It was an August afternoon, I had been to the gym, was showered and blowdried and ready to pack for an impromptu trip to St Tropez. My friend Jo had called a couple of days beforehand to say she was driving down to her parents countryside villa with three other girls (one who I knew and loved) and offered to pick me up in Paris en route. Yeeees! En route meant one am in the morning but I figured, Id pack, eat and maybe snooze until she arrived.
Then it happened. A FaceTime call came in at about 4 or 5pm from my friend Marianne. I couldn’t have been happier. I had just popped the cork of a chilled rosé and the welcoming, familiar wave of bonhomie from the first glass had already started to wash over me.
I hadn’t seen Marianne since she had been Jack Kerouac-ing across America (well, more Kerastase in her case) and I was bubbling over to hear from her. To top it off, it was a gorgeously hot afternoon in Paris, I was actually living here, in my own apartment, sipping a formerly forbidden but totally irresistible nectar (guilt-free) and I was going to St Tropez in a few hours for a girls weekend. All in the world was amazing and completely possible. I was on fire and feeling fantastic.
I don’t know whether it can be considered as a type of pathetic fallacy but my mood was totally mirrored with how I looked that day on FaceTime. My face was slimmer- the high impact gym sessions had finally kicked in- my skin was clear thanks to prohibition, I was mahogony with fake tan (and just a sprinkling of natural freckles), my hair was straightened, glossy and had fallen into an unrepeatable perfect parting. Yee har. Life was brilliant.
Normally I spend the majority of a FaceTime call distracted by the little window of self reflection – frequently turning my iPad around- putting my companion on their head temporarily- hoping the grainy, unflattering, bloated pink version of me is due to a bad camera angle or lighting.
The moment when you hold an iPad in your lap and gasp with horror to see your Pillsbury dough face slumped forward, unashamedly highlighting lines and thick pore ridden, peasant skin, is undoubtedly a First World problem. But a serious one.
Far from the comparative kindness of the retro ‘mirror’, there’s no smile or angling that works on the cynical eye of FaceTime.
You can forget that look you use for meditated mirror-time reflection. I personally turn my head to one side, then the other, pout and suck my cheeks and belly in, raising my shoulders unconsciously, making the tops of my arms look thinner. I flirt with the mirror and only show it my best sides.
FaceTime on the otherhand is the Dorian Gray mirror in the attic. And it hates you.
But today I had somehow dodged the impossible and looked fresh faced and fabulous and so did Marianne. We were so excited to finally get hold of each other in the sweetest synergy of perfect timing – both relaxed, happy, had hours to chat and wine to drink. So we set ourselves up as if we sitting opposite each other in a London bar.
The first bottle of rosé went far too quickly and left me feeling very panicky that there was no more in the fridge and that Marianne would use it as a natural conclusion to the call if I said I needed to run to the shop. But as this was the call of all possibilities, she actively encouraged me to run downstairs to my local Super U whilst she refreshed her own bottle.
We didn’t even end the call. I left her on my kitchen table with a view out of the window, took the lift down six flights, galloped a set of stairs, threw my empty bottle of rosé into the recycling bin by the front door past the hundreds of apartment post boxes. Half giggling to myself I skipped into the supermarket, picked up a pack of Lays crisps (dinner), a bottle of rosé for me (and Marianne) and a bottle of red for my husband (who was safely at work) and made it back to Marianne’s lovely face in record time.
It was one of those epic chats that can only come about once every other blue moon. We were both so positive about life and felt like we were on the edge of something amazing. The world was at our feet and getting better by the glass. I had already booked an appointment to start my third round of IVF but this time at one of the best clinics in London, I had got used to not working and was loving the time I had to explore different options for our future. Marianne still buoyed by her American dream was on the brink of launching two brilliant new businesses, we felt a paradigm shift taking place. And boy, oh boy could we talk about it.
I’d die if the conversation was recorded.
