Social Interstices

May is my 8th month off work and without a regular home.

Living life is my full-time job right now, like Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote in Emile, or On Education (“Vivre est le métier que je veux lui apprendre” ). That’s presumptuous but that’s temporary anyway.

At first, I was the victim of my own song. Like, I once again quit all I had fought to establish because it felt meaningless and I had a call from the wild to confront the Unknown. But things turned out unexpectedly big times, and it’s been taking so much longer than I planned to fall back on my high heels.

I’ve been feeling like a total loser at times, because I am a 34 year old single lady who doesn’t earn money and doesn’t have keys to an apartment of her own. I didn’t manage to even get a bank account or a phone contract until recently. I’ve been literally stuck for all the daily life stuff. I couldn’t vote for the French presidential elections. I’ve been a “pariah” wrapped in trendy clothes.

In the last weeks, something shifted in my mindset. I started finding a harmonious rhythm in the chaos. I even grew to love my nomadic situation and to find peace in it, like the character of Kirsten Dunst in Melancholiawho finally finds a sense of serenity when nearing the apocalypse. I’m nowhere near the end of my world, but I always identified with the twisted peace of that girl. Don’t we all find soothing in odd circumstances?

I start not wanting to ever go back to “normal life”. I start dreaming of launching a different life style, a collective movement. It has been so rich and joyful to couch surf around and SHARE PEOPLE’S LIFE. I got to know for real some people I have known forever but actually didn’t know that much. I had never spent time with them and done casual stuff together, witness what their life is like.

Maybe “normal life” should be about claiming time and screwing the boundaries of habits. It’s such a downer when everyone lives in their own little appointed square of space because we’re used to it and we want to be quiet in our unsatisfying comfort zone. Whereas impromptu flat shares turn into exciting and creatively emulative pyjama parties. This is how I found myself doing a house removal wearing Vivienne Westwood stilettos – I mostly held the doors open – and modelling naked in the living room for an artist friend. Her cat spilt ink onto the drawing. We laughed. Then we swapped roles. She modelled naked for the first time of her life and I drew splendid masterpieces (*irony*).

I am daydreaming of a free and spontaneous life style, but this period of time as a “pariah” is making me more aware than ever of the holy trinity that provides us with social identity and  emotional and material security:

– A home (or at least an address)

– A job (or at least a profession)

– A relationship (or at least the desire to establish a steady one)

As stated above, I’ve been deprived of all three for months, and I begin to do so by choice just to study how I feel and define myself without the holy trinity of basic needs, without any sense of belonging at all. Does that make me a marginal? Does that make me a failure? Does that make me useless in the eyes of society? What is my value in that moment of transition? What am I producing if I don’t take part in the economical activity? Was I producing anything of true value when I was contributing to the economy of the country? Should I be rescued and put back on track? And after all, what if I was utterly happy right now?

It’s still and forever all about challenging the fucking norm. 

But. The truth is, I am mostly happy right now, if it wasn’t for the voice of patriarchy repeating in my head that I should feel guilty for not “producing” anything of monetary value. Yet I am feeling like a vibrant part of society, even without a job. I feel like I am producing things of value, even if I don’t sell them. I have a strong sense of belonging to a community, which I haven’t felt in a very long time. It’s the first time in years that I haven’t been feeling lonely, even if I am not in a romantic relationship. I’ve even been feeling useful for a change. I organise myself not to spend much money. I walk when I can, I see free art, read books, cook all my meals and get beautiful free clothes from good people.

I feel like I am exploring, revealing and flooding with fabulous colours the social interstices of the metropolis. With social interstices, I mean, everything that’s left when you don’t have a home, a job and a partner.

And there is so much to find out that I never suspected.

Kirsten Dunst in Melancholia by Lars von Trier

I Wish I Was You

My trips around the world are officially over. (Till next time).

Things are changing. My 95 year-old grandfather stops obsessing about me getting a steady job and tells me I must write about my travels and the people I meet. He said: “I don’t worry about you finding a job cause I know you will. I’m not talking about jobs. I’m talking about your intellectual arousal.” Bless him. I promised him solennellement that I was going to publish my Patagonia adventures to record that big human drama theatre.

I’m moving back to Paris. I almost have a French bank account and I almost have a flat. It wasn’t planned, but one random fact led to another, and why not after all. I didn’t know what else to do with myself: no one or nothing is expecting me anywhere. Circumstances paved my way to a sofa in the 13ème arrondissement that should soon become my “permanent” home.

That’s the longest period of ‘homelessness’ I’ve ever experienced. It will be six months on the 5th of April that I don’t really have a home. The other sleepless night, instead of counting sheep, I counted the number of beds and sofas I’ve slept on since I moved out of my London warehouse last October. It came up to 37 different places.

I used my hot wax machine again this morning to put my pilosity in order. I was shaving with shitty razors while I was gypsying around the world. I thought: “Hot wax means that the nomadic period is behind”. It’s the ultimate stepping stone to settling down again. Cheers to that.

I haven’t lived in my home country for seven years. I was a student and a baby queer back then. The atmosphere and social contexts were different. I’m disconnected. I walked to the social services office today to claim unemployment allowance and my shoes cost about half the amount of a monthly pension. My days of designer clothes may be behind but I couldn’t care less. I knew what I was signing for when I quit my comfortable life. The future is uncertain, but one thing I’m sure of is that whatever happens my fashion will remain.

On my way to the social services in my fancy shoes, I walked past a famous school of graphic design and I spontaneously walked in to drop my life model business card. I used to model in art schools to pay for university. I have missed the atmosphere of drawing classes, the smell and sound of charcoal, the density of the concentration in the studio. I love the challenge of being energetic in stillness, capturing the attention of an audience by giving them everything I have. Life modelling is the best job I’ve ever had, cause it’s the only job where I’ve had the space to expose myself fully and stand in front of people completely as I am. I didn’t have to conform.

