In Paris, love is a public display. It’s spray-painted on the walls, hung in the museums, carved in stone, written across t-shirts, acted out in the theatre, and most frequently and unblushingly rehearsed in the streets. Paris is synonymous with romance.
The city only enhances itself by night with lights, music and candle lit cafés. Dozens of bridges offer the most romantic views of the city. They arch up from the left bank to the right bank like a giant rib-cage over the water way. Looking out over the vast expanse of the river I can see the Eiffel Tower in its iconic place along the Seine. The jagged spires and arches of the Notre Dame Cathedral shine black and gold in the late evening sun. As couples get up from their coveted spots in the cafés, they cling to one another savouring each moment. It’s hard not to get caught up in a moment.
But, a small foot bridge, Pont des Art, is one of the most noteworthy symbols of affection in Paris. For the past decade or so, thousands of locks have been chained to the fencing along the bridge. There are some competing theories on how this trend was started, but for the most part, people don’t know why it was started. Or, at least no Parisian is willing to own up to it.
I suppose it is one of those grandiose gestures of never-ending love for one’s partner. I am sure each couple went to the hardware store and carefully and lovingly selected, from an ordinary display, their pad-lock-of-love. Or, they possibly felt impulsive and bought one from the small man selling them for 4€ beside the bridge. Either way, their love for one another will now be solidified by fastening the lock to the bridge amongst all of the other shining locks that promise the same thing.
While I hate to be the cynical one, isn’t locking someone to a bridge the opposite of what love should be? Gilbert K. Chester said that, “The way to love anything is to realize that it may be lost.” Isn’t love something that should be won or lost every day? Should we permit ourselves to take love for granted because it has been symbolically locked-down? And worse of all, many have pledged their love in this way because they were following the heard of people already doing it without even considering why.
As I watch the small man reach into his pack of 12 locks and exchange one for a handful of euros, I feel disenchanted by his business. Of all of the ways you could love someone in Paris, the man in the fedora and Ray Bans has chosen to honour his trésor with the “today’s special” of amour.
So, fellas, in my humble opinion, if you want to show someone you love them, save yourself the 4€, and maybe try holding hands as you walk down a cobblestone street at dusk, or kiss her sweetly when she doesn’t expect it… or, dare I say it… tell her you love her often and with meaning. That will win her love every day. The locks will be cut off the fence next month.