I’m just back from the city of lights with my 13-year-old, and it is time to acknowledge that we are not perfect travelling companions. For one thing, I am a stoic, happy to walk for miles through hot and dusty Paris streets searching for small museums and eccentric shops, while Mademoiselle would beaucoup prefer to prendre an air-conditioned taxi to the nearest maison de shopping, preferably with a sack full of maman’s hard-earned euros.
She claims to hate art, my daughter, which eliminates a great deal of what Paris has to offer, though we both managed to enjoy an Yves St Laurent retrospective at the Petit Palais, despite the ticket seller a.) demanding evidence that she was really 13 and b.) asking how old I was.
Why did she ask these things?
Free admission was granted for under 18s, fair enough, but there was no discount for being over, say, 60, so perhaps it was mere curiosity? Or the expression of a subtle Parisian sense of humour? Who knows. So much is lost in translation.
I searched the exhibition for the two items of Yves St Laurent couture I have actually owned in my lifetime — a beautiful short silver leather biker jacket that I bought for $20 in NYC in the early 80s, long before anyone of quality would be caught dead buying secondhand (I never quite recovered from the regret of giving that jacket away, though it only fit me in my clubbing, smoking, drug-dabbling 20s), and a black silk dress with an asymmetrical neckline that once belonged to my grandmother.
Naturally, the child was less impressed that I had once owned such garments than furious that I had not saved them for her.
It’s hard to get anything right as a parent. Best not to try.