Nuit Blanche

I’ve been wanting to write about this French expression for a while now, and I finally have the occasion!

Nuit blanche is the French expression for an “all-nighter” — literally “white night.” It refers to a night when you don’t sleep at all, and it could result from any of several reasons — including, importantly for  a student, staying up all night cramming for a test. But for most French, I suspect, a nuit blanche is associated with partying all night long!

<cue Lionel Ritchie>

Since 2002, “La Nuit Blanche” has been used to refer to an annual all-night arts festival in Paris. Every October, the city’s museums, art galleries, and cultural centers open to the public free of charge for an entire night. In fact, the City of Light truly lives up to its nickname by turning itself into an outdoor art gallery with performance spaces and art installations all over the place. The history of La Nuit Blanche is long, but it seems to have been inspired initially by Helsinki’s 1989 “Night of the Arts” and the subsequent wave of such nocturnal arts festivals across Europe. You can click here for some of the history of La Nuit Blanche, and here for a guide to Paris’s most recent festivities on October 6 of this year.

My nuit blanche this week was just a bit different, though …

November 6 was, of course, Election Night 2012 back in the States, so I wasn’t hanging out in museums until the break of dawn. I wasn’t out partying all night, either, although there was no shortage of American expat election parties Tuesday night. (In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have wimped out on the Democrats Abroad election party, because it looked like a really good time in the pictures the next day.) Instead, I spent my all-nighter watching the results from the comfort of my couch … and then from the comfort of my bed. It wasn’t a half-bad way to do it; I could follow my friends on Facebook and Twitter while switching back and forth between live streaming coverage on PBS and NBC … plus I didn’t have to obsess over what to wear!

Now, it should come as no surprise to anyone who’s followed my story that I was a big Obama supporter this campaign season. For obvious reasons, it was very important to me that the President be re-elected, not the least of which was his support for LGBT civil rights. As an American married to a Frenchman, the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)” is the sole impediment to my ability to move back to the States with my spouse. There’s a long road ahead before bi-national couples like us will have justice, but one thing’s certain: re-electing President Obama was a necessity. (You can read a heart-felt message on this topic here.)

So, although I was psychologically prepared for both potential outcomes …

© 2012 Samuel Michael Bell, all rights reserved

… I was anxiously hopeful for an Obama victory when election coverage started at 1 a.m. local time. Of course, the first results to come in were all in Romney’s favor, so it wasn’t at all easy to keep myself in high spirits:

I knew, of course, that I was in for a long night, so I had been steadily caffeinating myself since my afternoon disco nap. On the other hand — despite his valiant efforts to stay awake — Michel turned in around 3 a.m. That’s when I found myself bundled up in bed with my laptop on my knees and my earbuds in, watching NBC News’s crack ice skating team updating the electoral map in “Democracy Plaza.” And then the moment came when things finally started to look up:

As if a trickle had suddenly turned into a flood, the good news just started pouring in: Elizabeth Warren, Tammy Baldwin, Claire McCaskill, Tammy Duckworth, and then … THE moment:


That’s when I jostled Michel to wake him up and share the big news; the poor guy had been snoozing so soundly for a few hours, but he simply had to celebrate the moment with me! He’s not one to jump right out of bed and into his shoes, though, so while I was on the phone with my mama back in South Carolina crying with joy, Michel was making himself some coffee. And then, at 5:30 a.m., I popped the cork on my demi-bouteille of bubbly, and Michel and I toasted:

“To four more years with President Obama!”

“To our future!”

© 2012 Samuel Michael Bell, all rights reserved

It had been a long night … but it had been a sweet one.

Michel eventually drifted back off to sleep, but I stayed up to watch the President’s victory speech. While waiting, I saw the early morning light filtering in through the cracks in the blinds, so opened the window, breathed in the cold morning air, and saw the glow of a new dawn on the horizon. I felt renewed.

At 7:40 a.m., I watched the President give a magnanimous and inspiring victory speech, and my heart swelled with pride, relief, and — once again — hope for the future.

at 7:42 a.m. local time

Not long after that, I drifted off to sleep and, for good reason, I slept very well.

November 6 certainly wasn’t your usual Parisian nuit blanche, but it suited me just fine!

© 2012 Samuel Michael Bell, all rights reserved

5 thoughts on “Nuit Blanche

  1. i love this! for different reasons, this was very close to my night/how i felt about the election. to me it’s weird how being in another country can truly make you appreciate your own so much more. oh, and i must say that i am an ohio-registered voter who voted absentee 🙂 . four more years!

  2. I read this on the metro this morning during my commute and totally teared up. It made me so happy that we are from a country that can keep moving forward rather than denying people basic human rights. FOUR MORE YEARS!!!

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