I refuse to complain, but things have been far from easy in the last months. It’s challenging to find what to cling to when you have no daily habits and can’t find reassurance in material things. I’ve had to reinvent myself every single day. I open my eyes every morning and think: “How am I going to use my free self wisely today in the broad wild world full of possibilities?” It’s like heaven and hell in the same sentence. Freedom is terrifying. 

Yet, in the middle of my deliberately chosen struggles, I’ve been told several times by people in more comfortable positions that they would like to live like me. I’m told “I wish I was you”, “I wish I had your life”.

This is raising an infinity of questions in my head. How do we perceive other people’s life? How do you make total freedom and security co-exist? How do you find comfort in a nomadic life? How do you thrive and find peace as a creative, non-conforming, super sensorial queer woman in today’s world? How do you keep refusing to get back on the beaten path even when you’ve exhausted all your inner resources? Like the founder of the 5 Rhythms, Gabrielle Roth, used to say, it takes such great discipline to be a free spirit.

I really aspire to become the serene version of myself now. Maybe I’ll even settle down for good. Envy is not part of my mind set, but I envy people who have reached some kind of emotional stability. I am promising to myself that this period of time will be the last roller coasters of my life.

Glamorous Homelessness

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I’ve disappeared.

Some people have been asking me where in the world I currently am. I also have a hard time following my own peregrinations. Things didn’t quite turn out the way I planned.

So. What happened?

I last posted in November from Buenos Aires, at the beginning of my Latin America adventures.

Then.

In a nutshell: I went to Brazil. I proposed someone to marry me. She said yes. Actually, she said “Of course!” And everything collapsed in front of my eyes in the course of 7 days. I left Brazil at the beginning of 2017 to explore Patagonia alone. I had big highs and big lows. I hit the bottom of sadness as I hit the bottom of the world, in Ushuaia. Because I couldn’t go any more down geographically and emotionally, I knifed my way to the surface again.

From the Land of Fire, I jumped on a plane to Buenos Aires. There was a heat wave in the metropolis. One day, as I was walking to the Recoleta cemetery to visit Evita’s grave, I was hit by the certitude that my trip was over. I had seen what I wanted to see and lived what I had to live.

I prepared my emergency exit, spending hours figuring out how to get my ass to Europe ASAP. Anywhere in Europe. The cheapest destination occurred to be Paris, my birth place. The day after, I was flying back “home” on a two day journey via Atlanta and New York. Trump was omnipresent in the background of my US stops. I realised it wasn’t a joke anymore.

I landed in Paris-Orly on a Tuesday morning at the end of January. It was my first time landing in my home country since 2009. First time I was lining up in the “Citizens” passport check in 8 years. There was a cold wave. I had no clothes with me, just a little backpack, cause I have left all my stuff in Brazil. My belongings are scattered across 3 countries.

I contacted a very few friends to open me their door because I don’t have a home right now anywhere in the world.

My friend C welcomed me with croissants for my back home breakfast and gave me tights, socks and an adaptor to charge my phone. That was 23 days ago.

Since then, everyone has been donating me clothes. Beautiful ones. So I feel like a super glamor homeless.

I’ve been hanging out in people’s homes while they’re working. I’m offering myself the luxury to process my emotions as a full time job. I’m not trying to distract myself. I barely go see things or do anything. I’m spending most of my time seating alone to preserve the exact nature of my intense emotions. The last few months have been the most extraordinary, challenging and earth-shattering of my life.

I’m writing this in London, at the Circus Cafe in Crouch End. London is one of my energetic centres. There’s 6 years of my life here. I sleep in a whole lot of different beds and sofas. I love it. I am surrounded by an army of good souls who open me their door and provide me with everything I need, may it be a bed for the night, breakfast, words of comfort or Dragon Red Chanel nail polish. In exchange, I tell life stories, listen to life stories, and do the washing up.

I’m also hanging out in London to consult a transgender woman therapist. She’s bad ass. I pay £97 per hour and she holds the sessions in socks. I take off my shoes too and we become super casual. She told me that she revealed herself in Berlin in the 80s, “like David Bowie”. Everyday after work, she would take off her male suit and hang out at the Kit Kat Klub where she grew to be the woman she was born to be. I adore her already. She says that I become animated when I talk about my writing. She told me: “You’re going to write that book and I want a copy.” So I must do it.

I’m going to experiment glamorous homelessness in Berlin next. I’m going on Tuesday. I have no plans. I want to spend my days in free art galleries and write my book in cafés. And maybe reconnect with my queer dancer late at night in interlope clubs?

This is my life as of now. I love it. I love my life. I’ve never felt that much centred and that much awake in the present moment. I know I’m on the right track, as in MY track.

I’ll return to a more structured life sooner or later. I was proposed a flat-share in Paris. I said YES! So, by the spring, all my scattered belongings will converge to the 13th arrondissement. I’ll store my suitcases under my bed and I’ll have an address and a job again.

I’m truly excited about that perspective.

Till then. Anything can happen. I’m wide open. Life is fab.

Love Letter To Paris

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That picture was taken on my way to the Bataclan last March, for a night called Crazyvores, a dance party with hits of the 80s. That’s the first and only time I’ve ever been there. I burnt the dance floor with my beautiful gay friends and I smoked outside with strangers who criticised my outfit. I can’t stop thinking about that typical soirée parisienne since Friday. There was a famous choreographer, Kamel Ouali, dancing in the crowd that night. He works for cheesy TV shows. After the events, the stupid thought that I could have been killed near Kamel Ouali if the attacks had taken place a few months ago crossed my mind.

