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Locked and Loaded: Love Locks Inundate the Bridges of Paris

The Fad Is
Latching On

Paris Update Love Locks General View

A closer look at those locks reveals some interesting permutations. Not to mention perversions.

From the latest edition of Bartlett’s Vaguely, and Regrettably, Familiar Quotations: “Love locks have come to Paris. In case you’re unaware of this phenomenon, it has become a fad for lovers to solemnize their passion by inscribing their names on a padlock, snapping it onto the railing of a bridge and throwing the key in the water.”

C’est Ironique, Sept 14, 2010.

Things have changed in the two years since I first wrote about love locks in Paris, which were then relatively few in number and confined to the city’s two footbridges, the Pont des Arts, facing the Louvre, and the Passerelle Léopold-Sédar-Senghor between the Orsay Museum and the Tuileries Gardens.

Those two structures were cleared of locks in 2010, whereupon the key party switched to the Pont de l’Archevêché, no doubt chosen for its central location, picturesque site behind Notre Dame, relative lack of traffic, and the fact that it’s the only other bridge in town with wire mesh barriers that can accommodate a padlock or two.

Or ten thousand:

Paris Update Love Locks Close

Note to lovestruck locknuts: like the hotels in the neighborhood, the Pont de l’Archevêché has no vacancy. There’s no more room to squeeze in another padlock, and it literally has locks on locks:

Paris Update Locks On Locks

Not surprisingly, more locks have now reappeared at the original two sites as well. The Pont des Arts is once again pretty well covered:

Paris Update PdA-Long-overview

And the Passerelle Léopold-Sédar-Senghor also has its share:

Paris Update Passerelle-Overview

It looks like there’s no curbing this craze. The city has apparently given up trying to shear off the locks, much less discourage the addition of new ones, judging from the presence of lock vendors on all three bridges. Even the used-book mongers along the Seine are now doing a nice little sideline in padlocks and indelible ink pens:

Paris Update Lock Stand

Is the crude drawing of one key on top of the other a “subliminal suggestion” evoking the short-term benefits of buying a lock?

The phenomenon has reached such proportions that a well-known Web-based Anglophone lifestyle publication recently dispatched a special envoy to conduct a socio-scientific survey of the love locks of Paris. This respected researcher found that the locks cover a wide spectrum of size and quality, from the antique:

Paris Update Antique Love Lock

Sammy and Azul must be a riot at steampunk rallies.

To the sleekly modern:

Paris Update Modern Lock

In case you’re wondering, “Abus” is a French security equipment brand. And indeed the French word for “abuse.” Probably just a concidence.

From the commonplace:

Paris Update Commonplace Lock

This is a contemporary replica of the very first love lock to appear on the Pont des Arts in 1998. The original is now enshrined in the Louvre.

To the thematic:

Paris Update Heart Lock

Something tells me that this lock originally came with a set of pink fur-lined handcuffs.

And from the tiny and flimsy:

Paris Update Tiny Flimsy Lock

I guess if you’re in a hurry to get back to the hotel for padlock sex, the combilock from your carry-on bag will do.

To the massive and, if you happen to be Romanian, patriotic:

Paris Update Big Love Lock

Yes, we see it. Yes, big lock. Bought you some paint, too. Very nice.

Furthermore, the inscriptions cover the gamut from crude pocket knife scratches and felt-tip scrawls:

Paris Update Scratch  Scrawl

A calligraphic style that only a lover could love.

To professional engraving:

Paris Update Pro Engraving

Quite an investment for the equivalent of carving your initials on a park bench.

Our intrepid investigator also identified some interesting developments in the field of amorohaspology, as the discipline is called in the scientific community. For example, some couples skip the trip to the hardware store and content themselves with a simple ribbon or piece of cloth:

Paris Update Cloth And Ribbons

Some of those shreds look like they were torn in haste from a soon-to-be-tossed-aside undergarment.

Or even just a hunk of plastic sliced off a shopping bag:

Paris Update Hunks Of Plastic

Pretty soon we may be seeing lengths of latex as well. Try not to think about it.

