By Samuel Leighton-Dore

Paris, the city of love. Where Hemingway penned some of his greatest works including The Sun Also Rises and Men Without Women; where Picasso emerged from his blue period to embrace the warmth of his new mistress; and where my longterm boyfriend and I first agreed to download Grindr.

“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man,” Ernest Hemingway once wrote, “then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” If this happens to be true, I suppose we’ll be returning to home with a new taste for cheese/pastry dishes and an altered view on what constitutes a modern-day monogamous relationship. Bon appetit!  

Brad and I have been dating for two years – and living together for most of that time. Considering our somewhat domestic virtues (“Netflix and chill”) we’ve always enjoyed a healthy sex life. I suppose we’re two versatile’s living at the bottom end of a top neighbourhood – with a little kink thrown in for good measure. In the words of Tim Gun, we make it work.

Still, it can be tricky to maintain the passion of a new relationship. You might therefore imagine our excitement at being invited to house-sit in Paris last month. I had it all planned out: our week-long stay would be divvied up between romantic arm-in-arm strolls across the Pont des Arts, eating freshly baked chocolate croissants by the Eiffel Tower, and posing for Valencia-filtered holiday snaps at Trocadéro. Postcard perfect, right?

Now here’s a fun fact about me: tattooed messily on the inside of my right wrist is one particular line of dialogue from a French film I loved growing up –  “Cap ou pas cap?” Loosely translated, it means “Dare or no dare?” Unbeknownst to me, this would soon become the motto for our trip.

I’m not sure how one best articulates the sound of a Grindr notification, but BLEEP! feels appropriate.

Our first day passed in a sleepy montage of unashamed chain-smoking, people-watching and being grossly overcharged for tiny black coffees. The men in Paris are beautiful – a sublime cluster-fuck of pronounced brows, arched noses and olive skin. Later that evening we joked that browsing Parisian Grindr would be like flipping through the glossy pages of a European soft porn magazine. Silence. The seed of curiosity had been planted – the dare had been set. Cap ous pas cap?

It was then, one glass into our second bottle of Merlot – and with the cool Parisian breeze wafting through the open windows of our Odèon apartment – that we huddled together like drunken schoolchildren and opened the App Store on my iPhone. “I love you,” we whispered – grinning.

Grindr. Download.

I’m not sure how one best articulates the sound of a Grindr notification, but BLEEP! feels appropriate. BLEEP! BLEEP! BLEEP! The messages came thick and fast. Hung on Holiday. Tour de Top. In the fashion capital of the World, alliterative sex-app usernames were the new black – and we were perched at front-row.

However, for every sexual proposition came a small piece of unsolicited relationship counselling. “May I ask, what are your needs from a third person that you don’t already have in your current relationship?” Fair enough question – but from a hairy Parisian torso named Grindr Guy? It felt loaded with judgement, some of which, admittedly, was my own. Why were we doing this? Had it taken the complete disruption of daily routine to realise there was something crucial missing in our relationship? Were we wrong in trying to recapture the impassioned spontaneity of new love? Surely it’s not unreasonable to indulge in the odd sexual fantasy amidst the occasionally dry reality of planning a life together?

After all, isn’t that what Paris is all about – escapism and the pursuit of romantic and/or sexual ideals?

IN THE EARLY TO MID 1800s, Paris was at the epicentre of the Romantic movement in Europe, famous for rehabilitating emotions over rationalism.

Emotions over rationalism.

Think about it. Love affairs, mistresses and broken-down marriages are scattered throughout Parisian history like ticket stubs on the Métro. Hemingway’s first marriage to Hadley Richardson ended six years after the couple first moved to Paris – and was followed only a month later by his second marriage to French fashion journalist Pauline Pfeiffer. It was in Paris that Picasso met his two mistresses Marie-Thérèse Walter and Dora Maar – later recalling a time the women wrestled passionately on his studio floor in demand of his exclusive affections.

Perhaps downloading Grindr was our way of tossing the rationalism of our relationship to the curb. Regardless of reason, we were soon chatting with a nearby bar manager (let’s call him Alexandre) who invited us out for drinks at his nightclub. It was decided – he would be the muscled catalyst for our exhilarating french affair. We arrived at the bar and were greeted with complimentary shots of vodka. He was handsome and heavily tattooed, just as his profile picture had suggested. Brad and I looked at one another, kissed, and downed another shot. Alexandre shouted over the euro-tech rave music in broken english. His shift finished in two hours and he was DTF. Another shot. He grinned and winked and rubbed our forearms in a way that felt painfully reminiscent of my teenage years; the dizzying come-down hookups in the smoking alley at ARQ.

An hour passed. My head buzzed. My stomach sank. Another shot.

Brad suddenly grabbed my arm and gestured for the door. Were we experiencing the same cold feet? I gripped his hand as we pushed our way through the crowd and poured onto the empty street. Finally alone, I turned to him. “Are you okay? You know we don’t have to do this.”

But he didn’t have to say anything, I recognised that look all too well – and was instantly hit by a wave of relief. Leaning on my shoulder for support, Brad let out a groan and vomited into the gutter. That’s my bb. Too many shots. Our rendezvous was over.

Drunk, we stumbled arm-in-arm through the cobbled backstreets of Paris, thinking that perhaps Woody Allen was onto something when he wrote Midnight In Paris – and the true romance of “the city of love” lies not in the rambunctiousness of escape, but in the seduction of self-exploration. We deleted Grindr the next morning. It turned out there was nothing missing in our relationship – we just needed a gentle reminder.

P.S. We didn’t end up seeing the Eiffel Tower or taking photographs at Trocadéro. – but there’s always next time.

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