XOTV WEEKLY: United States to France in a Pandemic -- A Modern Love Story
With all the immense historical changes that have happened in the last year, there has been one theme that comes back to warm me up and make me feel OK again, and that’s love.
The love that shone through the Black Lives Matter movement. The love that shone through our local communities as neighbor helped neighbor see out the economic hardships this pandemic has spotlighted (yes, we can indeed confirm that America did not and does not have the social foundations to help its people during a true crisis). And today, I’m talking about the love that shone through a movement that most people have not even heard of: Love is not Tourism.
I have been in a long-distance relationship for over two years now. We met back in October of 2018. I was a stressed-out NYU junior in the healthy stretch of a breakup, and he was a starry-eyed French exchange student at St. John’s University. We learned of each other’s humble backgrounds and fell in love after our first date. He spoke English, though anyone passing by could see that I had to speak at 0.5 speed and repeated myself so often for him that I ended up doing it without him having to ask me to.
And he ended up leaving that December. We’d been long distance ever since. Despite all the unhelpful commentary from our friends about how they could “never do something like that to themselves” and how they “don’t understand how we manage,” we made it work. Scrapping up savings to see one another in each other’s country every couple of months. It was a rollercoaster of tears, then pure joy and appreciation, and tears again. We dealt with it.
Then COVID came in the picture. We had rung in the new year in 2020 together. I spent some time with him in France before going back to school at the end of January. We planned to see each other when I graduated.
But borders closed. The world suffered. The United States suffered. France suffered. We distracted ourselves with TV, videogames and work. We had video dates watching movies together or playing quiz games. For ten months, we lived completely separate lives. While he didn’t express his negative feelings much, I felt his morale plummeting too.
That is, until we were given the golden ticket to see each other once again. In his researching fury of desperately trying to find a way to enable us to travel, my boyfriend came across the ever-growing Facebook group, Love is not Tourism - specifically the one for “Couples franco étrangers.” With over 4,000 diverse members, you’ll find a wide range of binational couples trying to get their non-French partner to France.
That’s how we learned about the laissez passer, a special document distributed by the French Consulate that gives foreigners legal entry into France. I remember him explaining this to me, and I remember thinking how there was no way we’d get it. Our problem didn’t seem big enough. We were young college graduates, and as much as we felt love for one another, I couldn’t help but feel like people don’t take young love all that seriously, let alone the government.
But we tried anyway. We put together over 40 pages of plane tickets, passport stamps, photos, letters and travel information to prove our relationship was real, that our need to see each other was real. We told the French government our story. We even had a table of contents.
After several days of waiting, I got nervous. I was reading so many stories of couples being denied for reasons unexplained - though some could be unfortunately assumed based on the foreigner’s country of origin. There were couples who had children together that were being denied or ignored. Engaged couples. Couples who hadn’t seen each other for over a year. Couples well into their thirties, forties, fifties, who’d been together for a decade.
Yet 15 days later, I got the laissez passer. I got my golden ticket. My “VIP pass,” as my partner likes to say. I got the laissez passer in November and was ready to finalize my ticket to France by December 5.
And I owe it all to that movement. France is unique in that it actually paved a way for couples to travel safely to reunite within the country -- only a couple other countries are doing this. While the process varies greatly in terms of response time and the chances of getting approved, the laissez passer allowed me to go out and see my partner for the holidays in spite of the pandemic that has been keeping us all inside, and for many, apart.
This global grassroots movement empowered us to fight for our love and keep pursuing what feels so uncertain yet so real. Today, the ability to gain this pass is what is uncertain, as it evolves with COVID’s impact and our country’s responses. Each day I am able to spend quarantined with my partner is a great day, and I will always be grateful for the #LoveisnotTourism movement, and the thousands of binational couples who helped us get here. We owe it all to love.
About the Author:
Brittany Du Bois is an author, writer and game writer based in New York City. A New York University graduate with a Bachelor's in Sociology, her heart belongs to storytelling through any medium, with particular love for fiction and personal essays. Learn more at brittanydubois.com.