This is the last installment of my teenager in Paris series. Thank you for reading and being along for the ride.
Maybe I could have done things differently, but I didn’t. I like to write and live off the cuff – think about it later rather than first as then I’ll think myself out of doing it.
When The Reverist of Riddles & Reveries asked me to elaborate on the things I said in a paragraph of an old post…
I went through puberty in Paris. Had my first romantic encounters. Socialised with people of my own age for the first time… went to parties, hung out in cafes, etc. I smoked my first cigarette… silly, I know, but tres Francais. I learned how fashion choices can ostracise you from or draw you into a group. And I also faced a severe crisis point there, when I almost killed myself.– excerpt from The Places We Live and Who We Are When We Live There posted in December 2013
…at first I was reluctant because (that’s always my initial reaction to other people asking me to do things) it’s been a long while since I visited those memories with more than a cursory glance back.
I think the last time I delved deeply into the memories I have of that time was in 2017 when I was doing another series, also prompted by someone asking me to write about my experiences.
I was thinking last night night about some of the stories I’ve shared of Paris (as well as some of the stories I haven’t shared).
I know some are ones I’ve told before, and I know that I told them differently this time from before. Nowadays I’m more open when I write, less cagey, less paranoid, less embarrassed. Is it because I’ve crossed over into my 50’s and frankly what I did in my teens… eh, whatever? Or is it because blogging has taught me many things about blogging and living.
It occurred to me that if someone were to compare the different versions I’ve written since I’ve been blogging, they might wonder which one is the real version, or if there is a real version. They might even wonder if I’m lying about myself, about my life, everything.
Or maybe it’s just me who would wonder that – it’s something I’ve wondered a lot about which has helped me sift through the mess inside caused by growing up with narcissists. When you believe narcissists that’s when all the trouble really starts – when you start questioning their truths and realising that the truth is a moveable feast and it’s not just them altering it, that’s when more trouble occurs, but eventually there’s a path out of it.
My life and I have change a lot since Paris. Lots of stories between then and now. Some I’ve told, some I haven’t. Some I’ve told openly as clearly and nakedly as memory and the perspective at the time of telling allows. Some are very cagey, obscured by this and that.
Some of the differences in my story-telling now have to do with changes within me in recent years. Small changes are sometimes the most significant ones.
Comme le roseau d’une sarbacane
Le ciel s’est ouvert par endroits,
Pas besoin de phrases ni de longs discours,
Ça change tout dedans, ça change tout autour– lyrics from Sarbacane by Francis Cabrel
My partner read Out of Vogue in Paris shortly after I posted it and remarked that I’d never told him about the modeling thing.
I thought I had, but it’s one of those episodes in my life about which I was ashamed, so if I did mention it to him I would have done it in a mumble, wouldn’t have made it sound interesting (I was very into making my life sound as boring and dull as possible for a long time), would have been dismissive about it and the me who experienced it, and would have tried to erase it as I spoke about it as though writing with disappearing ink.
He was excited about the story, asked me if I had any photos from the shoot – I don’t because I destroyed them when I destroyed all photos of my past selves. I don’t need photos, the images are seared into my mind’s eye, I know exactly how I looked, I can see what I was wearing for the shoot, the clothes, the make up, the hair. I know exactly how I felt while doing it too… but that’s easy because I felt the same way whenever I interacted with people.
I still sometimes feel that way when I’m interacting with people now, although it wears off quickly. It’s not them, it’s me – sort yourself out, me.
I’ve spent most of my life feeling ashamed of myself. The shame was seeded in me at an early age, before I was conscious of what the feeling was or the concept itself.
You should be ashamed of yourself – was a message which I kept being given by the world into which I was born, grew up, and became an adult.
It’s the type of shame which has many names, forms, and is often disguised as the good guy wearing a white hat here to save you from yourself. Don’t be that be this instead. Don’t think those thoughts. Don’t feel those feelings. Don’t do those things. Don’t say anything unless it is preapproved by the committee of everyone else except you.
The good guys want to break you and reform you in their image. The bad guys just want to break you because they were broken by the good guys or bad guys, hard to tell who is who or what or why.
You’re at your most vulnerable when you’re trying to remain intact especially while someone, including you, is trying to break you.
You’re at your most powerful when you’ve stopped trying to remain intact, let yourself break into a million pieces, and stay broken for a while.
