The fashion pages of this past Sunday's New York Times Magazine featured photographs by Jean-Baptiste Mondino of dresses from the fall couture shows, shot amidst the wreckage of the in-progress renovations of Paris's Royal Monceau hotel.
I stayed at the Royal Monceau at the very end of 1999, when I went to Paris with a group of dear friends to celebrate the start of the new millennium. It was luxurious in a particularly old-school French way, with picture moldings and satin sofas and enormous tiled bathrooms, in the eighth arrondissement near the beautiful Parc Monceau.
Towards midnight on the 31st, after feasting on caviar from Petrossian, we walked a few blocks to the Arc du Triomphe, where we watched the astounding fireworks issuing forth from the Eiffel Tower less than a mile away, sublimely and not at all subliminally sexual in the way they grew from the base of the tower, rose along the shaft and then exploded in a paroxysm of light at the dawn of this new era.
It was the perfect way to start it. Another perfect start my friends didn't know about at the time was that I'd discovered I was pregnant a couple of weeks earlier, a tiny miracle after years of "trying" and several miscarriages, this time with no artificial assistance. That was Lily, who was not to be, and whose due date was August 20th. As I savored a tiny sip of champagne that night, I thought about what it would be like to be born in 2000 and always know your age just by what year it was, and how when I was eight I'd calculated how old I'd be in the year 2000 and couldn't believe I'd ever be that ancient.
Which is why I was struck by the inside back cover ad in the magazine just a few pages later, which asked, on behalf of an IVF center: "Are you over 40 and ready to have a baby?" The answers to those questions are now, respectively, yes and no. But at least Paris sera toujours Paris.
(My favorite dress in the layout, by Valentino.)