Just like everyone in my circle, I have a personal story with most of the places that were targeted in the attacks of November 13th. I have nothing sensational to add compared to what was already said on TV, in the newspaper or in real life. “It could have been me”, or my sister, or my best friends, because I was hanging out in those neighborhoods which were the heartbeat of my Parisian life when I was living there and when I go back to visit. In those streets whose names are all familiar and where people like me got shot, I used to chill, walk, run, often very late at night or very early in the morning because I am a party girl. Rue Bichat, where two restaurants got attacked, I used to donate my blood. How ironic.

The victims whose face and story are gradually appearing in the news are for the most part 30 something, stylish, educated, arty. Like me. Almost all of them belonged to the creative class as my MA supervisor used to say, had stunningly interesting careers. Almost all of them are also incredibly beautiful, as if the most brilliant and attractive representatives of my generation had been casted for death. It feels like we naturally get more moved and disturbed when someone who dies was young and beautiful.

Therefore, although I’ve been a Londoner for five years – it was the fifth anniversary of my arrival in London three days before the events – all that’s happening to the people of Paris feels really close to me.

I love Paris.

I am regularly asked if I prefer London or Paris – what a silly question – and I always answer the same ready-made formula: “What’s not to love about Paris?” Then I nuance my argument and I explain that my life in London is economically, socially and fashionly easier, but that nothing makes me happier than reading Libération while drinking a café crème on the terrasse of a brasserie.

I love Paris.

Of all the places where I’ve lived, Paris is the only one where I ever had a legitimate sense of belonging, where I wasn’t too much on a “WTF am I doing here” mode, since I am kinda from there. Hang on. I am not a real Parisian for the real Parisians, as I was born OUTSIDE the périph (the ring road which separates Paris from its chic or less chic suburbs). I was born in Châtenay-Malabry and grew up in Meudon, which are both in the South West posh in a cool way suburb #9-2. Each suburb has a number which conveys different stereotypes.

Up the sidewalk of the house where I grew up in Meudon, if you stand on a certain spot, you can catch sight of the Eiffel Tower in the horizon. It probably marked my imagination as a kid. The Iron Lady was somewhere in the background of my childhood. So, overall, after living for 6 years in Paris suburb, 12 years in the Province (which is how everything that’s not Paris is called), 11 years abroad and only 3 years in Paris, I have the arrogance to identify as a Parisian, and I don’t think it will ever change.

Because I love Paris and Paris will remain.

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The Pina Bausch Series – Episode #4: Dancing With Dominique

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In 2008, I was living in Paris. One morning of February, I got on the Eurostar to go and see Pina Bausch’s Café Müller and The Rite of the Spring in London.

I had to honour my vow to meet up with the TanzTheater Wuppertal every February of my life.

When I got off the train in the British capital, I walked a few steps on the platform, and my heart jumped. There was this tall, gracious and so familiar silhouette a few meters ahead of me. I travelled on the same train as Dominique Mercy, the most iconic dancer of the TanzTheater Wuppertal and long-life friend and muse of Pina Bausch.

It is not in my habits to act like a groupie, but before I knew it, I started running to catch him up. I engaged conversation with him, in French, of course.

-“Vous êtes Dominique Mercy? – Oui. – I am going to see you perform Café Müller tonight. I came to London just for the show! – What an honour!”

He replied as if he wasn’t one of the most idolised dancers of the world who had been acclaimed for decades on the most prestigious international stages. I could notice that among the dance artists, the more talented and recognised they are, the more humble and putting themselves into question they seem. Huge artists are humanly fascinating. They are a different breed of people. I feel privileged to have received little inspirational pieces here and there.

I asked him if he was ever teaching masterclasses. He said that he was sometimes invited at the Ateliers de Paris Carolyn Carlson as a guest teacher. We exchanged a few more words, and when our paths split, he turned at me and said “A ce soir!” (“See you tonight!”) What an exquisite human being. Equally beautiful on and off the stage.

I started monitoring the program of the Ateliers de Paris Carolyn Carlson, and my patience paid off.

In February 2010, two years after my lucky encounter at St Pancras International station with Dominique Mercy, I got accepted on a week intensive workshop he was teaching. That year, my February rendez-vous with the TanzTheater Wuppertal would be of the dancing kind.

On the first day of the workshop, I arrived early at La Cartoucherie de Vincennes, an awesome theatre complex near the woods right outside Paris.

We were starting in the morning with a technical contemporary class till lunch break. But we were going so much into the depth of the emotion and interpretation of the movement in each exercise that we ended up having lunch in the middle of the afternoon without realising. Time was suspended. We were magnetised. Every clue, every explanation that Dominique was giving us was a pure dance gold drop.

Dominique was restless in class. He gave his energy without counting, although he was already 60 at the time. (He is 65 now and still performing.) When we were doing the exercises 2 by 2 in a diagonal, he was doing the movements full out with each group, and we were about 30 young dancers in the workshop. By the time each of us had done the routine once, he had done it 15 times without showing any sign of fatigue.

He was singing along with the live musician, making jokes. He was so lively and funny in the studio. When one of us would call him to get an explanation or to ask to show a movement again, he was walking at the person making the sound of an ambulance, like “Rescue is on its way.”

He didn’t even bother eating real lunch, just nibbling a few biscuits. Dance really seemed to feed him.

After the break, we were learning an excerpt from the répertoire of Pina Bausch until the end of the day.