The weight, burden, pressure of all the shame broke me in Paris.
I have written about that before on my blog because what happened then had a very big influence on what happened next. I made some major decisions in Paris which had major consequences for the path my life took as an adult.
Those decisions led to more shame.
The good guys once again didn’t approve, wanted to save me, but their methods of saving required that I hand over my soul to them for the greater good. The bad guys were annoyed that I didn’t stay broken, or more to the point how the hell did I keep going when I was just an amorphous mass of splinters and shards, bleeding out without ever being completely empty of blood and other fluids, fuel.
I’ve dragged myself along and put myself back together many times. I guess that’s why I often find it difficult to throw away broken things… there’s a beauty to the brokenness which the intact just doesn’t have.
A broken smile has depth, makes you want to look at it again and again to hear its story… you’re certain its a story to which you can relate. Whereas a perfect smile with perfect teeth and perfect whiteness is perfectly dull – no way of relating to it, it’s over there in perfect world while you’re over here.
Sure the perfect smile has a story too.
The broken smile writes its own story, the perfect smile has a story written for it by someone else.
Marcia, elle est maigre
Belle en scène, belle comme à la ville
La voir danser me transforme en excité
Oh, Moretto, comme ta bouche est immense
Quand tu souris et quand tu ris
Je ris aussi, tu aimes tellement la vie
Quel est donc ce froid que l’on sent en toi?– lyrics from Marcia Baila by Les Rita Mitsouko
I write my own story… I’ve also had my story written for me by others. I tried to live as the character they wrote for me, but I kept failing, flailing, falling down and at some point I didn’t bother to get back up, catch up with whoever it was I was supposed to be. I just lay there and let myself disintegrate.
The first time I did that was in Paris. I no longer had friends. I no longer went to school. I no longer wanted to live. I just lay there disintegrating.
When I was awake I was terrified all the time. I was tired all the time. Getting to sleep was hard, I was afraid someone would break in and kill me. I wanted to sleep forever, and never wake up – but I kept waking up, often with a start, my chest hurting, certain I was having a heart attack and hoping it would be over quickly. But I wasn’t having a heart attack, I was just awake again – still alive.
I thought about killing myself. A lot. It was an obsession. It was a soothing fantasy for some of the time. It was a solution to all my problems, but it was also a problematic solution since I was a worthless useless failure and I probably wouldn’t even do that right. If I tried and didn’t succeed, I’d have to live with the consequences of that failure, especially if it caused enough of a noise for others to notice, and the others in my life would have yet another weapon to use against me to destroy me and I’d want to be even more dead after that.
Life was slow and agonising, I wanted death to be quick and painless. I still had ideals and ambition… and they were still a bar too high to reach, I was still too lazy to make the climb.
Then an opportunity arrived. I didn’t notice it right away. I sucked at noticing opportunities, and when I did notice them I was skilled at missing them in other ways. I could snatch defeat from the jaws of victory easily.
I had an ache. But my body was made entirely of ache. It was a dull ache, like everything else about me.
Mademoiselle chante le blues
Soyez pas trop jalouses
Mademoiselle boit du rouge
Mademoiselle chante le blues– lyrics from Mademoiselle Chante Le Blues by Patricia Kaas
At some point during the days which passed by I wondered if it was appendicitis since it was in the general area and… ever since I’d seen some plane crash film, or was a TV show, where a survivor had had appendicitis and had to be saved in such dire circumstances, I’d become preoccupied with the idea of a burst appendix.
But it wasn’t like it was on TV, they went from fine to doubled over in pain in seconds. This felt more like a sore muscle, or one of those signs that a female body is at that point in a monthly cycle where it is about to spill its contents and make the female wish she wasn’t female.
What if it was appendicitis… and what if I just did nothing about it.
One night I was feverish, nauseous, and ended up having no control over my bowels, pissed myself and collapsed. I just lay there afterwards staring at the ceiling… waiting to die then disintegrate.
This was the perfect way to kill myself – it was totally natural, and no one would know it was a suicide.
Not that it mattered if they knew that it was, but it was less complicated to deal with for those left behind.
Not that I cared about those left behind – my parents. They’d use it the way they used everything, make of it whatever they needed for it to be to suit their narrative and build up their personas and the drama their personas needed to be those personas living that larger than life life.
