Sunday, March 30, 2008

Quelle pain in the nuque

Of all the dilemmas in France, I never anticipated this.

Yesterday afternoon, quite suddenly I got a really bad crick in my neck. Earlier, I had dashed out of the apartment to do an errand, with slightly damp hair pulled hastily into a pony tail. I guess the fashion & beauty gods couldn't figure out how to punish this mortal for such a Parisian coiffure transgression, so they dealt me a stiff neck as penance.

I suffered through a quiet evening at home, with a fuzzy muffler warming my aching neck and indulging in frequent ibuprofen therapy (both pills and the lovely nurophen topical gel from the pharmacienne). Sleep was tormented, but I was determined to make the most of my Sunday.

So I decided to buck up and head out for the day's activities. Busy agenda today. I hadn't been to the Cathedral in a while, and wanted to attend the Annual Art Show there sponsored by Les Arts George V. Lots of people to catch up with. Of course, by now I know the drill at Parisian receptions: bonjour, bonjour -- and bisous-bisous.

And that's where the pain-in-the-neck problem came in. After the first brief peck at a friend's right cheek, I yelped in pain: the required turning of my head quickly to the side for the air-kisses sent a knife-like jab into the nape of my neck. Repeat for the left-cheek kiss. Agony!

Here I was, supposedly delighted to be reunited with friends old and new, and each time I saw someone approach, an involuntary look of dread must have crossed my face as I anticipated the searing pain. Then my grimace after the first torturous bise, the face turning pale from pain after the second bise.

Repeat that scenario about twenty times. By the fifth air-kiss, the pain was streaking down my shoulder-blade. Help! In a crowded, noisy room, with people babbling in French and English, you can't exactly say "I can't give you a kiss because I have a stiff neck" when a cheek is offered. Besides, no one really wants to know about my minor ailments.

Normally it's not a big deal. I've had a sore neck before; and, I've been in France for a while -- but I never had both occur at the same time. I tried to muster every milligram of stoicism and acting skills in order to bob and weave through the crowd, and was doing a mighty poor job of it.

I survived to tell the tale, of course, but I wondered: what is the proper protocol when you are temporarily un-kissable in France?

Okay hair-style gods, I've spent a full day atoning for my sin. Enough already! And please, I don't ever want to hear the phrase "turn the other cheek" again.


Isabelle said...

Instead of trying to explain that you have a sore neck when someone wants to kiss you, just tell them that you have la grippe, they won't insist!
I advise you to see an osteopath for your neck, he (or she) will really help you.

Polly-Vous Francais said...

Great advice, Isabelle - merci!

So now my question: what's the difference between an osteo and a kine? I was wondering which I should consult for the pain-in-the-neck...

blueVicar said...

Did you go to the American Cathedral? I had the pleasure of meeting quite a few folks there in the fall of 2006 and again at the "Transformed by Stories" workshops twice in 2007. Maybe we have some common acquaintances??!

A pain in the neck is, well, a pain in the neck. Hope it's better!

Meilleurs voeux!!

Isabelle said...

The kiné usually helps people recover the function of their muscles after a car accident, a broken leg or after a delivery for women for example. Your doctor will write you an "ordonnance" to see a kiné, and the cost will be covered by the social security and your mutuelle.
You go to the osteopathe on your own will, usually when you have a chronic pain that won't go away with pain killers (like sore back, sore neck etc.). The osteo works "en douceur" on different parts of your body to put everything back in order. The cost of each visit isn't reimbursed by the social security.
I've seen an osteo for a very bad sore neck and it helped wonderfully. Plus they usually "feel" other things that are not right in your body and put them back in place!!

laroseanglaise said...

I hope you are feeling better.
For future reference, I agree with Isabelle, when you are unkissable for some reason, when someone does that movement as if they are moving in for a kiss, you can hold your hands up or simply move back, smile and say "I can't faire les bises because I have a bad neck/flu/stomach bug (gastro)/coldsore" and then extend your hand for a handshake. Then you are considered nice for not infecting them rather than unsocialble.
Being a Brit, I'm usually a bit doctor shy but since about a third of my salary goes to social security, I again agree with Isabelle and would say take advantage of the available medical care!
Take care, hope it feels better.

Polly-Vous Francais said...

BV - Yes, it was the American Cathedral. There's quite a din in the reception hall when a crowd is gathered, so

many thanks to roseanglaise and isabelle for the social cues/gestes.

The only experience I'd had with this was decades ago, when a funny but often formal friend, Andre, announced his head cold in a mock-aristo-falsetto voice, "Ne vous approchez pas, chers amis, j'ai un rhume!"

I knew I didn't have time for that particular sound bite in a crowded room, so the gesture info is much appreciated!


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