So I go to this party last night, and it's cold and raining outside so I wear my hat. I have a lot of hats, but I seem to favor one more than the other: my beret.
Last night at the Experimental Cocktail Club soirée.
Such a cliché, isn't it, wearing a beret in France? I remember when I first arrived in August 1995, and a friend from home was teasing me, "So, you gonna buy a beret?" "Ha! Not!" was my reply. But then winter came, a particularly cold winter where it snowed, and with it the worst transportation strikes since May 1968. The flu was going around, and living in a big city for the first time in my life, I was a germ magnet.
At the Marché aux Puces, 2005.
So I needed a hat. Specifically one that would keep my ears warm during the long walks to school each morning, that wouldn't blow off from the wind, and preferably wouldn't squash my head too much. I tried on every hat in town, and ended up buying my black wool beret on the Rue Mouffetard in November 1995.
With the puppies in Avignon, 2000.
I have lost this beret in every bar, metro car, coat check room, and friend's apartment in Paris. Somehow it always finds its way back. I've tried many other hats over the years, and either they didn't fit well, blew off my head into the Seine (happens more often than you'd think), went out of style, gave me frizzy hair, or didn't look very good after being stuffed into my purse or thrown in the washing machine. So I always end up back with my beret.
In front of the Phantom Manor at Disneyland Paris, 2005.
"You look so French," say some of my tour clients. Sort of embarrassing when they say that. French people actually *do* wear berets, particularly the women in Paris. Only old men in the countryside tend to wear them. Only tourists wear ones that have "Paris" embroidered on the rim.
A Parisian demonstrating the proper way for French men to wear a beret (hand-rolled cigarette and baguette obligatoire), 2004.
So last night at this party a guy couldn't help but comment on how he found my beret totally sexy and stylish. Actually he said the opposite, but I refuse to repeat it. I don't want my beret's feelings to be hurt, it may not come back next time I lose it! "It's 13 years old," I said. "Practically vintage." If I didn't have actual work to do today, I could probably dig up a few photos of my beret in its early years, touring the Loire Valley, keeping me warm in Minnesota, looking worldly in Budapest...for now here just a few digital pics from the past 8 years.
On the "T" in Boston, 2006.
When the heat died in my apartment, 2007.
I love my beret so much, that there's even a silhouette of a woman wearing one on the cover of Naughty Paris!