and so I congratulated her on her soon to be marriage and we started talking about that. Apparently they had been pen pals and that was how they met. I asked how they were set up and she said that she had had a pen pal before, a girl, and that she had dropped off the face of the planet and so she went onto or something like that and found another one. Apparently she was looking for a girl penpal but this guy, Shane, was what they recommended so she tried him on and apparently he fit.

Perhaps the best part was when I began digging into her wedding plans. While I may be a terrible girl at makeup and shopping I do share the apparently natural female affinity for weddings. Not to mention the fact that my kick ass sister runs one of the best wedding blogs in the world, So I'm a bit judgmental when it comes to weddings. Well, most things, but hey I can't help it that my mom raised me to have good taste! Some things are nature, some things are nurture, when it comes to the tree of style I like to think I got some pretty prime fruits. What I'm trying to say is, I was curious. And then she dropped the bomb. The "D" bomb.

She exclaimed with extreme excitement that she was going to get married at Disneyland! Oh joy! Elze gave a honeyed laugh and said, "How sweet!" I of course smiled and did the same. It was obvious this girl had a serious obsession with Disney so I guess why not get married there? Sure it was tacky as hell, sure every fiber of my being was judging and dissecting her, but the truth is that she will probably have more fun at her wedding than I ever will at mine because she actually knows what she wants and isn't afraid to go for it.

Then we started discussing the dress. I knew it. I knew what she was going to have. I just couldn't see how it wasn't going to happen. A die hard Disney fan like this? How could she not have a Disney Princess dress? And so as she was talking this was all I was thinking and then she said those magic words, "...well then the woman at the shop mentioned how they had a Disney line..." Of course they did! This was America after all. Well, this, was actually France but where she had gone for her dress was America and we believe in pleasing the customer so of course there were Disney Princess dresses for all those little princess girls who never fully grew up.

I looked at this girl with her greasy pony tail and slouchy sweatshirt as she talked about her white version of the dress that Belle wore in the famous ballroom scene of Beauty and the Beast, and I couldn't help but be a little jealous. Here she had found true love from almost a day's flight away. She had only actually spent time with him, real human/human interaction on three trips to New Zealand. And yet here she was about to be the happiest Disney princess in history as she had an intimate wedding of 24 at Disneyland in her copy of Belle's dress. This was a girl who knew what she wanted and wasn't afraid to take it. Not to mention she obviously had an incredible attitude.

People like that drive me crazy. Why can't I have that positive outlook? This girl was obviously somewhat of a geek in high school (not that that is any measure of a person, if anything the less popular you are the more you're likely to be a better human being and to actually succeed in life, but still the weirdos are kinda weirdos), and yet she still sought out personal human contact through the dorkiest form ever, an online penpal, and managed to make it work! This was faith. This was happiness. This was someone truly living life as it was meant to be lived. By actually being present! I had to take a page from this girl's book.

I am in Paris and while I may be gaining a pound a day I'm not all that bad of a catch. I'm obvioulsy hilarious for any of you who are paying attention. Plus I have this wonderful opportunity of being able to live here for a year, go to pastry school and work in a French patisserie. And yet all I do is bitch about it every day on a damn blog. I need to be more like a Disney princess. If I remember correctly all their lives sucked in the beginning and then turned to roses at the end because of persistence and good attitude. Sure my Prince Charming may not bring me a glass slipper and marry me on sight, but perhaps for me Prince Charming is more metaphorical than for my sweet American counterpart. Perhaps for me what Prince Charming will bring is a symbolic shoe of self worth, self discovery, and positivism that I'll wear with comfort, ease, and a good sense of humor.

So Prince... I'm ready and waiting. And if you happen to be super hot, all the better for me, right?

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