Friday, February 22, 2008

A night of pampering...

Ok folks: I'm not being biased, but I think I may have the greatest boyfriend ever (Dina, hold your lunch). Last weekend he told me to keep Thursday free because he was planning a surprise for me. As much as I begged, he wouldn’t tell me what it was, just that I should bring my bathing suit. Now, I’m thinking we’re going to the neighborhood pool—he just got a membership to the Paris pools and has been all excited that he can go swimming once a week—and I just thought, ‘Ok, that’s cool, haven’t been swimming in a while’.

So Thurs rolls around and he sends me a text message: ‘Meet me at Miromesnil station at 19h’. We meet outside of the station then get back on the subway and head to the south of Paris, the end of the line. We walk into this dark building, lit only by candles snaking up a set of stairs (I still have no clue at this point), open a big heavy ornate door and step into… a hammam! He had planned a whole night of pampering and relaxation!

Walking into Les Cent Ciels (Bathhouse & Hammam) felt like I’d been transported to Turkey: It’s very dark, lit only by soft candlelight, and the entire place is accented with intricately beaded, colorful furniture and draperies. All the staff is dressed like Arabic attendants, wearing djellaba-like outfits and turbans. The receptionist gave us a key to our lockers, a plush white robe and towel and flip flops and told us to get changed and meet her back in the lobby. So I come out completely naked underneath my robe and when B sees me, he started laughing and said, “You’re supposed to put your bathing suit on. What do you think I told you to bring it for?” lol, obviously I was still very confused. I had never been to a hammam before and had no idea what to do or what to expect. So the lady shows us around—the restaurant, the repose and sun rooms (outfitted with lots of plush loungers and skylights), the pool, the sauna and the hot, warm and cold hammams.

We spend the next two hours alternating between all of the rooms—10 minutes in the sauna, a dip in the pool, laying out in the hammams and back again. At 9:15pm, a lady came in and called my name. I looked at B confused and he said, “I scheduled a massage for you”. Lovely! It had been about 6 months since my last massage and who doesn’t adore them? The room smelled like flowers, and was dark and warm with soft music playing. There were rose petals on the table and the masseuse tells me to take off my bathing suit, put on tiny paper panties and lay down. Just like the gynecologist, in France, there is no shame when it comes to getting a massage—she thought nothing of asking me to flip over (no towel to cover up of course) half naked so she could massage my front and bend my legs into all sorts of crazy positions. But nonetheless, it was 30 minutes of bliss. After a final swim in the pool, we got back into our robes and went to the repose room to stretch out with a cup of tea. Then we went to the restaurant and had a traditional Moroccan dinner and glass of champagne. By midnight, we reluctantly left so we would catch the last train back to Paris. It was an absolutely amazing, luxurious, unforgettable night.

Apparently, this was supposed to be our Valentine’s Day but when he called to make the reservation they told him they’d been booked a month in advance. But this more than makes up for the original V-Day… it was so sweet and thoughtful of him to plan a romantic night like this. What girl doesn’t love a day of pampering? And it was so much fun! Granted, I’m now spending this whole afternoon trying to salvage my hair (which I just blew out and flat ironed a couple days ago) but it was well worth it :o)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Unemployment Pt. 2

About two years ago, I passed a very pleasant unemployment period. My department folded at work and when given the option of relocating to the Miami office, I decided to stick it out in New York and just enjoy the summer living off a nice severance package and weekly unemployment checks. It was heavenly—3 months of catching up on my reading in Central Park, actually “finding the time” to hit the gym or run along the East River, meeting friends for lunch at their office (and breathing a sigh of relief when I got to escape back into the world of the shiftless), visiting with other unemployed friends, taking up random sports (swimming, tennis), exploring the city by foot, taking day trips to far-off locale’s like Boston—by August I had reluctantly accepted a new gig and it was back to the drawing board. But I’ll never forget that summer as one of the most enjoyable of my life—it felt like being on high school summer vacation again.

