My first 6 months in Paris I didn’t have much going on. My freelance “career” hadn’t gotten much farther than building a neat-o portfolio website and this here blog. French class was always on some kind of 2 week vacation. So I filled in the hours tracking down random people with whom I had tenuous connections at best and asking them to meet me for coffee. I don’t even drink coffee. But I needed friends and advice on French living, so I put myself out there knowing that there’s a kind of special friendliness code among expats. They’ve all been there on a rainy day talking to the walls out of sheer loneliness, so they’re usually willing to throw a fellow foreigner a life-preserver or two.
Most of these blind friend-dates turned into really good friends. Some didn’t. One of the epic failures was a woman around my age who was a successful writer and had just completed a book. I thought, hey! I want to be a writer! Maybe we can talk writing! Maybe she can offer some sage advice to another diplomat spouse stuck in a foreign land with no job! I was sure she’d want to take me under her wing, at least for the afternoon.
Sadly it ended up being the most awkward 20 minutes of my life. When I told her I was thinking about pitching a few ideas to magazines and asked if she had any tips, she said “Yeah, it’s really hard.” Crickets.
When I brought up her book and said I looked forward to reading it, she said “Thanks.” Crickets.
When I asked if she had any advice for a writer just starting out in Paris, she said “There’s a lot of competition. You should really try to work on a longer-form project, like a book.”
At that point I said “thanks” and made some excuse about having to catch the metro home. She looked relieved and practically bolted out the door. I sniffed my armpits to make sure I wasn’t the problem and sulked all the way back to the 17th.
So much for writer’s camaraderie. I decided she probably didn’t drink champagne anyway so no love lost. But the book idea stayed with me. And when I got pregnant and became saddled with the most ridiculous boobs in the history of boob-dom, I knew I had my topic: the history of breasts.
Ok, so it probably wouldn’t earn me a PEN/Faulkner award or a Pulitzer. But I would be able to put all my recent boob-related google searches to good use. And I’d be able to finally answer all those boob questions that have been gnawing at me for years, like why do we only have 2 nipples? And what sadist invented the breast pump? And why does the size of the boob not correspond to the amount of boob-juice it can make?
I pictured a well-researched yet funny tome in the vein of Mary Roach’s Bonk. I even started a bibliography. Then I had a baby and all my big plans went to hell in a hand basket. But the soul of my dream project lived on, waiting patiently to come to fruition.
And while I waited, this damn lady went and wrote my book.
What the hell!? I’d be really angry except it sounds really good. I mean, if I’m being totally honest, this woman probably covered the topic way more thoroughly than I ever could, “flying all over the world to interview more boob experts than you can shake a pasty at.” I don’t have any experts to shake pasties at other than Cynthia the “fit specialist” at my favorite lingerie store.
So I guess I’ll just have to read the book I should have written and go back to the drawing board for my “long-form project.” I’ll totally have time to tackle that with two infants crawling around my apartment in the dead of Austrian winter, right?