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Not Pretty in Paris: The Smart Set, 3/21/2011

My essay, “Not Pretty in Paris”,  has been published in The Smart Set.  It’s the story of a haircut I got in Paris,  but also the history of mirrors, Charles Garnier and his Opera, Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie, global franchising and the overall sense of anxious insecurity that I experience in that city.

Here’s the story behind the story:

Although I was just in Paris in January, I didn’t know that I would be making that trip when I started working on this essay, in mid-November 2010.  (The haircut I describe took place during a visit in late 2008, which I also just wrote about for Perceptive Travel.) I had completed three drafts of the essay before I left for this most recent Paris jaunt. I was there to research other stories, although of course this project was on my mind.

After I returned, I wrote three more drafts, for a total of six. But as I look back through the files, I can see I added very little of substance to the piece post-trip.

I’m always curious about why writers decide to write about a particular subject—probably because it’s often hard for me to decide, given how often I travel, how many ideas it generates and how long it takes to do a piece like this.

In this case, I had the notion that I wanted to write something more about Europe and appearance, because a piece I’d done nearly a year for Perceptive Travel, The European Look, was continuing to garner a lot of interest.  And I wanted to write something fun: I had just finished the Ass Grab essay, for which I’d done some harrowing research (truly awful stories of street harassment, none of which I ended up using); my cat was sick; and it was right around my birthday and the holidays were coming up.

So off I went to the library for exploratory research. I found plenty of material, so I gave myself the assignment. In fact, I had so much fun with this essay that I plan to write still more on this subject. More soon!

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