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the honeymoon stage in paris

Ah, the honeymoon stage. It preys on new couples, weaving itself in sugar coating around the arms of unsuspecting lovers. When first kisses transition to second and thirds and you’re filled with insatiable giddiness, it’s official: you’re firmly in the grasp of *the honeymoon stage.* With its sneaky wistful charm, you soon find yourself serenaded into committing foolish tendencies all in the name of lo(intense infatuation)ve.

Baggy eyes from weekday 4am phone calls become symbols of the late-night whispered sweet nothings. Getting caught in the rain transforms itself into the set of a Nicholas Sparks film. The all fearful monkey emoji might even make an appearance in ‘good morning’ texts – and this time, you’re not cringing. In fact, you find it cute.

The honeymoon stage equips us with pink-tinted glasses, and quite literally, allows us to live la vie en rose.

However, as many lovers across the globe soon find out, the starry-eyed honeymoon stage is not sustainable: it comes to a sharp end when the romanticised notions one holds do not match up to their reality. Reality comes seeping in like a stone-cold sober awakening to a love-drunk experience. The sugar coated exterior dissolves, revealing a cloaked grim reaper, ready to bid the relationships that couldn’t make it to a lifelong sentence in the grave.

As months pass by, baggy eyes are a sign of 4am arguments. Getting caught in the rain is a soggy inconvenience. And if you receive one more goddamn monkey emoji, you might scream.

La vie en rose suddenly transforms into la vie en grey.

The sugar rush of the honeymoon stage has held me captive various times, but it was always a simple matter of time before the inevitable happened: normality. As months passed, I was discarded and left in the misty fog to once again wipe my lenses and navigate la vie en normality.

Quite simply, life is a transient, constantly moving force, and the honeymoon stage is not exempt from that. Lovers have been and gone, as others will come and pass, as too will the honeymoon stages in between.

Except for one love. Paris. No lover has stood the test of time quite like Paris.

While it might make me sound like the creepy woman who married the Eiffel Tower (yes, this did happen), my starry-eyed infatuation with Paris has defied the typical duration of mere months, instead spanning over years. I got my first ‘hit’ of Paris back in 2014, and I have been hooked ever since, caught in a loop of waiting for my next dose. And if love is a drug, then the honeymoon stage is Class A.

But with drugs come an inevitable comedown, and boy did I feel it. After every visit, I fell back onto English soil with a thud. My head pounded from the nauseating normality of English air. I scoured at English food and and English streets and English words. I craved the unfamiliar, the thrill of the new: the allure of things that felt like a honeymoon.

At one point, I even remember googling ‘post Paris depression.’

Shortly after, my room essentially became a crack den of Eiffel Towers (I repeat: love is a drug).

(Not pictured: Eiffel Tower lamp, Eiffel Tower duvet cover, Eiffel Tower canvas paintings)

In absence of Parisian streets, I looked for la vie en rose elsewhere. I searched far and wide: in the arms of passing ‘lovers’, on the shores of foreign seas, even at the bottom of Wetherspoon pitcher jugs. But none were quite the shade of rose I had been looking for. Just grey, grey and… oh, more grey.

Paris kept me stuck under its whimsical spell in an ongoing honeymoon stage, and the way it lingered convinced me that perhaps I could be just as in love with the reality as I was with the idea.

So with a French-esque bobbed haircut, a handful of striped jumpers and sweaty palms, I rode into the arms of the Paris périphérique on September 23rd and waited to see if this city could live up to all of my honey coated expectations and imaginations.

Countless crammed metro journeys, one too many consumed baguettes and a few broken bonjour’s later, and 3 months of living in Paris have passed.

But did I find la vie en rose? More importantly, did I get over that borderline drug addiction?

Well, in some ways yes. After all, it is rather difficult to see life here in any other colour than rose when metro journeys home are frequently accompanied by various accordion players reciting the infamous Edith Piaf song itself.

(As for the drug part… Let’s just say it’s hard not to feel high after the intense pollution fumes you inhale here).