Dominique was teaching us a variation from Masurca Fogoa piece by Pina Bausch inspired by Lisbon. There is a movement at some point where we put our closed fist on our forehead. Dominique showed us the exact position of the hand. He then moved his fist a few centimetres up and said: “If you put your hand there, it conveys a different message.” He went back and forth between the two positions to let us appreciate the difference of meaning. Pure genius pedagogy.

Dancing with Dominique for a week equalled ten years of regular training.

What is striking about his teaching is that absolutely everything makes sense, just like a choreography by Pina Bausch. The roots and reasons behind every single prop or gesture are thought of just like in the science of our dreams.

The body and the psyche are coordinated together so that the spectator can actually relate to it. It resonates with everyone, because it has been thought of over and over again until it is charged with signification. There is nothing random or abstract about the language of Pina Bausch, that’s why her success as a choreographer was so huge across cultures and millions of people could identify to her dance-theatre. That dance language is so clever.

It was moving to observe Dominique from so close, to watch his legendary arms. He was filling the space in an impressive manner. His resemblance with Pina Bausch only stroke me in the studio. I hadn’t realised by seeing him on stage how much these two looked like dance twins. No wonder they found and recognised each other instantly.

The last day of the workshop, the rehearsal was opened to the public. Some people of the press were there alongside some anonymous lovers of Pina Bausch. It wasn’t a formal show but an intense and captivating work session like we had been doing the whole week.

I wanted to go and talk to Dominique at the end of the performance, saying I don’t know exactly what, asking how I could get involved with the company, something along those lines. But I didn’t. I didn’t see the point after all. I wasn’t sure of myself. I lacked courage.

Instead, at the end of the show and of this magical dance week, I got introduced by a friend to the girl who was going to become my girlfriend. She had just arrived in Paris for a few days. “Congratulations!” she said as she kissed my red and sweaty cheeks. A new chapter of my life instantly opened as the last one was barely closed.

Fate and its mysterious timings.

The pictures of the workshop are the property of Patrick Berger, photographer. I am the little blonde dancer at the far right on the last picture, in the purple tights. 

Allegory Of The Closet

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I was away to the Homeland for some time, busy sponging waves of human drama but not forgetting about my own.

I was told that Mother Earth is currently shifting energies, transitioning from yin to yang (or the other way around) which explains the series of catastrophes, diseases and fights since the beginning of the year.

Don’t we all magnetically feel an impending change coming? There may be hope for better tomorrows.

I am initiating my deep changes as well. OK, I say that all the time. But right now, I swear it is different.

I am feeling at a similar stage of my life as back in the summer of 2009. When my nerves broke. I often think about that episode. It’s the period of time when I finally got the courage to bury and mourn for my heterosexuality. I had to endure a nervous breakdown to officially come out of the closet.

I fucked a boy for the last time in the Spring of that year, the week that I started my internship as a cultural journalist. I was 25. He was a tango teacher from Columbia wearing Hawaiian shirts. It ended in my blood. After that, I buried myself in work around the clock and became the shadow of myself. At least, I wasn’t thinking. My subconscious – or some mysterious spiritual forces – started manifesting, though.

A very visceral and deep structural change operated in my guts despite myself. I was harassed by homoerotic dreams after seeing Sunshine Cleaning, an American indie movie. There was this party scene where the so desirable Emily Blunt wears a candy necklace. A girl eats from her neck. Oh man. I remember the shiver in my body in the obscurity of the cinema. I wanted to be the girls on screen. All the gay people in the world have their cult homoerotic scenes, the ones that triggered their own desire. (Ask around, it’s a funny game). I have 3: the sweet derrière of Mylène Farmer in the clip of Pourvu qu’elles soient douces (I was 7)Cécile de France in L’Auberge espagnole (I was 19) and the inénarrable Emily Blunt.

I am grateful that my desire finally grew stronger than my will.

With all the messy changes in my core and my broken nerves in the background, I got close to a girl I was working with. She was more or less at the same stage of her lesbian life as me. We were talking more and more about our doubts and desires during our evening shifts at the sublime and posh concert hall Salle Pleyel. The night before I flew to Toronto for my American summer tour, I made her sleep over at mine after my leaving party where we all ended up in our underwear. Everyone left and I don’t know how I made her stay. Then, I made the first move. I clearly remember the moment when she opened my lips to kiss me. Something flowed in my brain. Her tongue swept away all the remnants of the heterosexual preconceptions that I had of myself. She uprooted my certitudes and moved them to Lesboland.

I left to the Americas in the morning with a 9 week adventure ahead of me. I needed to digest my new identity far away from my mother tongue.

That’s funny, I saw that girl again last week. We remained good friends. She’s getting married in July to her girlfriend and is hoping to be pregnant by the end of the year. She picked the same wedding dress as her fiancée without knowing. As for me, I fuck coke addicts in cars and explore the world on my own. Everything’s at the right place. Our intimate worlds only collided that one night, and it was great that way.

Six years have gone by and I am again on the verge of a nervous breakdown of a different kind. How many times do I have to collapse to reach my true colours? I’m feeling the urge of a new coming out, as strong as the sexual one. I want my deep identity to explode to the face of the world. I believe I am a closeted creative soul and I’m ashamed to say that I want my life to be about that.

There’s something taboo in the action of creating something, because the result only exists in the eye of whoever will watch and like you, and I hate begging for attention. I like being liked, but I don’t want to do anything at all to make people like me. It doesn’t interest me to chase love and recognition. If you like me, good for you, but if you don’t, I won’t try one bit to convince you.

This is how I am a closeted creative girl.

Every single one of my skin pores is sweating for change though, and I am close to implosion, as if my creativity needed to get laid by the right person. I can’t think of a better image. Sex & creation are pretty much the same struggle.