I don’t know if you have seen that scene in Ted where Mark Wahlberg and his bear excitedly prattle on (albeit drug induced) about the Italian restaurant they once said they were going to open – if we’re ever going to get serious about opening this restaurant, we’re going to have to start planning it now, Italian?, yeah Italian, why didn’t we do that, we should still do that, we’d be brilliant, you at front of house, me cooking, how would we decorate it…yeah totally, ok tomorrow, I’ll get onto it, I promise..
Yep. Much the same.
The minutes turned into hours and the glasses into bottles. Including DH’s red. Before I knew where we were, I (vaguely) heard the key in the door. But DH wasn’t back till midnight! Uh huh.
I saw Marianne’s eyes widen in panic as she saw him before I did. ‘Ohlookmazza who itis” I slurred looking over my shoulder.
Our un breakable bond and phone call came to an abrupt end as Marianne sensed danger and said “I’ve got to go” and before I knew it her finger came to the middle of the screen and she disconnected the call. Gulp. I was alone in my trouble.
When I was speaking to Marianne I’m sure I sounded normal but now standing talking to my silent and fuming husband, I could hear quite how bad normal sounds.
So as to completely fool him, I attempted to do everyday things to give him the impression that I wasn’t well and truly off my FaceTime.
Taking out the wet washing from the machine and hanging it on our window ledge clothes horse. That seemed like a perfectly normal thing to do and it would totally fool him. A low down window ledge 6 stories up. As I lurched forward to place a pair of saturated jeans at the furthest rung of the drying hanger with half of my body out of the window, dangling over the courtyard below, I over stretched, lost my balance and began to topple out completely.
My husband grabbed me from the brink of death and humiliation and dragged me waist first back into the room. Falling out of a window drunk after an over exuberant FaceTime session with a friend on my first year of moving to Paris seemed a horribly dramatic 27 year old thing to do. It just wasn’t cool to almost die like this at 37. Hitting Paris with a thud not a bump.
So my “be normal” strategy had gone horribly wrong in impressing DH. So much so that looking at his swimming, blurry, shouty face, I was beginning to think he was having second thoughts about saving me.
After the outside /inside/ bending over/ manhandling/ spinning around – the only thing my body would let me do was to go head first into plan b. “I’mgoingtobesick” I mumbled as I pinball wizarded myself off every single wall in our apartment trying to make the bathroom.
“Oh bloody joy” he shouted.
He had been in from work only 10 minutes.
It couldn’t get any worse until… “Is this your phone? You’ve got 10 missed calls!” then DH’s mobile began a calypso beat, cutting through the very un melodic atmosphere and mercifully drowning out some of the Minotaur roaring coming from the toilet.
“It’s Jo. Your lift to st tropez is outside!”
OH. MY. GOD
The next 10 minutes saw an increasingly unfocused, very unfrench woman trying to get a bag full of clothes, make up and money together like a badly trained chimp. With the angriest husband/father type picking things up saying …do you need this? Did you bring your hair brush? Have you got a bikini? Hmmm? Right, pick that up, brush your teeth and I’ll bring you to the car, yes ! (“Yes”said in that berating Gordon Ramsay way). I nodded shamefaced and cross eyed.
He held onto me all the way down in the lift and the flight of stairs and I made a good semblance of being steady. As soon as he let go of my arm at the bottom of the stairs, with the front door almost in spitting distance, gravity unfortunately dragged me towards the metal, sharp edged apartment post boxes. These shiny innocent killers I walk past every day.
The post box won in the scuffle and my favourite grey cashmere jumper was ripped from the shoulder down.
DH pulled me off my attacker and frogmarched me to the awaiting car. He put me in the backseat with two girls I’d never met before and who had been soundly asleep until this wino was slung in with them. “Hellooooo” I cooed “ooh a blankie, can I get under there with you?”
DH went to the drivers window and quietly told Jo “I’m afraid she’s a bit pissed. She was on FaceTime. She’s all yours now”
If the car was a horse, he would have slapped its rear and sent it on its way.