I was a young writer living in London. He had moved to Paris on a whim, and saw a story about me in my magazine. He contacted me through AltaVista — this was before Google 1997 — and we exchanged a couple of emails. Months later, when I was sent to Paris on assignment, I randomly remembered him and reached out. We arranged to meet one afternoon at the Louvre.
In true meet-cute fashion, sparks flew. It was like the plot of some late-’90s Meg Ryan rom-com, set in the most romantic city in the world.
But after the credits roll, don’t you sometimes wonder: What happens next?
In real life, that Hollywood ending is just the beginning. And it’s not too harsh to ask whether the daily grind of marriage and kids could ever live up to such a romantic start to a relationship.
Over the past two decades, we’ve moved multiple times, worked too much and worked too little, experienced great highs and weathered the lows. We’ve done it all together, and yet not always as one. We juggled careers and family. We put our kids first. We felt our connection slip away. We fought to get it back.
Does real life compare? In a word, no.
But quite simply, nothing compares to the glow of being young and in love in Paris. And how’s this for a corollary: Even Paris can’t compare to Paris when you’re young and in love.
A few years ago, we took our two young kids to the city of lights. We gave them the “How I Met Your Mother” tour: the building where he lived; the Louvre, where he waited for me for almost an hour because I got off at the wrong Metro stop; the Angelina cafe, where we shared a hot chocolate and witty banter. And you know what? The stroller could barely get through Metro entrances and crowded sidewalks. We couldn’t get the Wi-Fi in our Airbnb fixed because it was August. Hand-holding as we walked along the Seine? Try child-wrangling. At least the hot chocolate tasted the same.
Over the years, the story of how we met has been retold countless times, and the usual crowd reaction is best expressed by the heart-eyed emoji. There’s always some laughter, too, because my husband likes to do dramatic readings of my emails, adding lascivious intent where none existed. It’s practically performance art at this point.
But sometimes when I’m not adding wisecracks to his narration, I get lost in my own memories of that magical time. Savage Garden’s “Truly Madly Deeply,” the lead single of the soundtrack of our rom-com, plays in my mind. I can’t help but smile.
I’m thrilled that we had that moment. It sure beats “Tinder” as an answer to “How did you guys meet?” But I’m not disappointed that our life since hasn’t been all macarons and Eiffel Tower sunsets. I’m deeply grateful that we’ve made it far beyond the first blush of love, and into our third decade together, not unscathed but definitely stronger.
I’m even thinking we should go back to Paris to mark a future anniversary of our meet-cute. This time, we’ll leave the kids at home.
Everyone needs a girlfriend!
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