PARIS — The city of romance got a lesson in love's hard knocks, as thousands flocked to the French capital's first divorce fair.
In France, nearly one in two marriages ends in divorce, according to the country's National Institute of Demographic Studies. More than 130,000 divorces were registered in 2007, compared with 50,000 three decades ago.
The "New Start" trade fair aimed to tap into that booming market by bringing together 60 stands offering both services obviously related to separation — law firms and counselors — and also more obscure disciplines aimed at helping people get back on their feet, like tarot card readers, makeover specialists and self-esteem coaches.
Conferences during the weekend fair, which some 4,000 people attended, included talks titled "Plastic surgery's role in reconquering your image" and "How to reseduce your partner using the Gestalt method" and "Separation: What does a lawyer do?"
The fair's organizer, Brigitte Gaumet, said she got the idea for the event after President Nicolas Sarkozy divorced his second wife after taking office in 2007.
"For me, that crystalized that divorce has lost its stigma and is really a commonplace thing," Gaumet said Sunday. "Lots of people going through divorces — and also people getting separated or who are widowed — are looking for information on how to bounce back and how to reconstruct."
The stands offering legal advice attracted the biggest crowds.
Charles Rene and Verena Carlo were among the rare couples waiting in a long line to talk to a lawyer. Married — but not to each other — both were about to leave their long-term partners and were seeking to make the process as painless as possible.
"Choosing a lawyer can be really complicated and this isn't the kind of thing you just want to pick someone randomly out of the Yellow Pages for," said Rene, a 46-year-old father of two.
The line at several of the makeover specialists, however, snaked out of their stand and down the corridor. And at the Instutut Cellusionic, a stand offering weight-loss solutions, a young woman in a black bikini underwent an extensive ultrasonic anti-cellulite massage while a small crowd gathered to watch.