As a hopeless romantic, I just love anniversaries, and Michel and I celebrate a lot of them: the day we met … our first real date … our engagement … our marriage … the first time we ate ice cream together (okay, maybe that one is an exaggeration—but just barely). We don’t stop with anniversaries, though; we even celebrate the “monthaversaries,” as in “Today is 17 months since … blah, blah, blah.” Some of my friends used to joke about my monthly spate of Facebook dedications, but they’ve grown awfully quiet these days. They must have all just suppressed me from their newsfeed. After almost three years together, I guess marking monthaversies had become old-hat. So, a few weeks ago, I asked myself: “Why not celebrate a different date—some unusual milestone?” Well, geeky hopeless romantic that I am, I did the math and determined that today—February 12—marks one thousand days since we said those magic words to each other for the very first time:
I love you.
Je t’aime, aussi.
Pretty good idea, huh? But how to celebrate? Well, living in Paris definitely puts the pressure on you to come up with something extraordinary. Paris doesn’t have a monopoly on romance, of course, but there is something magical about this city that can turn the most ordinary of moments into a scene from a sappy romantic comedy:
(Don’t skip the video! It’s really cute.)
So what did I come up with? A crêpe sucrée? A crème brûlée? Beret shopping? Well, no. I didn’t want my little Phineas to miss his cue, so I decided to get a cadenas d’amour—
a “love lock.”
For years now, lovers from Paris and around the world have descended on the bridges of the city (most notably the Pont des Arts) and have left thousands of these tokens of enduring love fastened to their railings. Warehouse-sized padlocks, bike locks, or combination locks, they each bear some heartfelt declaration by the people leaving them there, whether the words are etched, engraved, or simply handwritten with an indelible marker. According to one theory, the love lock phenomenon is a case of life imitating art: in Fernando Moccia’s novel I Want You, a couple declares their love by attaching a padlock to a lampost on a Roman bridge and throwing the key into the Tiber. In 2006, lovesick teens placed so many locks on the lamppost described in the novel that it eventually collapsed under their weight. Whether or not Moccia’s novel and the ensuing Roman padlock craze originated the Paris phenomenon, the practice here prompted City Hall in 2010 to raise concerns about damage to the city’s “architectural heritage.” Shortly after that announcement, the vast majority of the locks on the Pont des Arts were removed in a nighttime operation. City Hall quickly denied any involvement, and there haven’t been any similar announcements since then. As the photo above attests, couples have returned with new love locks, and the railings of the Pont des Arts are once again almost at full capacity.
So, taking our cue from lovesick teenagers in Rome and countless other couples here in Paris, Michel and I ventured out to the Pont des Arts this afternoon. There on the bridge, shivering in windy, near-freezing conditions, we attached our little red love lock to a carefully selected spot on the railing and tossed the key into the Seine. I don’t think we could have chosen a more romantic way to celebrate a thousand days of love … notwithstanding that tourist who interrupted our big moment to ask us to take his picture! Oh well. It is Paris.
We saved the extra key to our lock, of course, just in case City Hall starts grumbling again about “architectural heritage” and we have to hurry down to the bridge to rescue our lock from the scrap heap. After all, I paid good money for that engraving!
Bonne Saint Valentin … un petit peu en avance!
Happy Valentine’s Day … just a bit early!
P.S. — Since publishing this, I’ve gotten several requests for recommendations for locations in Paris where you can get a love lock engraved. I ordered mine online through Pictilo. Their turnaround time was impressive; I had my love lock in my mailbox just a few days after ordering.
© 2012 Samuel Michael Bell, all rights reserved