Today was la fameuse rentrée in France - back to school. And here La Rentrée is a BIG DEAL. It's so fantabulously big that people take off the entire month of August just to prepare for it.
They buy new rentrée clothes, new rentrée books and pens and little cases to hold all of their pens. They get haircuts and new shoes and enroll in dance classes and tai chi. If it's closed now, don't worry! It will open for the rentrée. If you can't buy it now, you'll be able to - at the rentrée. Store hours change, metros get crowded and parking spots become things that only exist in dreams with fairies and lots of chocolate-covered pretzels.
I should have known to be more prepared but alas, I didn't get the month of August off which therefore did not give me ample prep time for the big rentrée day. As a result, today in the metro I stood out as the summer slob amongst an array of well-cut jackets, scuff-free boots and sharply trimmed bangs sported by chic Parisiennes. I, on the the other hand, was the girl in the transition summer dress over leggings, sandals, scarf and ponytail. The so-un-chic Américaine.
I would normally brush this off as a difference in cultural values, but as of yesterday I have noticed that even the Parisian bums have upped their elegance quota! It all began when I noticed one of them begging for money with a Starbucks cup. If you even have half a brain you know that a Starbucks cup totally ups your cool / chic / hip quotient by like at least 50 - why else would Mary Kay and Ashley carry them as accessories? Two thoughts went through my head: A. this bum is chicer than me. B. this bum has lost all bum credibility. Then I thought again - perhaps the Parisians appreciate this bum's effort for elegance therefore increasing the probability of a donation.
My bum observations did not stop there! Today on my way home I witnessed the following:
1. A bum painting her nails.
2. A bum drinking wine on the side of the rue - wine bottle on the ground, right next to a....wine GLASS!!! (actual glass like in a restaurant people)
3. A crazy balding man in a black faux fur mini-skirt and yellow top, beige knee-high nylons, goatee and slippers. - he obviously didn't get the rentrée memo.
So I guess it just comes down to the fact that the Parisians, no matter what their social status, expect a certain amount of reverence for La Rentrée. Lesson learned here at FrenchCannesCannes - I so obviously need to step it up a notch before the locals mistake me for the least elegant bum of all.
Crap - somebody get me a tall mocha for the road.