Anyone walking by rue Dupetit-Thouars on the
afternoon of October 17th must have heard a chatty group of foreign girls and their chinking teacups in a Sex & the City kind of affair – minus the cocktails.
Gathering at the little shack of a tea salon, Lily of the Valley, my friends and I stretched out my birthday celebration with food, cakes, coffee and presents making it the fourth restaurant we visited that day. I was turning 26 and no longer eligible for the free museum pass in Paris. So this year instead of exploring museums and debating mortality by the tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte, I spent it feeling like Carrie Bradshaw in my new Italian boots and gossiping about love in Paris with my circle of girlfriends.
The morning began quite like most days except it was my birthday. I was in the 5th arrondissement admiring the new Judy Café that stuck out with its yellow striped awning and morning sunlight beaming into misty windows. My friend was waiting for me at a corner table with a bouquet of white roses.
I’ve been quite lucky with friends in Paris. British, Czech, Russian, German, Iranian, Egyptian, Scottish – you name it. I have been baked cakes, or taken to drinking wine bottles at the Eiffel Tower waiting for the stroke of midnight to watch the tower glitter at the turn of age. Each year, we have something to be grateful for even if we don’t complete the list of goals and dreams we’ve set for ourselves. Sometimes it’s people we have to thank for.
[CLICK EACH THUMBNAIL IN THESE GALLERIES TO EXPAND IMAGE]
With a blue sky above devoid of clouds, we promenaded a park by the Picasso Museum, ending up at Merci on Boulevard Beaumarchais.
The Merci concept store has three eateries: a cantina, a café, and an underground organic restaurant that makes a mean green pea risotto. I have a thing for boiled eggs with bread fingers (oeufs à la coque) so I treated myself – it was the only thing to keep me distracted from an Isabel Marant coat. We turned the street towards Boot Café – it was once a shoe repair shop and so tiny it only fits two round tables. We wedged in for our coffee dose.
The whole day moved along like a happy distraction from the obsession I had felt about aging. I forgot to look in the mirror and obsess over the wrinkles that were to come. Turning 26 is less haunting than the big 25, but tipping the scale towards 30 is no relief either. Behind all that crepe-eating at the Eiffel Tower, the visit to the Petit Palais for Oscar Wilde’s exposition, there could have been a pang of anxiety over which anti-aging creams to buy. Estée Lauder, Lancôme, Kiehl’s? This had been my debate leading up to my birthday, but I was so busy living the day I forgot to freak out.
Surely, I’m not the only twenty-something anxious about wrinkles and what they symbolize: that we can’t use the “but I’m young” card to pardon our errors anymore. But it’s not true that we have to have it all figured out by now. By now we can pay our rent, hold a job, and get married. We can have three kids, a 401K, and start a business. Or we can still be lingering somewhere abroad writing stories in the hopes of becoming an artist or a famous author.
We can still be single, broke, not have graduated, living at our parents’ house or trying to be discovered at a karaoke bar in Brooklyn. Less mind should be paid to what our friends are doing on Facebook and the taunting Forbes’ “30 under 30” list. If we look around, we’d find that not everyone is successful in their early years. Vera Wang began her fashion line in her 40’s, and at age 75, my grandfather still studies music theory. Owning up to one’s age shouldn’t be a haunting experience. Birthdays should only prove that people can still dream at any age.