Anyway, everything changes all the time and my life constantly bounces like a kangaroo, but there is one element of steadiness. A recurrent question burns my thoughts till obsession.

Who’s going to love me body & soul? And above all, who’s going to love my brain?

Photos by me (check out that framing!)

1. Grave of Mme Troboa Murcella Asskari (1970-1994) at Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris 2. ‘Trying to be Frida’ by artist Emilio Lopez-Menchero 3. Altered Image I by Deborah Kass (copy of a picture of Andy Warhol dressed as a girl) 4. Evelyn, the cat I live with 5. Simona, a lady I met at the Bull Dog in Brighton. We had the same coat and the same earrings. 6. Anonymous street art in East London 7. Billie Holiday in 1948 photographed by William P. Gottlieb 8. Summer, a cat who lived at my house for a month but left today because she was mean to Evelyn 9. Transgender Miss in Latin America 10. Collection of Jesus statues at my neighbours’ who got them from a movie set they worked on

The Lucky Bitch

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The illustration was custom-made for this post by my amazing & talented friend Camille Talon. Look up her comic strips on her blog 

Sunday evening, I was lying in a burning bath. I washed my hair, finished my ‘Yes to Cucumber’ conditioner. I made a mental note to go and get some during the week. The day after, I randomly got a message from my little sweet bro: “I’ve just won organic mint hair conditioner at the football bingo. I’ll ship it to you.” 

Of course.

My therapist calls this side of me the “Lucky Bitch”.

I grew up with a mum who was struggling to buy food. I’ve always had immoderate ambitions though, so I had to seek support from the universe to make the shit out of my desires happen.

My lucky star shines in a very specific way : all my material needs are being taken care of. People walk at me to offer me jobs, even in improbable situations.  At 19, I was living in Canada on a student visa with no work permit and I was nearing the end of my savings. One day, just like that, I got offered a job in a candy shop whose owner also worked as an accountant at the Inland Revenue. I was assured not to get caught for illegal work. That’s how I could afford to complete my dance studies.

Last time I was house hunting, I had 4 days before eviction to get a place to stay. I found the warehouse of my dreams in 48 hours. Effortlessly.

My list of happy material coincidences goes on and on. People give me stuff, I find coins and objects I need on the street (books, clothes, pieces of furniture) and there are often errors in my favour like at the Monopoly.

(Oh and by the way I work my ass off too. I am lucky, but with a military self-discipline twist.)

My absolute favorite remains the good star of free cosmetic products.

For Christmas, I got an Amazon voucher from work and I renewed all my makeup with it. But Amazon sent me 2 super pricey eye liners instead of one, so, huh, I returned the second one and claimed for a refund, just in case they wouldn’t notice. Not only they didn’t, but they put a part of the amount in cash on my bank account. So, I made cash with a gift voucher from my job. With the balance, I got an organic skin toner and the 2014 World Almanac for my Death Row Companion (I’ll talk about him soon. I’ve recently started exchanging letters with an inmate on the Florida death row, and he asked me for this book.)

Today, I went volunteering at a homeless shelter in East London at 6am, serving breakfast to homeless dudes. Most of them are super cool, smiling, positive, they sometimes make you a good joke or tell you something nice. I even got a phone number. Out of the blue, the manager of the place gave me a Lush powder deodorant just like that, I don’t know why this, and why to me. Even at the homeless shelter I get free beauty products. Isn’t it ridiculous?

I LOVE my Lucky Bitch. She scores every time. I always ride the wave and high five whoever coordinates my life up there. I am profoundly grateful for all the help received.

I am trying to rewire my luck, though. I am lucky indeed, but mostly for the little things that impress and don’t really last, for the surface, for the glitter, for the stuff.

When will I get really lucky? I mean. I’m kinda ready to trade free shampoo for free love. Just sayin’.

“Je suis Charlie”: A reflection on my Frenchness

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I never imagined commenting a hot topical issue on my blog, but the recent events in France are so huge that my mind can’t really focus on anything else right now.

OK. To give you some insight before tackling the Charlie subject, I should explain that I’ve had an ongoing conflictual relationship with France, my homeland. Starting with the basics: where in France do I actually come from? I never know how to summarise it when people ask me (at least once a day). On my mum’s side, they are from Touraine and Franche-Comté, although my mother’s mother was born in Germany, which she was ashamed of during the war. On my dad’s side, they have all been Savoyards for generations. All my relatives are still there but I don’t know the region at all. I was born in the suburb of Paris but I was transplanted to Lozère when I turned 6. Lozère is the least populated French department. I describe it to Americans like the “Midwest of France”. Everyone there is more or less cousins. I was tagged “Parisian” after my first day at school because of my accent. I did all my school there and hated most of it. I haven’t been in 7 years.

I moved to Québec when I was 18 and 2 weeks, and didn’t see the home land for 2 years. This is where I became an adult. Québec shaped my mentality, my open mind, and my critical mind too. The French stubbornness and self-absorption hit me then.

I spent only 3 years of my grown up life in France, so my feeling of belonging got eroded with time. When I return, I don’t really identify. I don’t fit. I am feeling criticised all the time. French always have something to say, and more than often it is unpleasant. France is the home of a bunch of people I love to pieces, and my favorite thing on earth is reading the newspapers at a Parisian café terrace. But beyond that, I couldn’t picture blossoming in my life there, especially after the anti-gay marriage campaign of 2013 which took hundred of thousands of people on the street (including my own mother :)). Back then, I remember this huge sign in one of the demonstrations stating “France needs children, not homosexuals”, and I felt that my place of birth was hating me. It was violent. Something clearly clicked in my head, I understood I would never live there again because if I’m ever going to have kids, I wouldn’t want them to be second-class citizens.