My mother would blame my father for my death – one more nail in his premature burial coffin, one more grudge she could hold against him, one more thing she could spin to make herself into the martyred saint, playing it to the hilt as usual.
My father would blame my mother for my death – one more reason why she was a terrible wife, why she should have stayed living permanently in Italy as a proper wife would have done instead of gallivanting around the world, why he was right about not having children and she was being punished for betraying his trust about that and having the child against his wishes. And so on and so forth as usual.
I’d actually be more important to them once I was dead than when I was alive because they they could turn me into whoever I needed to be for them and I wouldn’t be around to mess things up, rebel, refuse to play along, be a brat as usual.
Later on that became one of my reasons not to die – screw them, I’m sticking around so they can’t use me to further their drama in their way!
But in the before later on…
I wanted to escape all of that, them, the world which just seemed to not want me there, was hostile, had never welcomed me… probably because I was not human but an alien sent here to study the place (part of my mission required that I forget my alien home and believe I was human). They’d forgotten about me, my alien race had abandoned me like everyone else did… no one cared, I didn’t belong here or there or anywhere, best to go nowhere and hope that there wasn’t an afterlife, or if there was I’d be allowed to disintegrate never to exist again. Oblivion, please!
The plan to just let nature kill me was a good one – the laziest suicide ever!
However there was a wrinkle in the plan which no amount of me not giving a shit anymore about myself or anyone else could iron out.
The maid. She wasn’t really a maid, that was just her job title. She was then probably the same age I am now. I rarely asked people their age, nor remembered it when they told me. I still have that glitch in my brain – numbers, time, just don’t make an impression deep enough to count. But people count, people like her.
She was Portuguese. She’d left Portugal like so many Portuguese at the time to find work, make a living, save up enough to one day return home and never have to leave again. She’d spend her Summers back home, by the seaside, collecting seaweed for warm seaweed baths which cured many ailments – she had a lot of ailments and loved to talk about them. Those conversations always started with her groaning loudly near me and then I’d ask and she’d tell me all about it.
One thing which would never be cured was her loss of the ability to smell – years of using too much bleach and other cleaning products had burned the lining of her nose, or so the story went. She quite enjoyed how unique it made her, and it was also a useful ailment to have as a maid. You didn’t have to smell the shit of others and smile about it pretending you didn’t smell it.
She wasn’t really a maid for us, not by that time since I did the cleaning even when deeply depressed… in fact depression made me more of a neat freak. When my mother was in Paris she did the cleaning too – my mother used cleaning as a way to vent spleen.
She kept an eye on me when my mother was away, and in some ways I kept an eye out for her because she was alone too. She once got beaten up very badly by another woman and still came to work after only a day in hospital – it was her way of telling herself she was okay, by returning as soon as possible to her daily routine. She said if she stopped she might never get up again.
The beating was caused by her main employer – he was a real son of a bitch who treated people like shit and expected them to put up with it. He lived in a building a few doors down, and she lived there with him, caring for him throughout many long and arduous years. She was very loyal. She had many stories about him, the way he manipulated his children and others, pitted people against each other, to fight over him and his hoard of gold. And that’s what led to her getting a beat down from one of many people he’d screwed over and wound up into a frenzy. He’s the one who should have been beaten up, but people like him always manage to avoid the consequences of their actions and get others to pay their dues for them.
She was a formidable woman… and I couldn’t let her be the one to find my dead body. And she would be the one to do so. She would care more about it than my parents. She might never get over it unlike my parents (although they act as though they couldn’t for their audience). I just couldn’t do that to her. No one should do that kind of thing to another human being, but definitely not to human beings like her.
The more I thought about it, about her finding my body and how it would affect her… the more my suicide by natural causes seemed selfish, the very bad and wrong kind of selfish, and just not a viable option.
I eventually got up, changed out of my pee-soaked clothes and went out. Walked for miles to a local hospital.
I didn’t have a doctor, a local GP, I could call. My parents viewed that kind of thing as a sign of weakness – our family did not get sick. And if we did, we cured it ourselves. My parents were narcissists, and that’s a very narcissistic perspective.
I needed to walk.
It was a choice.
Not a smart choice. But I wasn’t in a smart choice frame of mind, hadn’t been for a long time, maybe never had been.