So last week, after returning from my 2-week holiday in the States, I got an email from my boss saying that the company was ending my contract (yes, via email) because my position had become obsolete. I wasn’t entirely shocked considering they hired a marketing agency last year to handle all their marketing stuff and I had sh*t to do—plus they’re cheap bastards and if they could get out of paying someone (I won’t even tell you how much of a fight it was to get my expenses reimbursed on time) they would. In any case, they agreed that I could wrap up my last project this week and they would pay me through the end of the month. Considering that I had been trying to work up the guts to quit anyway, this was the perfect little push.

Interestingly enough, most of my friends in Paris are unemployed; either by choice or because of the lack of opportunity here in France (the unemployment rate is ridiculous) so I don’t think I’ll be out of things to do. Today, for example, it was my first day of freedom and I spent it shopping with a girlfriend all afternoon followed by 3 hours of gabbing in a café. Tomorrow I plan on finally checking out Shakespeare & Co. and next week, my friends and I are planning a trip outside of Paris. And when the weather warms up, having all this free time will be lovely.

Problem is, I have a feeling things are going to get pretty sketchy really quickly. Life in Paris is NOT cheap, especially when you factor in the exchange rate. In New York, I knew lots of tricks to make my money stretch without drastically altering my lifestyle pre-unemployment. Here, on the other hand, it’s not the same story—you’re lucky if you can send a text message without spending $2. So, we’ll see how things go… it’ll be an interesting experiment. I may be moving back into the ghetto soon, who knows…

Monday, February 18, 2008

Tout va bien

My cousin, as usual, was right (don’t tell her I said that). So B and I are hanging out at my place on Saturday morning, just lying around and chatting. And suddenly he looks at me and asks, “What’s wrong? Tell me” (he can always tell when something is wrong, it’s scary).

And I took a deep breath and just spilled everything. I told him that I felt that he takes me for granted. That I think that if he really cared he should want to do things that he knows will make me happy (whether it be sending me flowers or planning a nice evening) and he just isn’t. I told him that I wanted to feel special; wanted to be surprised once in a while; that I’m a girl and girls like presents. And that basically the last straw was Valentine’s Day—he obviously made little effort that day and as much as he says he likes me, if he’s not willing to make an effort to show me than it’s just not good enough.

He was silent for while then just put his hand over his heart and said, “Wow, that really hurt me”. And guys, honestly, the look he gave me very nearly broke my heart. He said the fact that I could think that he doesn’t care kills him b/c he’s never felt for anyone the way he feels for me and he didn’t realize that this whole time he made me doubt his feelings. That he’s new to this relationship thing and he just doesn’t know what to do but he’s going to work on it and make sure that I never feel taken for granted. He admitted that Valentine’s Day was pathetic and apologized. And said he understood that simply doing “something” was not good enough and he wishes he had made more of an effort. And he told me about all these things he’s been planning for us in the next couple of weeks and months (weekend getaways around France—including a trip to meet his parents, yikes!). He said that he doesn’t want to lose me and he would do anything he can to make me happy.

And for a long while we just held hands and talked; about how we felt, what we wanted from each other and out of a relationship. And I felt really great afterwards, especially since I said my peace and he listened and there were no hard feelings. I love that we have this open relationship where we can be honest and talk about these things and no one gets defensive or mean. And it felt pretty good to know that his misfire was simply from being a young clueless guy and not b/c he was a cheap bastard.