So in the recent years, I’ve grown to feel “francophone” more than French, because I have mixed feelings for my mother country but I still adore my mother tongue.

Wednesday, the 7th of January – the day of the shooting at Charlie Hebdo – I was working from home. One of my French co-workers reached me on Skype: “Have you seen what is going on in Paris? – No, what?” She sent me a link to LeMonde.fr. I switched on France Inter right away and wasn’t able to get much work done for the rest of the day.

I don’t know what time it was when the journalist said on the French radio : “Charb et Cabu seraient morts.” (“Charb and Cabu are reportedly dead.”) Wave of shock. I was surprised at my own shock, because I wasn’t a regular reader of Charlie, but I knew these guys, of course I knew these guys. I knew their post-May 1968 hippyish school teacher looks, their drawing style, their left-wing insolent speech. I wasn’t a regular reader of Charlie but I loved knowing that they were there and existed. They were a huge symbol of the power to tell the authorities and institutions to fuck off, and it was refreshing to know there was this little agitated force somewhere, even though we could find it sometimes questionable or tasteless. It is just the fact that something like that existed that was so good and comforting and unique to our Frenchness.

My flatmate, who is also French and working from home, waited for me and we went together to the gathering at Trafalgar Square that evening. We didn’t even question it. Of course we wanted to be all together, with all the French of London whom I usually avoid like plague. On the way out, we ran into our British flatmate who didn’t quite get our urge to go. We tried to explain him that some kind of 9/11 of press freedom had just happened – before the first drawings showing the twin towers shaped as pencils had even been published. He didn’t understand, but we had to run.

At Trafalgar Square, at the foot of the National Gallery, it was solemn and silent. No one was speaking. In the Evening Standard that night, they were referring to Charb as “Mr Charbonnier”. Oh my God I thought, “Mister Charbonnier”! They didn’t seize the character. He probably would have hated that much reverence.

On the social networks, the “Je suis Charlie” response went viral, like an international spontaneous solidarity momentum. It had been a while that French people hadn’t really stuck together. Some critics soon arose from the unanimity of it. I told an American who was saying that he couldn’t personally relate to Charlie Hebdo: It’s absolutely normal that you wouldn’t relate to Charlie yourself, because you are not French. What people are trying to say with “Je suis Charlie” is that the core of the nation was touched: our right to be outspoken, disrespectful and irreverent. The basics of Frenchness.”

I believe it is hard to understand for foreigners how much the soul of France was touched, and how representative of a certain French spirit Charlie Hebdo was. The more I was trying to explain that to the people from diverse countries I hang out with, the more it reminded me what I love of my own culture. It reminded me how French I am after all, whether I like it or not. France shaped my critical mind and outspokenness way before any other culture did. I wouldn’t have been shaken to the core by the Charlie events if I wasn’t relating to my culture.

I remembered the “attitude adjustment” I had at work before Christmas, when my manager criticised my “negative attitude” and my way of complaining and communicating about things. I asked him for specific examples. He said it was my overall behaviour, my way of being expressive about things. And probably my way of being irreverent too,  because I always make jokes about the fact that he sweats tons even in the winter. I closed this sterile conversation by saying: “Well, I am French. That’s self-explanatory.” 

So yeah. I am super aching for France right now. French people – including myself – can be a bunch of loud, narrow-minded, ignorant and overcritical assholes, always complaining and never happy with anything. We are irreverent and indisciplined. It can be unbearable, but it can be awesome too. My grandfather, who knows his stuff about history – he worked with the FFI during WW2, he was in charge of collecting the identity of the dead German soldiers searching their body – says that the French won the war because of their indiscipline, and that in Occupation time, it was their big strength.

France has historically generated numerous ideals. We have a vision and high standards on what life should be. Of course, we tripped in the carpet a couple of times in the last centuries and applied our theoretical humanism more or less successfully. But France still has an ideal of some kind, I believe. Millions of people are marching for peace and solidarity this week end, and although a handful of people desperate to think differently say that there is manipulation behind it and that Charlie was racist, homophobic and questionable, people are nevertheless fierce to defend the press freedom and the multiculturalist society.

After the multiple waves of shock of the last 3 days, I paradoxically start getting reconciled with my own Frenchness.

Portraits of Frenchies #2 : La Fille qui n’aimait pas gâcher

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Je ne connais que des gens inhabituels.

Ma copine C² fait partie de ces quelques personnes que je vois toujours dans une ville différente, parce que nous sommes toutes deux en refonte perpétuelle de nos aspirations. 

Nous nous sommes connues à Londres, où j’habitais depuis environ un an, tandis qu’elle était venue étudier l’histoire de l’art dans le cadre d’un échange Erasmus. Elle écrivait un mémoire sur le motif du pont dans la peinture de Monet. Une amie commune, Σ², nous avait organisé une “blind date” amicale dans l’idée qu’on aurait des atomes crochus.

C² est repartie vivre à Paris, où nous nous sommes croisées quelques fois, mais pas tant que ça non plus. On a notamment manifesté ensemble pour soutenir le mariage gay. 

En septembre dernier, j’ai eu de ses nouvelles. Elle partait passer trois mois à New York, seulement deux semaines après avoir emménagé avec son amoureux à Paris. “Il a dû être touché”, me suis-je dit. Et j’ai aussi vachement rigolé, parce que je trouve ça génial de commencer la vie commune sur des bases claires. Le hasard avait voulu que je séjourne à New York en même temps qu’elle. Mi-octobre, on s’est donc retrouvées dans l’appart de Brooklyn où je passais la semaine, pour manger des pâtes en forme de lama. Le samedi suivant on a fait un pèlerinage au Zabar’s , l’épicerie fine chic et kasher de Broadway, parce que c’est là que Meg Ryan faisait ses courses dans “Vous avez un message”. C² avait la liste de tous les lieux que l’on voit dans le film. Ne me demandez pas pourquoi.