I don’t know if that was the closest local hospital, it was the only one I could find on the Paris A to Z map. It was pre-internet days so you couldn’t just look stuff up, search for – nearest hospital and bingo! Or where to go and what to do in that hospital once you got there.
Once there and inside… the place was like a ghost town. No one was there to ask what to do about well… anything. I wandered around the halls and rooms looking for a person and found two – a CRS policeman on a bed covered in a silver thermal blanket with a worried colleague standing next to him. Still no staff, nurses, doctors to be seen.
So I left.
Walked some more, eventually got home.
I had these flat shoes at the time which were black suede, really comfortable but they stained my feet black and it took ages for the dye to fade on your skin, it wouldn’t just wash off. I remember that because I was ashamed of my “dirty” feet when I finally got the operation I needed.
In France at the time Medecins Sans Frontiers (Doctors Without Borders) were the big heroes of the medical world, and someone had started a local version. You called a number and a doctor would drive over to your home. He was a very nice guy, looked a bit like a hipster in pre-hipster times. He couldn’t confirm diagnosis, but based on what he could do – I needed to get to a hospital ASAP. He offered to drive me there. I said “Thank you, but no thank you… I’ll do it on my own later, you’ve already done enough, so much.” in French.
He was hesitant to leave me to my own devices, but he was French and the French way is to leave people to their own devices.
I ended up going to the American Hospital in Paris. I had acute appendicitis. The surgeon wanted to operate immediately, but I didn’t have any money (well, I had enough for a bus ticket there and daily living expenses which weren’t expensive like a hospital procedure) or a credit card (I didn’t need one and they weren’t yet a must-have although they were very close to being one – they were pretty much that in the US, over there they already treated you like a potential criminal who was going to skip out on paying your hotel bill if you didn’t have a credit card, but I was in Europe). And for me to pay they’d have to let me leave.
I’ll never forget the way the surgeon looked at me and spoke to me – he was a father figure, the kind of father all kids dream of having (whether he was that kind of father to his own kids is an unknown). He told me that he was tempted to not let me out of his sight. Would I really come back if I was allowed to leave? Yes, his hospital needed payment, but… I had to come back if he let me go. I had to promise.
I promised – he still wasn’t so sure about me keeping my promise but he decided to trust me, he had to because his hospital wanted their money.
I did go back with my black feet of shame.
But first I had to phone my mother abroad. It was very inconvenient of me to be doing this to her at that time, but since she was such a saintly martyr, generous to a fault, she’d sort out the payment, just don’t ever do this to her again and be sure to be grateful for the rest of eternity.
Elle avait tes yeux clairs et elle avait ton âge
C’était une petite fille sans histoire et très sage
Mais elle n’est pas née comme toi,
Ici et maintenant
Comme toi que je regarde tout bas
Comme toi qui dors en rêvant à quoi
Comme toi– lyrics from Comme Toi by Jean-Jacques Goldman
This incident never became one of her identity defining anecdotes… it did become an aside to one.
My appendicitis gave her an excuse to call my father, he’d want to know his daughter almost died and he wasn’t there to save her, it was my mother who once again had to do all the hard work in this family of rescuing the inept.
Her dramatic rug was pulled out from under her, and my dramatic operation became a blip on the narrative radar.
When I was a child if I got a cold, mother got the flu but had to keep going even while very ill, and my father beat us all and won by getting bronchitis. Sickness was a competition in our family. Yes, it was weak to be sick, but if you were sick then it had to be more sick than the others… just don’t lose the game by calling a doctor!
My parents hadn’t spoken in a while, and they had no mutual friends at the time, just soldiers in their army fighting their battles in the never-ending war of the gods. There were some double agents… but they usually were on my father’s side and only reported to him. So no one had informed my mother that my father had had his very first stroke.
Haha! Acute appendicitis… pfft! I’ll see you and raise you with a stroke!
My mother got on a plane immediately (about a week later)… spent five seconds in Paris, then was off on another plane to be by my father’s side in Italy. Only to get rejected and ejected from his life by his mistress – he didn’t want my mother there, she was the reason he had high-blood pressure and his stroke was definitely her fault, and he didn’t care about his daughter, he was on his deathbed (he died many years, decades, and several more strokes later… certain of his immortality, his favourite thing was to tell people he was immortal, up until his mortality proved him wrong) so she could stop using the child to win sympathy and influence people. No one cared about the child, stupid woman!
