Login   Sign Up 


The Man Who Mistook A Hat For a Wife

by Jeremiad1971 

Posted: 24 March 2007
Word Count: 1097

Font Size

Printable Version
Print Double spaced

A spokesman in the Paris Chamber of Commerce, when responding to a tourist survey, famously said: “The overall impression from the British and the Germans is that they love France but would rather the French weren’t there.”

It appears they may have to add the Japanese.

Apparently, every year, a dozen or so Japanese visitors to the French capital have to be repatriated with a condition labelled “Paris syndrome”. For some, it is close to a psychiatric breakdown and the Japanese embassy often has to supply a nurse and a doctor to accompany the sufferer on the plane home.

A stereotypical victim is in her early thirties, on her first trip abroad with high expectations of life in Paris – the sensation of walking on historic cobbled streets, the anticipation of high culture, the art of the Louvre. Their minds race away and conjure a chateau in the sky, a vision that causes the heart to accelerate, the breath to shorten and suddenly their giddiness enforces a lie down with hallucinations.

The first hint the bubble may not be impervious might be the rude taxi driver at the airport but this is too easily dismissed as an out of town coincidence

At the hotel there could be the discovery the manager has a whiff of unexpected sarcasm or the bellboy has a touch of surliness. The bubble is clearly vulnerable and there are the first symptoms of mild anxiety.

After a few weeks, this has developed into a persecution complex and the sufferer is not spending so much time in restaurants. After two months, they are on the verge of full-blown despair and struggle to shrug off the duvet.

Three months? Weeping down the twenty-four hour hotline to the embassy, prepared to accept a racehorse as long as it scoots them out of Paris and starts their journey home.

I have never been to Paris but, as I was on my snow-crunching constitutional today, I realised that, should I visit, I could potentially start a diplomatic incident. I could imagine bleating down the phone line, curled in a foetal ball, fist thumping the carpet, desperate for a Japanese Chargé to extricate an English bloke from a French city.

Therefore, I decided, as another attractive young mother walked past me in her bobble, I shall never go, as it is my theory – and I need not for science to back me up here – that hats are very popular with French ladies.

Women wearing hats and the French language drive me wild. It is hard to rationalise but my Damascene moment came in my mid twenties when I was Christmas shopping with a mate’s then girlfriend.

We were in the M&S lingerie department, having a bit of a laugh, when she leaned her plush hatted bonce over and said “That one is very French”, laughed and then proceeded to pour her silky, fluent French into my ear while I stared, glassy-eyed, at a mannequin sporting Illusion knickers.

She laughed heartily, performed a Gallic flick of her head and strode off into the Misty area.

I was a hormonal mess. We left M&S but there were hats everywhere. I mumbled something about needing to buy toys for my nephews and bumbled her into The Early Learning Centre, anything to be away from the infestation of hats. I couldn’t get sex off my mind and when paying for a multi coloured xylophone I noticed Daniel, the name-tagged teenage shop assistant was wearing jingle bells on his wrist.

“Ha, ha, do they make you wear those for Christmas?” said my mate’s girlfriend, loudly.

Daniel nodded, glumly.

“I thought they were aversion therapy for excessive masturbation”, I said.

“You can sod off” he jingled, as he summoned his supervisor and I was bustled out of the toy shop for immature behaviour by a determined Mrs. Pepperpot, who thankfully flaunted a reassuringly visible bun hairstyle and therefore did not make an impression on my sexual psyche.

It helped the moment pass but ever since I have been projecting fantasies onto unsuspecting chin straps wherever I go. I don’t know if there was an adolescent flashbulb moment but I fear a part might have been played by an episode of The Good Life depicting Felicity Kendall in a snow ball fight

I cannot help myself handing them massive quantities of mystique, style and, bizarrely, artistic credibility.

Every time, the hat provides a starting point for a personal adventure into wonderland and my normal, rational poker playing personality parachutes out of my body as it senses the first kindling in my ears. Within seconds, my nostrils are flaring like a Derby runner and my legs buckle on an internal camber. It’s the sight of the framed face with hidden, probably luxuriant hair and the presence of a pair of brave earlobes.

The woman then passes, ambling on to her probably highly mundane mission, unaware, as my castle comes crashing down, of the melting presence behind her.

Like the Japanese in Paris, I would suffer terribly if exposed to beret-clad beauties, spouting mellifluous French at me, made all the more sexy by the fact I can’t understand a word of it. My body could not prolong the state of agitation. I would start to nestle in my boudoir, terrified by the possibility that one of my creations might turn out to have hairy armpits or, worse, not have read all of À la recherché du temps perdu and guffaw at my suggestion.

Alternatively, and rather more devastatingly, a stay in Paris might serve to desensitise me to the day-making potential of a glimpse of a little felt number turning a corner on a bright February in Covent Garden.

For sufferers of Paris syndrome it is said the only permanent cure is to go back to Japan and never return to Paris.
I wonder, as the suffer is trolleyed off at Haneda airport and they allow the first triggers of an acceptable external reality to seep into their consciousness, the architecture matching their own constructs of a pragmatic habitat, do they begin the process, possibly stealing a side glance at the international departure board, of constructing another fantasy, maybe this time based on, say, Florence, which will become another internal Duomo, one they will have the self knowledge never to tarnish with actual physical experience?

I hope so as I need my hats.

Sometimes there has to be a bit more than another windswept tatty head and there is nothing wrong with building the occasional castle in the sky, the problem lies in residing in it.

Favourite this work Favourite This Author

Comments by other Members

roger at 13:54 on 25 March 2007  Report this post
Hi David,

Another really good piece (loved the title), with many funny lines – personal favorites –

“I thought they were aversion therapy for excessive masturbation”, I said.

who thankfully flaunted a reassuringly visible bun hairstyle and therefore did not make an impression on my sexual psyche.

the possibility that one of my creations might turn out to have hairy armpits
– yes, I’ve noticed that about French women!

And the last para was exceptional, except that as ‘castle’ is singular, perhaps ‘it’ would be better than ‘them’?

No major things to pick flies out of, none at all, so here are a couple of VERY minor ones, which are just MHO –

‘and I need not for science to back me up here’ – strictly speaking, there’s nothing wrong with this but I had to read it 3 times to properly understand it. Maybe ‘and I don’t need’ would be easier to read than ‘and I need not for’ ?

‘possibly stealing a side glance at the international departure board, of constructing another fantasy,’ should ‘of constructing’ be ‘or constructing’?

Good stuff.


Jeremiad1971 at 01:36 on 26 March 2007  Report this post
Hello Roger,

Again, I'm indebted to you for taking the time to not only read but offer feedback.

I will make the changes.

Thanks again


To post comments you need to become a member. If you are already a member, please log in .