I know I don’t look French.

I have a little button nose, a pale, round face from my Welsh ancestry, and it’s impossible for my wrists to fall backwards in that sophisticated gesture like French girls do, usually with a cigarette. My wrists are tight, my legs are solid and I usually hunch my shoulders when I get scared.

how to walk past a sidewalk cafe

how to walk past a sidewalk cafe

Although I’m in a fashion mecca, I don’t carry a designer purse or wear fine jewelry. I want nothing that calls attention to myself. I see no point in it.

Women who walk along in Paris, wearing all their precious baubles are saying, “Hey, I have nice jewelry. You could shove me into this picturesque alleyway, hit me over the head with your empty wallet, and take this bounty for yourself.”

I don’t mean to say there are thieves everywhere in Paris but I don’t want to mislead anyone—I just want to look clean and middle-class.

I pass a café. The sidewalk tables are packed with beautiful people. When I look at them, I see they are staring back at me and smoking in a very existential way—dragging and spewing smoke while squinting, like in the movies. Why are they looking at me? Are they attracted to my cleanliness?

I walk past more cafes. More eyes. More staring. I thought I could disappear into the crowd here. But then, I understand. People-watching is the sole occupation of anyone who sits at a sidewalk café.

Yes, there’s a bit of conversation going on, some drinking, and some smoking, but basically, a street in Paris is the runway; I am the reluctant model. This is the microscope; I am the amoeba.