I've Never Been So Alone and I've Never Been So Alive

If you have visited Paris in a post Covid Life you will have noticed a) the French suck at mask wearing and b) everyone wears surgical masks. I say the French suck at mask wearing because in America we were taught never touch your mask, never let it hang on your face, and if you take it down or off you must throw it away. In Paris? They constantly take their mask on and off everytime they enter or leave a public place. Their nose is always sticking out. And worse it’s always pulled down to their chin. It drives me insane. Not to mention no sanitizing public areas.

But I digress. Fashion Week happened recently and I guess it made it all the more blatant that I stick out like a sore thumb. You see in America freedom of expression is huge with us. And cloths masks are also big. I know there are studies that suggest surgical masks are better but if you ever go into an American store you will notice that there are boxes and boxes of surgical or N95 masks and no one is buying them. No one wants a boring blue and white mask. Masks allow us to express ourselves. 

Thinking on that I realized that masks, and the ones they choose to wear) are really a reflection of French culture. I used to spend a lot of time with children so I saw the way the French education system worked. A (French) mother told me “they teach them to be robots, all the same”. And I noticed more and more she was right.

Take for instance a little girl I taught English to during lunch periods. She was 3 when I began with her and she was 6 when I stopped. I would have to go to her maternelle near Anvers, pick her up and take her home between Anvers and Gare du Nord. Sometimes I would need to go inside. 

In the stairways they decorate them with the children’s artwork and every time I walked up the stairs I noticed they were always all the same. Identical. Then one day the children had put up “what they wanted to be when they grew up” drawings and every single one said the same thing for boys and the same thing for girls. Just one child had put “ninja” and I’m sure in a few years time they will have beaten that out of him.

It was just so strange. Like Village of the Damned. Or Stepford children. I guess the reason I couldn’t wrap my head around it was because I grew up in America and our mindset is that every child should is different. Being different makes you beautiful. Do everything you can to be unique. 

Then I realized the masks are just simple examples of the differences in our cultures. Americans buy masks in all prints, colors, and styles. I have 50 Liberty of London print masks (I bought them before Waity Katie stepped on the bandwagon because J.Crew sold them). And I walk around Paris with them passing every single surgical mask knowing that I stick out. Part of me has wanted to just say screw it and buy a box of surgical masks so I won’t look so odd. But another part of me thinks back to being in America and how everyone makes them their own. 

I guess it’s also why I have never tried to conform to looking, acting or speaking French. I’m an American rebel at heart. I don’t want to be a French robot. I want to wear what speaks to me. And yes I am the least floral person on the planet, I don’t even wear florals in every day life, but I love my little collection of Liberty masks. I guess I’ll stay being the one who sticks out.