The few weeks before I went to Paris I faithfully studied French grammar every evening, hoping that by studying the subjunctive tense, I would channel the French language skills I once possessed. Unfortunately, studying French and actually speaking French are two entirely different things. I hate my own voice speaking in English, much less in French. So, I tried to avoid speaking at all costs. This was also done, because I realized until I opened my mouth, most people actually thought I was French. When I got on the plane in Chicago, the flight attendant said hello in English to everyone who was in line ahead of me, but when he spoke to me, I got a “bon soir!” In France, people were coming up to me and asking me for directions, like I was a Parisian native. I count this as a tremendous success, in part because I find there is so little that I associate positively with being an American these days. In writing these words, I realize I am giving up my chance of ever running for public office one day, but I am just so sick of living in a country with no universal health insurance, xenophobic immigration laws, and a go-it-alone attitude when it comes to foreign policy. When I came back to the US, the lines and the shouting just in going through immigration at Dulles were enough to make me want to walk up to the border patrol attendant and renounce my citizenship. But I am getting way ahead of myself here.
In France, I realized that to pass for French, I had to wear nice shoes, even if they made my toes fall off. Unfortunately, this and the combination of excessive walking left me with painful and even swollen feet. One night my feet hurt so badly I had to utilize my shoes of last resort – my flip flops. That night, people didn’t mistake me for French. They knew I was American.
I should note, not everything about the French system I love. Just visiting Napoleon’s tomb was enough to make practical me roll my eyes with its excesses. But I do love the 35 hour work week, and the universal healthcare, and the fact that in France every week someone is rioting or starting a revolution or calling for some politician’s outster. It keeps things so interesting! It isn’t a trip to France unless someone is rioting over something…
Here is a picture of me trying to look French in the basement of the Louvre (my favorite part coincidentally, which I will discuss more when I return to my daily narrative).