At what point can you claim to be a Parisian? Do you have to be a French citizen? Live there fulltime? Pay taxes? When is it acceptable to call the city yours?
I’ve been mulling this over lately, especially since receiving a bit of hate mail as a result of publicity I garnered in the French press for a project I’m doing with Lisa Taylor Huff, called No Love Locks. The article in 20 Minutes, a free morning paper distributed in the Métro and online, featured our efforts to abolish the “love locks” destroying the historic bridges in Paris, describing us as “two New Yorkers…lovers of Paris since they’ve lived here.” This did not sit well with some people.
Fly back to New York if you don’t like what you see.
Are you French? No! Who cares what you think!
Who are you to complain about this? Do we come to your city a start a movement to ban hotdog carts?
Okay, I’m not sure how hotdog carts equate with historic bridges but I was called a “Bobo” and dismissed as not having a right to have a say. I’m not even sure these commenters read the article; they just dashed off their anger at the “outsiders” who were contesting something in “their” town. No matter that we’re trying to help preserve the heritage and quality of life of Paris. That was beside the point.
Two New Yorkers, lovers of Paris since they’ve lived here.
Even the journalist who penned the 20 Minutes article didn’t call us “Parisians.” Even though he knew we lived in Paris, paid taxes in Paris—and that one of us is a new French citizen, married to a Parisian. Still we were New Yorkers.
What does a person have to do to be accepted in this burg? Most other cities let you call it home as soon as you want to. Cities are full of people from somewhere else, do they not count? Residency should give you the right to say you’re from that city, no? But it seems some people won’t let you presume.
Who are you?
Me, I’m a part-timer. I get it, fine. But my collaborator, Lisa, has lived in Paris for over seven years. She became a citizen and voted for the first time in the recent mayoral elections. As far as I’m concerned that qualifies. Dammit.
But I was much more upset than Lisa was. Maybe because I don’t live in Paris fulltime, like she does. Maybe secretly I do feel like a fake Parisian.
Do I think I need permission to live in Paris? And if I didn’t feel that way before, do I now?
Everyone wants to feel accepted, especially in a place you love to be. But this was about more than citizenship; this touched a deeper nerve. The hate mail cut me because Paris and my little apartment have brought me so much joy, changed my life. And these people had just pissed all over it.
Who are you to be happy?
That’s what I really heard. I was being told that I was a pretender to paradise, and they were kicking me out.
“You’re our lovely Parisian girl!” my friend Fabien comforted when I complained on Facebook. “Stand firm,” another friend said. They are right, of course. There are many, many Parisians who support our No Love Locks project, and many who call me “neighbor” and “Parisian.” I should stand firm—on my tiny street in my Right Bank neighborhood with my rightful house key in hand. My street. My house. My paradise.
When can you call yourself a Parisian? When you have your favorite cafe on the corner, and friends to meet you for an apéro. When you sign up for email specials from Conforama, and know your caviste by name. When you love Paris and feel at home in it. You can call yourself a Parisian when you allow yourself to call yourself a Parisian.
Je suis une parisienne. And to my few detractors I say, respectfully, suck it.