Falling in love, licking the windows & lusting after a scarf
Two years ago this fall, I fell in love at first sight in the most romantic city in the world. It happened as I was indulging in the delicious window-shopping experience the French call “lecher les vitrines”: Licking the windows.
I was alone, in Paris. So perhaps I shouldn’t have been so surprised when out of le bleu, I was struck by that storied lightning bolt, that coup de foudre that makes the knees go weak and the mouth melt into a dreamy smile. But this was truly a first for me.
A fashion first.
It was not a man, but a thing that captured my heart the minute I spotted it, looking through a pretty little boutique’s windows on the Left Bank.
I know – I shouldn’t have looked. I was only able to make the trip in the first place by drawing up, and rigidly adhering to, an uber-frugal budget that brooked no self-indulgence beyond the permissible occasions of sin represented by Parisian bakeries.
But for some reason that day, I broke my Paris shop-window fast. I remember feeling sublimely happy, walking for miles between Metro stops to see architectural masterpieces, historic churches, elegant parks and spectacular museum exhibitions in the city I view as a superbly designed work of art. I was walking not on cobblestones, but on air, thinking lofty thoughts of all the beautiful things I’d seen that I enjoyed in their own places, that I didn’t need to take home or own.
And then, of all the shop windows in all the world, I had to look into Nina Kendosa’s, on rue de Buci. Ah, mon Dieu! Suddenly, inexplicably, I was head over heels in love with, of all things, a scarf, or as the card in the window said, écharpe. I started thinking of it in Hemingwayesque terms: As a moveable feast that I could easily fit into my carry-on. The price was quite reasonable, actually, especially for a Paris fashion purchase.
But, I asked myself, reverting to type: Did I really NEED this écharpe, or whatever its name was? After all, it wasn’t in The Budget.
Stuck in my "tortured Hamlet" persona, I stood paralyzed on the narrow sidewalk in front of the window, yearning with all my soul for the scarf that lay behind the glass. Scores of fashionable Parisian pedestrians, long accustomed to sudden stops of the lecher-les-vitrines genre, graciously stepped around the gawking Americaine without so much as a murmur of protest. They understood.
The scarf was black (this being Paris), and velvet (dressy), but on second glance, its adorably ruffled silk border belied its somber introduction. I had never seen anything like it before.
The only frame of reference I had for my unsettled feeling was the moment when I first looked into a bakery window in Paris. There, at Gerard Mulot on rue de Seine, I beheld an impossibly alluring slice of spinach and salmon quiche. Staring at the ruffled black scarf, my mouth began watering in the same way. I began to feel a little lightheaded, off-balance.
Thankfully, the minute I realized I was feeling lightheaded, my priorities were realigned. My dilemma was resolved, and I was at peace.
I understood that for the sake of my health, I needed that scarf, in the same way that I needed to taste that beautifully designed quiche, which raised a banal baked item to the level of a Fauvist work of art. It was simply meant to be. It was “just this once,” and it was Paris. And unlike the quiche, that scarf was forever.
During the two ensuing years of global economic turmoil, I’ve been very happy that I departed from the norm and made that singular fashion purchase. Although I haven’t physically gone on any trips, every time I wear my beautiful black scarf, I’m in Paris and in love, once again.