The reason, interestingly enough, takes me back to my childhood - which is something I don't spend a whole lot of time talking about. But, in this case, it's worth the explanation.
I grew up in Beverly Hills. Yes, I know. Oohs and aahs. "90210," "The Beverly Hillbillies" and all the rest.
Not really. Being of a certain age, my version of growing up in Beverly Hills was quite different from the reality of the place now. Because now I can't stand it. (You'll see the connection to the 16th in moments. I promise.)
It's the whole Rodeo Drive thing. You remember that wonderful scene in "Pretty Woman" when Julia Roberts goes back to the boutique salesperson who had treated her so badly the previous day and, hefting all her shopping bags and looking like all the money Richard Gere had invested in her, says, "You remember me? Big mistake. BIG mistake!"...leaving the saleswoman with the knowledge that, through her supercilious snobbery, had lost out on big sales and BIG commission?
That Beverly Hills.
My version of Beverly Hills pre-dated that version of Rodeo Drive. When I was a kid, Rodeo Drive's two largest stores were Hunter's Books (which I still miss) and the hardware store. The latter wasn't even part of a chain. It was just a hardware store.
Sure, there were "stars" living in Beverly Hills, but they were the folks you saw in the grocery store or standing and talking on the streets. They were residents of a small city that started as a bean field and became an enclave for the Hollywood set because Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford created Pickfair and everybody wanted in.
But they were just residents. No entourages and, definitely, no body guards. No makeup or toupees, either, for that matter.
Now, it's a place that's more a caricature of itself than anything else. Everything looks manufactured. Perfect and manufactured - and new. Cars. Buildings. People.
And the attitude goes right along with the rest. It's not just a superciliousness. It's that they behave as if they're better than everybody else...at the exact same time that they're looking over their shoulders trying to convince themselves that they're as rich/talented/famous/beautiful/well-dressed/thin/taut-skinned as anyone and/or everyone else. (Which actually makes them bullies and cowards - but that's another discussion altogether.)
Welcome to the 16th Arrondissement - Paris's version of Rodeo Drive...only more architecturally beautiful.
I've been there exactly three times during my years here. The first was to go to a cafe that an American friend wanted to visit that she assured me had the "best" macarons in town. (It's the Cafe Carette and, if you really want to go, go to the one in the 3rd at the Place des Vosges.) The second time I was doing some research on an update to a shopping guide to Paris and had to spend WAY too much time there.
It was after those visits - where the people were rude, the food in the cafes was marginal and the servers - whether cafe or shops - were only interested in seeing 'who else' might be walking in the door so that they could be more obsequious than words - that I told my friends that if ever I talk about going back to the 16th, shoot me.
Well, today I did. I had some business that necessitated my visiting, so I went. It was just as bad as I remembered. Worse, in some ways, because I knew what to expect - and it not only lived up to but exceeded my expectations.
It also taught me why, no matter how hard I might want to try, I'll never be a Parisian. I'm not rude (I can't figure out any reason to be) and I smile (which really throws Parisians for a loop). In fact, you put those two together and you get the expression a lovely French woman once told me is at the foundation of the way the French think: "Too nice. Too stupid." (In French, very insulting, vernacular: Trop bonne. Trop conne.)
Yes, the fact that I choose to be polite (and happy, for that matter) works against me. Or at least it does in the 16th.
So, seriously. This time I mean it. If EVER you hear me talking about going back to the 16th: Please. Just shoot me. Put me out of that misery before it begins again.