However, there are some moments that can’t look or feel rosy even with the help of VSCO filters:

  • I have cried into grated emmental cheese packets while reminiscing about baked beans and cups of tea.
  • I have also cried on the line 8 after countless frustrating meetings with my bank (lookin’ at you, Société Générale).
  • I have stopped relying on the green man to let me know if it’s safe to cross the road since drivers here will just proceed to run you over anyway.
  • I have taken different routes home to avoid the sketchy men that hang around at night (do y’all ever go to SLEEP?!)

These and the various other culture shocks/downfalls that come with moving abroad have helped to partially remove the blindfold of pink-tainted daydreams and starlit-glazed fantasies. Consequently, the façade of Paris being the ultimate lover in an endless honeymoon stage is slowly crumbling away.

Yet I continue to find myself more in love than ever before.

While it certainly helps to be enamoured with life when your Wednesday evening backdrop is the river Seine as the Eiffel Tower lights up in the distance, this is a love that transcends the ticking time-bomb of the honeymoon stage type of love. It is a love that goes beyond the mere superficiality of a city’s aesthetics. It is a love that goes beyond whirling butterflies but instead sits still, calmly in silence. It is a love that began with Paris but ended with myself.

My infatuation with Paris served as a distraction from the one relationship that needed the most work all along: the relationship with myself. I neglected my present-tense self in a tiresome search for a future self that could exist elsewhere. La vie en rose that I was looking for was never in another lover or another drink or another city or even Paris, but it was in me all along.

Though it took chasing Paris for me to realise it.

Chasing Paris allowed me to see a version of myself that life back home could never have shown me. A version of myself that only moving abroad could carve, stripped back from the formalities, family and friends that had served as crutches on which I leaned too heavily to help me make sense of the world. Alone in the city of love, I was more vulnerable than I had ever been.

Because when you are alone – truly alone – in the cold arms of a new country and streets that deem you a stranger, it is only you who can unthaw your shivering limbs and brittle bones at the end of each day. You wake up, alone, in the blurry midst of clouded new faces and hazy new sounds, but it becomes more clear than ever that the world will not wait on you. It will keep turning. Whether you want to be in the world rather than of the world, is now a choice of your own accord. In making this choice, the honeymoon stage falls into the background as you take centre stage.

It is facing these realities which allows the drunken superficiality of the honeymoon stage lust to instead transform into a more sober and substantial love and appreciation for life, starting with yourself. Building a relationship with yourself from the ground up means diving into a more self-encompassing, patient, understanding, type of love, which is a love greater than any man, place or even enchanting daydream could ever hope to offer.

Don’t get me wrong, I still experience an irrational class-A giddiness when I walk across Pont Neuf under twilight skies, armed with a fresh baguette – a feeling that can only be attributed to naïve honeymoon stage euphoria – but equally I experience days when I am ready to march to Champs-Élysées, join the Gilet Jaunes and smash up the streets of Paris. The difference is that I am now able to navigate both feelings in a healthier way and not look elsewhere to be fulfilled by the next fleeting distraction.

Because Paris has taught me that, despite what I imagined, life can never be one colour, nor would I want it to be.

What started as a burning honeymoon stage with Paris acting as the catalyst, has since melted into a self-encompassing, rooted self-love: roots in which I will continue to nourish even when life has its moments of grey. Because once you direct the honeymoon stage inwards and start the process of falling in love with yourself, it won’t matter that life doesn’t feel rosy at all times. It provides you with the knowledge that after every tear-stained cheese packet and ‘I’m moving back to England’ text, will come a rejoiced ‘santé’ and the clink of wine glasses and breathless laughter on the last metro home. It is finally finding peace in knowing that after every grey day, or grey week, or even grey month, rose will surface again. As will every colour in-between.

So give a thankful nod to the honeymoon stages that exist in your life, the cotton-candied imagined futures. But don’t hinge on them to make life rosy, because after that first besotted embrace, there will be a cloaked grim-reaper waiting in the foreground, eager to bid your short-lived sugary glee to the grave. Your sweet tooth will be at the mercy of subsequent cavities. You will crash, and you will have to pick yourself up again. Maintaining those high spirits long after the honeymoon stage departs rests upon you. Wrap yourself in the sticky sugar coating glaze, for every other endeavour will likely be futile, or transient at best, otherwise.

And while some relationships come to an end after the honeymoon stage, mine is just beginning.

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