I would not be the least surprised if someone comments telling me that this is not the first time I’ve used this titled. Like the great author Virginia Woolf, I am obsessed with needing a room of my own. A space of my own, where I can work and concentrate and get things done.
Mr French does not understand this. When I suggested that we should perhaps invest in a chambre de bonne so that I could have a place to write, he was literally aghast. It is the first time I have ever seen the facial expression “aghast” so it made an impression on me. A mix between shock, horrified and absolutely confused. It took me a while to understand that we were having a cultural difference. For Mr French, a dynamic young woman like myself requesting a room of her own is the Parisian equivalent of suburban housewife suggesting that you hire the hot new pool cleaner the Johnson’s down the street are using. It is a sign that Madame is looking for adventure.
I tried to explain that I find it impossible to work when I know there is dirty laundry piling up on the other side of the wall. It is easier just to throw it in the machine, which rumbles for hours, then beeps, demanding to be fed again. The cat wants out every hour, the post lady rings, the concierge buzzes, then Em comes home and my attention is required elsewhere. Mr French didn’t hear all that. He reminded me that I had spent months searching for a flat because I had insisted the living room be off the street. I needed quiet to work from home. And that the beautiful bookcase in our living room has a built-in desk so that I could work from home. He was hurt, confused and a little concerned, so I dropped the topic.
But I am obsessed and don’t give up easily. I thought shared work space would be a fair compromise. I found a couple of options, but they were all either too loud, too far, or unheated. Like Goldilocks testing the porridge, I was waiting to find something that was just right.
Monday morning my phone vibrated. A good friend was calling. A single Mom with two grown daughters who live abroad. Work was asking her to go to New Caledonia for a month. She has been working towards this position for years and needs a break from Paris. I was thrilled for her. But that was not why she was calling. She was looking for a cat sitter and thought of my quest for a room. Would I be willing to feed her cat for a month in exchange for a room of my own. An airy, light flooded apartment, more precisely, just a few blocks away from my home. She didn’t have to ask twice.
When I awoke this morning the sky was a vivid winter blue, the sun shone brightly and cast a gorgeous light over the city, making my heart smile as I headed out the door to a room of my own.