The child who wasn’t really a child anymore… but narcissists never let you grow up – I was stuck somewhere between 5 and 7 years old for both of them… quickly regretted going to so much trouble and expensive to live.
Then I had a dream: Graven – A Hypnagogic Nightmare
And then I began to make never again vows to myself.
Never again would I attempt to escape via the suicide door.
Never again would I betray myself for the sake of fitting into a social group – fell off that wagon quite a few times because it was so hard to stay soberly me when society kept trying to force me to drink the Kool aid. Things would be so much easier if I just drank it. People might like me… but then I wouldn’t like me, but then I don’t like myself anyway because people don’t like me and there’s so much about me which is impossible to like. It’s a tough and twisted puzzle to solve – have I solved it now? Hmmm… yes.
Never again would I behave like my parents – no being manipulative no matter how much easier it would be if I just used all that training, all that machiavellian intelligence quotient which accumulated due to that part of the psyche being overstimulated thanks to having narcissist parents. Why let it all go to waste, atrophy? Just use it a bit, what harm could it do?
You can see the harm it does everywhere you look… the hollow feeling within so many people regardless of how loved and liked they are, the hungry beast within who says it’s all not enough, never enough, need more, eat more, hungry, always hungry for more but more and more is never enough… still hollow because none of it is real, you pulled some strings and that’s why you’re loved and liked, don’t know what reality would be like without pulling those strings, except you suspect it would be harder, require giving up something that you’re not willing to give up… dont’ risk it… but…?
I’ve fallen off that wagon too… but luckily my foot was caught in a rope and the wagon dragged me along behind it until I managed to climb back on. I do use many of the things I’ve learned, just in a reverse engineering, back-to-front manner.
Want to understand why people do things, say things, are the way they are which upsets you… the answers all all inside of you, you just need to look at the dark and twisted, and not so dark not so twisted, and not get blinded by the fear of being oh so very human and not an alien at all.
What is the meaning of human life – why does it have to have a meaning?
That’s it from me.
This is the end of my teenager in Paris series.
If you have any questions, just ask – there’s no such thing as a silly or stupid question, and those we think are that are the best ones to ask sometimes.
If you’d like to share your own story, just do it.
Why do I share what I share, aren’t I worried of this and that – yeah, I’m always worried about this and that, but sharing is a good way to realise that a lot of those worries are just worries, worries are a part of being human, life, oh and someone else might get something out of my doing this which is my way of giving back to all those who did and do something similar and from whom I’ve gotten something out of them doing that.
Mélissa, métisse d’Ibiza
Vit toujours dévêtue
Dites jamais que je vous ai dit ça
Ou Mélissa me tue
Le matin derrière ses canisses alors
Qu’elle est moitié-nue
Sur les murs devant chez Mélissa
Y a tout plein d’inconnus
“Descendez, ça, c’est défendu!
Oh, c’est indécent!”
Elle crie mais bien entendu
Personne ne descend– lyrics from Melissa by Julien Clerc
If we don’t share our stories – who will?
If someone else shares our stories… it’s not our story anymore, it’s their story. I’ve had a few experiences of plagiarism and other similar things… I get it now, go ahead, good luck with it (just keep in mind that you’re not me, you don’t want to be me, you’re not used to being me and the consequences which come from that… it’s better for you to be you). It still pisses me off, but not in the way it used to because… I’ve figured something out and I like it.
What have I figured out? A great way to lose weight while eating delicious soul food… or something like that.
If there’s anything which you’d like me to write about, just do what The Reverist did and ask me to do it. I may hem and haw and be reluctant at first, but I had fun (my kind of fun) doing this so I’m glad I did it. It doesn’t have to be something about me… I’m happy to explore the world as long as I can be lazy about it.
Merci beaucoup, mille fois, and…
Du rhum des femmes et d’la bière nom de Dieu
Un accordéon pour valser tant qu’on veut
Du rhum des femmes c’est ça qui rend heureux
Que l’diable nous emporte, on n’a rien trouvé d’mieux
Oh oh oh oh oh on n’a rien trouvé d’mieux– lyrics from Du Rhum Des Femmes by Soldat Louis
let your je ne sais quoi do its thing!
Over to you.