The occasion finds it way into my calendar innocuously enough. An afternoon of idle googling, an intriguing website, and, in a moment of insanity, I click the ‘send me updates’ button.
The given meeting place is a nice restaurant in the heart of what I know to be quite a snobby area of Paris. I start getting ready hours before I have to leave home. I change outfits three times, wanting to strike the balance between trendy and not trying too hard. Eventually, I settle on my original choice; a black dress with tights and boots, a fun necklace and some bright fuchsia lipstick.
Finally, it’s time to leave for the metro. I take a deep breath and my husband wishes me luck as he kisses me goodbye.
On the metro, I catch sight of my reflection in the grimy doors and instantly regret the lipstick. In the harsh yellow light of the underground, it looks garish and childlike. In an attempt to distract myself, I turn my thoughts to the evening ahead, wondering what the hell I have signed up for.
I have agreed to attend an ‘Expat Mixer’.
Now, I’m not good at going out at the best of times, as my ideal weekend evening is one spent in pyjamas, repainting my toenails. (Case in point, this post is being penned at 8.22pm on my first Saturday night in Paris. I’ve already had my dinner, done two loads of washing, and I’m contemplating making a second pot of tea – living on the edge.) I am even less good at unfamiliar situations (see my earlier post).
So what am I doing here?
In a bid to make more friends in Paris, I have decided (to borrow from the dating metaphor just a little more) to ‘get out there more’. Effectively, I am girlfriend-dating. And not just any old dating. Technically, I am internet dating.
I navigate my way to the somewhat shabby looking bar and pause for a moment, hand on the door, and hope against hope that noone tries to make me wear a sticky name tag or to play any ice breaker games.
As it turns out, I’m crap at dating. I laugh too hard and too long at other people’s jokes and I find myself wholeheartedly agreeing with people’s outrageous opinions (such as, that 22 is not too young to start considering ‘maintenance’ plastic surgery) on the off chance that it might make them like me. Around 10.30pm the ‘host’ offers us all a free round of shots (which I sensibly decline, as I’ve already had two cocktails and I don’t want to have a headache tomorrow) and a nice American girl asks me The Question.
‘So Alissa, (it’s a noisy bar, and I daren’t correct her lest she stops talking to me) what do you like to do for fun?’
I flounder. I take a sip of my now-warm white wine cocktail and giggle nervously, trying to think of what twenty-four year olds are supposed to like doing. ‘Ha.’ I say, buying time. ‘What a tough question!’ (She looks puzzled by this, and rightly so.) Eventually I manage to kick my brain into gear and assemble a semi-coherent sentence. ‘Food. I mean, eating it. You know, and cooking it. Markets… and stuff. And books. I like read….ing books and magazines. Oh, and WINE! Yes, yes I love wine. But not, in like a snobby way or anything. I just like to drink it. But not the two-euro stuff. Sometimes I buy the four or five-euro bottles though and it’s amazing how good it can be. Have you ever–’
Thankfully, my boring monologue is interrupted by a much cooler attendee, who says simply ‘I like dancing.’ The question asker breaks into a wide smile and reaches across the table to high-five the other girl. ‘Me too!’ she squeals. ‘We should drink these shots, then go to a club!’
It is at this point that I subtly reach underneath the table for my bag and slide my coat onto my arms, maintaining eye contact at all times. I take advantage of the sudden arrival of the waiter with more drinks at our table to vanish through the door and into the night.
Half an hour later I am in bed, mug of tea in hand and Grey’s Anatomy rerun ready to roll.
I’ll make friends another day.
Paris by night image courtesy of bsbeta on Flickr.
Metro image courtesy of rafa espada on Flickr.
Fluffy slippers image courtesy of Kari [Kismet] on Flickr.
Cocktail image courtesy of Kiwifraiz on Flickr.