Thursday, November 16, 2006

I swear!

I've been finding that I talk to myself a lot lately. Certainly something to do with age, with living alone.

The good news is that I'm muttering in French. "Ou est-ce que j'ai mis mes lunettes -- encore? " and "Je ne vois pas du TOUT ou est l'arret de l'autobus dans ce quartier." Things like that. (Don't worry about translations. It's just mumbling.)

And even when there is something that annoys me, like bumping into a protruding table leg or finding a hole in a sweater, I'll utter a little "aie!" or "merde!". So very French I am becoming, n'est-ce pas?

So, for example if I am skittering down to the subway to do some Paris exploring and just miss the subway car, I might puff out my cheeks and whoosh an "Ah, merde!" to myself. And wait for the next car.

On the other hand, if I am sitting in my pajamas in my apartment drinking cafe au lait and the phone rings at 9h45 and it's my French colleague saying "Where ARE you the meeting started 15 minutes ago" and I mistakenly thought her changement about the meeting was moving the time to 2 and it was moving the address to a 2 and I had been hoping to impress Mr. Big Businessman by being so Audrey-Hepburn-elegant and professional and so I lie and promise to be there in half an hour and I take the world's quickest shower and slap on Hermes body lotion and face brightener and guzzle mouthwash and verrrry carefully put on mascara and blush and throw on clothes that should have been ironed and rush out the door and stampede through the street and down the stairs of the metro station and accidentally stomp on the ankle of the kneeling woman with the "S.V.P. aidez moi" cardboard sign and toss out a "pardonnez-moi madame!" and then wonder if beggars are supposed to be addressed as Madame and dash down the smelly corridor as I hear the train's doors squealing as I run run run to the platform and the doors slam shut in my nose,

then I shout, "F*CK!!!"

Actually, since I have read Kirsten Lobe's delicious novel, "Paris Hangover," I now say, "f*ckityf*ckf*ck" which actually may sound a bit more ladylike and delicat. It sure feels better.

I don't think Audrey Hepburn ever said the f-word. Now that I'm living in Paris I'm trying SO hard -- really, I am -- to be more poised, more sophisticated, more civilized; and somehow, when I am speaking in French, I can do this. It's a different me, in a way. So, what language I speak makes a difference in who I am. In French I am more French, if that makes sense.

But it is so funny, how emotional peaks and valleys can elicit responses only in one's native tongue. Walking across the Pont de la Concorde one afternoon last week and seeing the western Paris sky at sunset, vermillion, salmon, rose, lavender, gold -- I unexpectedly belt out "Oh WOW!" and then catch myself and return to my adopted "refined" French comportement. There are, er, other times, too, when dialogue is flowing and engaged and in French, but in the heat of the moment suddenly arrives there just aren't words to automatically express that particular intense emotion en francais.

And last summer, wandering through BHV with my daughter, we hear the usual announcements over the department store public address system. Then we turn to see the hair-gelled, smiling man next to us crooning "Bonjour, mesdames et messieurs" into a cordless mike, and it is HE who is making the store announcements, live. I burst an American style (almost hyena) guffaw and screech, "Omigod look -- it's him!" Yes, customers on all 5 floors of BHV heard Polly's so un-French comment broadcast by that live mike.

In Paris, I try to channel Audrey Hepburn, but sometimes Lucille Ball unexpectedly puts in a suprise showing.

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