I don’t know what happened to me tonight. Or why. All I know is this… Madame is OK.
It hasn’t been. Oh no. No, no, no. Or non, non, non, as is probably more appropriate. Madame has been my Achilles heel, my kryptonite. The word that brought me to my knees (usually only figuratively). The word that had my insides squirming and my brain silently screaming “I’m not an old lady! I’m still young!!!”
I’ll never forget the first time. I was in the metro. Lots of things have happened to me in the metro that will stick forever. This was one of those moments.
On my way to Stade de France for a match, I overhear two young 20-somethings talking about which station would be closest to their entrance. I pull out my stadium plan and help them find the best station, thinking “hmmm, these young lads are cute, shame they’re not a few years old…” Bam. My thoughts are cut short by a verbal slap across the face. “Merci, madame.”
That I stayed standing after the ferocity of the “claque” is surprising. That I didn’t desolve into tears is nothing short of a miracle.
Following the typical stages, the grieving period for my youth started in this moment with a strong dose of denial. I’m having a bad day. I didn’t get much sleep. I just must look tired.
Since then I have done the whole tour. Anger that my life is passing by without some of the things I had always hoped would come my way. Bargaining with whomever it is out there pulling the strings to slow down the clock and find me a partner before it’s “too late”. Depression that as much as I might try to fight it, I can’t turn back the clock. I can’t do the past differently.
But tonight as I looked in the mirror, something changed. I saw a 37 year old woman who has done her best to make the most of her moments here on planet Earth. Who has loved and lost and been brave (or stupid) enough to love again. Who has tried and failed in business and is just about ready to be brave (or stupid) enough to try again. Who has learnt a new language and made a place for herself in a city where she had been welcomed and made to feel unwelcome.
It was Mademoiselle Petite Folle who arrived in Paris. It is Madame Petite Folle who lives here now. And that is OK. No matter how much I fight the clock, it’s not going to stop ticking.
Whilst most of the time my wrinkles feel like battle scars, I want to wear them like stripes. Just like Colonel, the stately title of Madame is an acknowledgement that I’m on my up through the ranks. It’s a badge I want to wear with pride.