Saturday I arrived at my agency around 10 to meet my punctilious and friendly booker, who had prepared a day of ten castings for me. I was just about to leave when his boss, the head booker, called me over to his desk, took my printed list of castings and engagements, firmly gripped a love handle in each hand, and said, “Jenna, you must lose thees.” No castings for me, of the 35.5 in hips: I was to go home and think about what I’d done.
Of course it hasn’t escaped my notice that models are other-worldly thin. Contrary to the opinions of the (overwhelmingly female) busybody talking heads who write books and go on T.V. to mercilessly criticise other women, it’s hardly a new facet of the industry. And I am working just as hard as I can to get my hips down to the 34 inches that is the modeling gold standard (for all but those models too famous for measuring tape, the lucky Kate Mosses and Giselles of this world). It is the reality of the industry and no surprise to me — in fact I’ve been trying, with degrees of conviction that waxed and waned in tune with the frequency with which my mother agents brought me motivating career news, to get my hips down to 34 inches since about April (when they were 37). I was at 35 in August, and I’ve already lost 1 cm from all the walking (and healthy fruit and yogurt-eating) I’ve been doing in Paris. I’m confident thees will be gone soon enough.
I’m even rashly confident I won’t turn into “[a] self-obsessed, emaciated clone,” thanks for asking.
What was I to do with my unasked-for day of freedom in Paris? What better place to avoid the rain than a nice department store. Like Holly Golightly, I’ve always felt a strange kind of peacefulness in large stores — the kind big enough to afford anonymity to each patron, so established that the salesgirls aren’t skimpy with the makeup and perfume samples, and capacious enough to contain multitudes of possible lives on each floor. There’s the life you might have if you buy the big leather couch in the furniture department (probably a life lived writing advertising and driving a flash car). The life you might have if you could afford 80 Euro skin cream and a wardrobe entirely composed of cashmere (probably as somebody’s wife who wears lots of silk scarves). The life you might have if you put a big knitted leather thong shag rug on your fake-wood floating floor.
The Bazar de l’Hôtel de Ville is a special kind of department store. In seven floors, it sells almost everything (the above are real-life examples, excuse me for not getting a usable photo of the leather rugs, every one I took made them look at best just one-third as gross as they actually were: trust me, your repulsive mental image is the more accurate picture). The BHV is kind of like a Target crossed with a department store: they sell the usual clothes, lingerie, accessories, skincare, and electronics, but they’ve also got fabric and trim, Swiss-made foam mattresses, knitting needles, fake crown moldings for your crown-molding-deficient Paris apartment, Japanese handmade paper, wallpaper, easels, copper piping, and plenty of balsawood. Kitchen sinks are on floor four; the tools to install them are handily available in the basement, next to the charming French toolboxes made of quarter-inch-thick cowhide.
You can find almost anything you want at the BHV. Imagine how your life would be if, instead of playing Monopoly, you played Anti-Monopoly, where you can be sent to jail for complicity in illegal rent-fixing rackets with your competitors!
Or how your living room would look if you had a whole wall of co-ordinating Audrey:
Of course, not all of us can afford shiny new stainless-steel appliances that make our kitchens look like NASA labs. If you have stainless-steel-envy, but not the means to acquire the goods, look no further than: Peel off, stick-on foil in your choice of metallic shades, brushed, stamped with tread, or left mirror-reflective so you can check yourself out in your fake-steel fridge every time you treat your bad self to one more bowl of ice cream at 1 a.m.
You can find lamps at the BHV.
And a French translation of Stop-Time.
You can even find an answer to that age-old question, How much spaghetti should I make tonight, anyway?
I cringe for this model.
Did I find anything that could not be found at the BHV, you ask?
I scoured all seven floors for a recharge card for my Orange mobile. Orange is one of the most popular mobile phone services in France; it’s a division of France Telecom. It’s got the profile of a U.S. Cellular, or a T-Mobil. I thought for sure the BHV would have recharges, especially given prepaid phones are so popular in Europe, and it’s not like I signed on with Outer Le Chesnay Telephone Collective when I chose my service.
I thought wrong. The man at the mobile phone counter told me BHV will sell Orange cards starting next week. I walked home having bought only a measuring tape.