Just the act of actually voicing my feelings is something! I think it’s actually a sign that I’m maturing (uh..)! Yall know that if this had happened 6 months ago and my boyfriend fu*ked up like this, he would have been kicked to the curb immediately without even a heads up—I probably would have just told him I hate his shoes so he’s dismissed :o)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

B's Birthday Dinner

On Saturday night we celebrated B’s 24th birthday. First off, a milestone: now, the fashion girl in me kicks in every once in a while, and even though B dresses much better than the average man (he is European after all), he hates to shop and I always think to myself, ‘If I see that boy in a t-shirt, jeans and All-Star Converse's one more time I just may scream’. Sheepishly, he mentions that he’s thinking of doing a little shopping that afternoon—he needs new work clothes and wants something new to wear for his birthday that night. I’m elated but I try not to show it so he doesn’t get scared off… for some reason he has this wild idea that I’m a crazy shopaholic and is scared to enter any stores with me (ok true, but so unfair). We head over to Les Halles to hit up H&M, Zara and a couple other European discount fashion chains.

I drag him through the stores and hold up vests, pink sweaters, blazers, skinny jeans (not too skinny!) and ties—lots of trendy but classic and mature pieces that would look fantastic on him. He practically shouts at me, “Stop trying to dress me like ‘The Swede’. I’m not your gay friend”. So I back off just a bit and coax him into a compromise. We bought a few white button-down dress shirts, properly fitting dress slacks, some sweaters/cardigans that can be dressed up or down… and my biggest accomplishment: I made him graduate from colorfully printed boxers to neutral-colored boxer briefs. After he stopped complaining about never being able to father children, he agreed that they weren’t so bad.

After a quick lunch, we split up. Went home to get showered & dressed and then he went to meet his friends for pre-dinner drinks while I went to Café Oz, a central Aussie bar, to meet my Man United buddy to watch the Arsenal match.

B came and picked me up with his friends around 8:30pm and we headed to Los Mexicanos, a theme restaurant with live music and dancing. 15 of us (10 of his friends, 3 of mine) ate [bad] mexican, drank tons of margaritas, I bought him a rose from the vendor and we all danced until around 1am. The night was a lot of fun—and it was so cute to see him so happy, the life of the party. He said it was the best birthday he’s had in a long while… he doesn’t usually celebrate his birthday but I kept bothering him about how loser-ish that was till he finally decided to plan something.

(he got a Lorie music video DVD, France's Britney Spears, as a gag gift)

Oh, and I chipped in with his 3 best friends and bought him top-of-the-line rollerblades. He laughed b/c he’d never thought of rollerblading but said he’s looking forward to testing it out—in a private secluded neighborhood, away from the guys he plays basketball with at his local park. Personally, my idea was to get him a 6-month subscription to Glowria (France’s new version of Netflix) b/c he just bought a new flat-screen TV and DVD player and he’s a huge movie buff… but I figured I’d acquiesce and go with their choice since they’ve known him longer/better. I’m happy to report that he kept saying that my gift idea was fantastic and he would have loved to get that instead. Oh well, looks like B and I will be skating through the streets of Paris together this spring! :o)

Friday, February 15, 2008

Trouble in Paradise

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day. This was my first “real” Valentine’s Day with a real boyfriend that I truly care about. B had been emailing me for a few weeks about how he was planning this special night for us. I was super excited about it, went out and bought a cute little hot pink silk shift dress and everything, just for the occasion. I bought him cute little romantic presents, spent an hour doing my hair and makeup… I shouldn’t have bothered.

The night before he told me that he didn’t want to go to a restaurant because it would be noisy and crowded and he just wanted to have a romantic night at his place with for the two of us… ok cute. I show up and there were no flowers or candles like he said there would be. Then he brings out my gift… a single red rose. I’m thinking this is just the pre-gift but nope, that’s it! And he’s really proud of it, tells me he’s never given a rose to anyone but his mother (um... ok). Then its time for dinner: microwaved chicken & rice (as in the pre-cooked kind that you buy frozen and heat up for 5 minutes… he guiltily admitted this halfway into the meal. Apparently he didn’t have “time” to cook) that we ate on plastic plates, a bottle of wine that we drank from plastic cups. Sitting on folding chairs with our plates resting on the coffee table. Romantic, huh?