Elle a décidé au pied levé de venir m’accompagner à Philadelphie où je partais quelques jours plus tard. “Peut-être qu’on fera le tour de tous les lieux que l’on voit dans le film avec Tom Hanks”, ai-je pensé. Comme je ne savais pas encore où j’allais habiter (classique), elle a eu la bonté de nous dégotter un AirBnB avec la déco la plus moche du monde, mais l’hôte le plus chou qui soit. Du coup, on ne faisait pas trop attention aux dessins de fleurs fanées accrochés au mur (véridique).

C’est à Philadelphie qu’on est vraiment devenues amies, parce qu’on ne s’étaient jamais vues plusieurs jours consécutifs avant ce voyage. On a vraiment beaucoup ri. On se moquait de tous les objets moches de la chambre où on dormait, et Dieu sait que c’était une joie sans cesse renouvelée même après plusieurs jours.

C’est durant ce séjour que j’ai percé une des caractéristiques de C². Elle adore récupérer et elle déteste gâcher, surtout en matière de nourriture. Elle appelle ça “faire son intendance”. On était raccord là-dessus, parce que je ne suis pas la dernière pour le système D et les trucs gratos, mais je dois avouer que sur ce coup-là j’ai trouvé mon maître (je n’ose pas dire “ma maîtresse”, sinon ça fait bizarre.)

Déjà, C² est arrivée de New York par le bus avec un reste de quiche dans son sac à main. “Sinon elle n’aurait plus été bonne à mon retour”, m’a-t-elle expliqué, alors qu’elle prêchait une convertie. Quand on est allées à l’American Diner du quartier – où soit dit en passant on a passé des soirées mémorables – elle mangeait le ketchup à la petite cuillère. Là, j’ai commencé à la mettre en boîte: “Ben oui, c’est cadeau, autant en profiter!”

Le meilleur restait à venir. Un soir, nous nous sommes retrouvées à la fin de notre journée philadelphienne respective. Je lui ai raconté ma journée d’atelier de 5 Rhythms dance et mon attirance pour le prof de yoga gay dont j’adorais la couleur de peau. Elle, elle m’a raconté avec des yeux pétillants qu’elle avait pénétré dans un jardin communautaire où elle avait cueilli du persil et des tomates, et que ça avait bien agrémenté son pique-nique. C’est à cet instant qu’elle a accédé au rang de mes idoles. Dans la foulée, elle m’a dit qu’un de ses lieux parisiens préférés était le cimetière Saint-Vincent, à Montmartre, et qu’elle y avait déjà cueilli des figues avec lesquelles elle avait fait de la confiture maison. Suite à cette fabuleuse anecdote, je l’ai rebaptisée “La Cueilleuse urbaine”.

Après ces quelques jours enchanteurs, je suis rentrée à Londres et elle à New York.

A mon retour, j’ai reçu de ses nouvelles par email: “Je vais aller à la plage de Rockaway cet après-midi pour ramasser des moules!”

Ben voyons. Une mouclade à la new yorkaise.

Il n’y a vraiment qu’elle pour faire ça.

Portraits of Frenchies #1 : Le Type qui ne m’a jamais oubliée

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Je vous parle d’un temps que les moins de vingt ans ne peuvent pas connaître. Facebook n’en était qu’à ses balbutiements.

J’étais étudiante en médiation culturelle à Paris 3. Poussée par mes copines américaines qui voulaient partager leurs photomontages bidons où David Hasselhoff était souvent à l’honneur, je m’étais créé un compte Myspace que je n’utilisais jamais. Sur ma photo de profil, je faisais la vaisselle en pleurant. Je me souviens exactement du contexte dans lequel elle avait été prise et de la raison de mes larmes.

Un jour de l’été 2008, je reçus un message d’un illustre inconnu qui se décrivait comme photographe amateur. Si ma mémoire ne me trahit pas – il faudrait que j’aille vérifier, si toutefois MySpace existe encore – il s’agissait d’une courte phrase comme “Et je t’ai vue…” Il avait trouvé ma photo inhabituelle et avait éprouvé le besoin irrépressible d’établir un contact.

Sans savoir pourquoi, j’ai répondu. Sans savoir pourquoi, on a commencé à dialoguer. Sans savoir comment, on s’est retrouvé dans un genre de pique-nique blind date sur le Pont des Arts. À Paris, c’était la mode du gaspacho et des pique-niques sur le Pont des Arts à cette époque. Je ne sais pas si c’est toujours le cas.

On s’est vus à plusieurs reprises cet été-là, je ne saurais dire combien de fois. On se retrouvait dans divers lieux de la capitale et on passait de longs moments à parler. Je lui racontais ma vie par épisodes. On avait même passé une journée à Meudon, la banlieue de mon enfance, pour faire un pèlerinage nostalgique des lieux où j’ai grandi: ma première maison, mon école maternelle de hippies, la boutique bio que tenaient ensemble ma mère et ma tante. Je trouvais étrange qu’il s’intéresse à ce type de trucs alors qu’il me connaissait à peine. Tout paraissait le captiver. Il était inhabituel aussi, dans son genre. Il semblait vraiment chercher à percer ce qui lui apparaissait comme un mystère. Finalement, peu de gens ont cherché à me connaître autant en détail que lui.

Il ne s’est rien passé de romantique entre nous, rien du tout, car j’étais sur la fin de ma période “Je-veux-avoir-un-copain-car-c’est-ce-que-font-les-filles-qui-portent-des-jupes.” J’ai explosé dans ma vraie direction l’année suivante. Ce fut magnifique, libérateur, mais éprouvant nerveusement.