It has been concluded that these less permanent, less symbolic tokens stand not for passionate, undying love but rather for tepid, moribund lust: summer flings, holiday indiscretions, one-night stands, toilet stall quickies and other sundry foreign entanglements.

Bearing out this hypothesis, one strand of white polyethylene on the Pont des Arts yielded a faded inscription written in lipstick saying, “Jacques and Rhoda, 3 pretty good hours.”

Also, variations have emerged in the usual couple scenario. Consider these examples:

Paris Update Two Mikes

“Mike heart Jinny” and “Mike + Angela.” Same kind of locks, same handwriting, same place on the same bridge, and apparently attached on the same day. Hmmm.

Mister Mike seems to have been hedging his bet there. Either that or he was having one hell of a week. And he’s not the only one who believes that “two (bobbing) heads are better than one”:

Paris Update Two Monikas PdA

I’m presuming that “Nika” actually means “Monika”—a practice run with the correction fluid.

Maybe Monika and Erika should get together with these good-time gals:

Paris Update Five Women Lock

Anna, Connie, Emma, Molly and “Rach.” Ran out of room on the lock for Rachel. Probably in the bed, too.

Sorry my photo is a little out of focus, but I was distracted by imagining the scene.

Then there’s this lothario:

Paris Update Two Thiagos

Old “Six Month Thiago” they used to call him.

The two locks are so similar it has to be the same guy. Looks like Thiago broke up with his eternal soulmate Carol after his 2011 vacation and then came back to Paris with a new girlfriend, who could spell his name right, exactly six months later.

If things don’t work out with Daniela, I suppose we can expect a third lock marked “Isabella e Thiago,” or perhaps “Thiago e Carol II,” to appear on September 17th this year.

Now, speaking of locks on locks, what’s up with this one?

Paris Update Master And Servants

Here we have another French security equipment brand. Maybe it’s not a coincidence after all...

Since the big one is the “Master,” my guess is that there’s a very affectionate S&M dominator somewhere out there with a huge dungeon.

Lastly, someone on the Pont de l’Archevêché was either trying to take the trend into new territory or, more likely, heard wrong when the concept was explained:

Paris Update Love Sock

“Oh! Love locks! I thought you said...”

So what’s next? Love clocks? Love smocks? Will men start wrapping the bridges with love jocks?

The possibilities are endless, and apparently so is the stream of lovers who want to add their little piece of steel to a Parisian bridge and their key to the Seine.

Pretty soon there will be enough extra metal attached to the city’s bridges to build another bridge. Which will soon be lined with padlocks. This process will then continue until half the river is covered with bridges and the other half filled in with keys. Then, and only then, will the fad die out.

But I know, deep in my heart, that one thing will live on forever: Thiago’s love.

For Anna, Connie, Emma, Molly and Rachel. And Monika.

David Jaggard

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Reader Anika Savage writes: "Hilarious!"

Reader Naoma Foreman writes: "I am an American who visits Paris for a few months a year and find the love locks to be charming. What is greater than love? No, I have not placed one there, but maybe next year..."

Reader Margo Berdeshevsky writes: "Well, personally I am/would be happy to be the grinch/grunch/grump that stole Christmas on this particular subject. For one, the locks are ugly and they obfuscate lovely bridges and sites and sights. Bah humbug. And for two, tea for two and love for two and love, in general, and in all its glories, and in particular should never be a locked subject imho. Love is the freedom to love. And if it needs a symbolic or a real lock to protect it, then it ain't love, it's prison. Voila.

"See ya in the divorce courts, or or or... Bottom line, if one has to lock up love, is it free to love? Non, et non et non."

Reader Elaine Breakstone writes: "I always giggle at your right-on read of what's new and quirky and fun to read about in Paris. As for this one, I've done it with boyfriend many times... and the neatest was when a rainbow appeared on a rainy (what else is new?) day just as we pinned our signature to the bridge... and when I looked down, there was a barge with my name on it. What a perfect signature!"

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