I’m sorry; I’m a girl who likes romantic gestures. I’m not asking a man to shower me with diamonds and pearls (although that would be nice…), but put a little effort in. Write me a poem; take me to a nice restaurant; surprise me with presents once in a while for no reason… hell, a gift card to H&M would be happily accepted! All I wanted was a night that showed that he thinks I’m special and went to some lengths to make me happy.

My cousin is trying to assure me that he’s young; he’s never had a girlfriend before so he still needs to be trained. Sure, I understand all that is true, but do I really want to invest the time teaching someone how to be a gentleman? Its hard b/c I really do care about this person. I’ve never before felt so close to someone, so comfortable, so smitten. And I KNOW he cares about me, he just doesn’t know how to show it the way I need him to show it. But I’ll have to get all this off my chest. I have to stop pretending that I’m ok with everything, talk to him about how I feel and see how he reacts. He honestly is a great guy, he just doesn't know. But there comes a point where every woman has to decide if its time to walk away…

This feels like the year my first ever Valentine/boyfriend got me $0.99 card for Valentine’s Day and signed it, “From Anthony”. My girlfriends and I still laugh about it to this day. But then again, he was 13.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

I hate British Airways & US Airlines

I just returned from 2 lovely weeks in the States… a week spent doing nothing but relaxing in my PJ’s on my parent’s couch in Maryland, catching up on past episodes The Real Housewives of Orange County and Rob & Big (we really do make insanely addictive, sh*tty TV in the States, France needs to step their TV game up). Then I spent a week in New York, running around like a madwoman trying to catch up with 100 friends in 7 days…

Anyway, the reason I haven't written about the trip or have pics up by now is because the airlines lost both of my suitcases (with my camera cables in it)! Actually, I should say they lost all 3 of my bags.

Sunday night I was scheduled for a 6:55pm flight from DC to Philly. From there I had an hour layover before my direct flight to Paris. Well, my flight got into Philly about 15 minutes late… fine. Except I was on one of those small planes where they ask you to give them your carry-on so they can stow it under the plane during the flight and bring it back to you at the gate when you de-board the plane. So I’m waiting… and waiting… everyone else has received their bags and was on their way… mine never shows up. Finally they tell me they must have “accidently” sent it down to baggage claim and I would have to go down there to find it. By this time, my flight is scheduled to leave in 30 minutes. As I’m running over to baggage claim I hear the announcement, “Final call for flight 754 to Paris”. Of course, I’m at Terminal F and my flight is leaving from clear across the airport in Terminal A (and not just Gate A1, but Gate A25!)… about a 25-30 minute walk, the absolute furthest distance you could possible go in the damn place. So I find my bag and start running/walking with my heavy carry-on and my purse that was weighted down with fashion magazines and just praying that I make that stupid flight. Oh did I mention that I was also sick as a dog? I was nursing a fever and a pounding headache. I get to the gate at 8:42 (the flight was scheduled to leave at 8:45) and the guy at the gate just says to me, “Sorry, your plane left 10 minutes ago”. Nice. So I had to wait in line for 45 minutes at customer service with about 30 other passengers who all missed their flights and finally got put on a 10pm British Airways flight to London with a 3rd connection from London to Paris. I’m trying to stay calm and politely ask: “But what about my bags? How will I get the bags I checked on the US Airways flight?” And the snooty airline guy was like, “Your bags will travel with you on the BA flight to Paris”. But of course, 17 hours after this nightmare of a journey began, I land at CDG airport, go over to baggage claim, and my bags are not there. Its been 3 days and one bag arrived, the one carrying my makeup and hair products (thank God), but the other bag is still missing and they have no idea where it is.

I’m pissed, annoyed, frustrated, depressed and without any of my favorite clothes. I call about 3x a day but all they keep telling me is that it hasn’t been located yet and I just have to wait. So I’m waiting. Impatiently. I hate this.

It doesn’t help that tonight is Valentine’s Day and I’m in a seriously crappy mood. Bruno has supposedly planned a nice romantic night for us but I’m not even up for it at this point… poor thing…