Je ne sais plus comment on a perdu contact, je crois qu’un jour j’ai arrêté de répondre ou de donner des nouvelles. Il n’y avait pas eu d’incident particulier. Ma mémoire est floue.

Les années ont passé, je suis partie vivre à Berlin, un peu Paris, Londres, un peu New York (cf. colonne Where? de ce blog). Je n’ai pas été particulièrement facile à localiser.

Il m’a retrouvée sur Facebook en 2011, trois ans après notre rencontre, et m’a écrit pour reprendre contact, me racontant que certaines coïncidences continuaient à le faire penser à moi de temps à autres. Je n’ai trouvé son message qu’en 2013, en apprenant l’existence de l’onglet “Autre” de mes Messages privés (jetez y un œil, ça vaut le coup d’avoir des surprises de ce genre). On est ainsi devenus amis virtuels.

Il s’enquérait de mes visites à Paris, qui n’arrivaient jamais, afin qu’on se revoie enfin. Je trouvais émouvant qu’il ne m’ait jamais oubliée après tout ce temps, alors que notre amitié fut plutôt brève.

En novembre dernier – il y a deux semaines – mon grand retour parisien fut finalement programmé. Le dernier jour, on s’est donné rendez-vous pour déjeuner dans le 19ème arrondissement, mon fief éternel. On ne s’était pas vus depuis plus de six ans.

Je suis arrivée la première. Il n’avait pas du tout changé physiquement. Je pense que j’avais plus changé que lui. Je me sentais à des années lumière de celle qu’il avait connue alors. Bizarrement, j’ai eu le sentiment de revoir quelqu’un qui faisait partie de ma vie. Il m’a dit qu’il avait toujours continué à penser à moi, parce que d’une certaine façon c’est de moi qu’il s’était jamais senti le plus proche, ou presque, et que les moments qu’on avait passés ensemble lui restaient comme des souvenirs intenses, hors du temps et des conventions. Il m’a dit que mon originalité l’avait marqué, ou plutôt ma quête d’un mode de vie autre. Je ne m’étais jamais rendu compte de l’impact que j’avais eu dans sa vie, je n’en savais rien du tout. J’ai été reconnaissante qu’il m’en parle.

On devine rarement l’importance que l’on peut avoir pour les gens s’ils ne nous en font pas part. Il faudrait toujours dire à ceux qui nous marquent, nous influencent ou nous attirent ce qu’ils représentent dans notre vie, quel que soit le lien que l’on a avec ces personnes et quels que soient la force, la durée ou la nature de ce coup de coeur. Je questionne régulièrement mon utilité, comme la plupart d’entre nous je suppose. Je suis souvent traversée par la pensée parasite que je ne sers à rien. C’est euphorisant d’apprendre un jour par hasard l’impact parfois insoupçonnable qui a été le nôtre. Une fois n’est pas coutume, j’ai été touchée.

On a refait la genèse de notre rencontre. MySpace… La photo de la fille qui pleure en faisant la vaisselle.. Il a voulu savoir pourquoi j’avais disparu. “Ce n’est pas pour te faire des reproches…” J’ai compris qu’il avait besoin de comprendre. Je n’ai su que dire, car je ne me souviens de rien sinon que je me sentais très mal affectivement à cette époque. Les circonstances de mon évaporation se sont effacées de ma mémoire.

Comment résumer les six dernières années quand on a à peine donné de ses nouvelles? Faire une liste des déménagements, des pays, des villes? Lui dépeindre mon mélodrame lesbien grandiloquent en me forçant de ne pas y mettre trop de verve politique pour ne pas passer pour une Femen tout de suite? Lui filer l’URL de mon blog d’exploratrice urbaine en lui disant: “Tout est là”?

“Et, toi alors?”, me suis-je finalement aventurée après un bon moment déjà. Il m’a répondu en toute simplicité qu’il était marié et avait deux enfants. “Ah bon! Tu ne m’as rien dit!” -“Tu ne m’as jamais demandé.” Ouch. Il avait rencontré sa future femme plus ou moins au moment où j’avais disparu de la circulation. J’étais contente pour lui. Il était heureux mais m’a confié souffrir d’un manque d’espace de liberté mentale, de créativité. La logistique et les contraintes pratiques de la vie de famille semblaient lui peser. Il était ardemment à la recherche d’une gestion discontinue du temps. C’est sûr que je n’ai pas ce genre de problème. En même temps, j’ai 31 ans et pas l’ombre du début d’une idée de où, comment et avec qui je pourrais avoir des enfants – avec en sympathique bonus une mère dont le hobby est de militer pour que les gays ne se reproduisent pas. Y a-t-il un type de difficultés plus enviable, un style de vie qui prévaut sur l’autre? La réponse est non.

On a parlé un long moment. J’étais très en retard mais je voulais prendre le temps de reconnecter vraiment. Je lui devais bien ça après toutes ces années et la fin en queue de poisson que je lui avais infligée.

Il faisait toujours de la photo et a sorti son appareil au milieu de l’Avenue Jean-Jaurès en me demandant s’il pouvait faire mon portrait. On a manqué se faire écraser plusieurs fois tandis je posais au milieu de la circulation, c’était rigolo. On recommençait déjà à se marrer en situations incongrues.

Il m’a raccompagnée jusqu’à la porte. Je lui ai promis que je n’attendrais pas six ans de plus pour le revoir, et que je ne me volatiliserais plus sans explication. Il m’a dit qu’il m’enverrait les photos qu’il venait de prendre.

Je n’ai encore rien reçu.