This spring Becky and I spent a week in Paris. One afternoon, after a picnic near the Eiffel Tower, we discovered that the playground with its little carousel is still there. My little ones who loved that carousel would be in their forties now and probably have no memory of the American who spoke French badly but loved playing with them in the sand.
Being in Paris reminded of my second visit for the 1986 publication of Ma Soeur, Mon Amour, the French translation of Lesbian Nuns: Breaking Silence. My co-editor Rosemary (Curb) Keefe and I spoke at a women’s bookstore (no longer in existence) and discovered that Parisian women-loving-women regarded our lesbian-feminist zeal as rather quaint, unsophisticated, and somewhat embarrassing. Having achieved equality with men, they were past such narrow concerns. And why were we still using that old term? Lesbian was so militant! They preferred to be “discrete” about their private lives. It sounded to us as if they were still in the closet.
This time Becky and I found the GLBT Center of Paris, thanks to a delightful Lesbian Connection contact dyke. This young Portuguese woman who has lived in several countries told us that the Paris Gay Pride parade draws thousands of revelers, mostly straight people. It’s more party than political. Sonia says that French lesbians are still very . . . discrete.
Being in Paris also reminded me of two months my partner Barbara and I spent there in 1988. The Gare D’Orsay had recently been converted into the glorious Musée d'Orsay, full of light, huge open spaces, and beautiful French art. Barb and I went on the free day each week and enjoyed the sumptuous salad buffet in the chandeliered restaurant. Since the buffet is no longer offered, Becky and I split an order of soup and salmon. We felt like royalty lunching at Versailles, surrounded by mirrors and full-breasted women frolicking amidst clouds on the ceiling.
After this fourth visit, much as I love Paris, I don’t long for my magical city any more. My French dreams have been fulfilled by stolling hand-in-hand along the Seine with my beloved wife, exploring Notre Dame together, and walking the magical labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral with her.