europe

On Ordering Pizza

A few centuries ago, when I began this blog, I touched up on a subject that intrigued many people: the pitfalls one must navigate when attempting to order pizza and, even worse, having that pizza be delivered to your doorstep.
I think it’s time to share that story, which has now many other sequels, all more hilarious (see: pull-your-hair-out frustrating) than the other.

Let’s go back to the Fall of 2012. Young, fresh, bright-eyed Beatriz had people over her 15m2 château (let’s call it Château Lopez, for old times’ sake). It was a lazy, rainy weekend afternoon when hunger stroke past lunch time.
“Man, you know what I haven’t had since we left the States?”, someone said. “Pizza!”
There was a murmur of agreement and mouths began to salivate thinking about that delicious smell of warm pizza wafting from that cardboard box. A vessel of joy in times of academic uncertainty.
“Let me go online and order it!”, I said, unaware of the horrors that would befall me.
There *was* an online system. But my street did not qualify for the area Pizza Hut…nor for the Domino’s Pizza. No Papa John’s on this side of the Pond. Weird, right? Let’s remember Château Lopez was in the thick of Rue de Rennes, a huge thoroughfare, very popular for its shops.

But we were not to be discouraged- oh no! We were young and wild and free and we were finna get that pizza.
I looked for the number, and to my horror, there was only some hotline that cost 10 cents per minute. But we’re all American passport holders, and we liberated this country once, so what were 10 cents to this beacon of freedom?
After ten minutes of being on hold, I decided the beacon of hope was to be shut off.
We found more numbers (at this point, we might as well have gone downtown and gotten pizza, but, freedom).
“No, we do not deliver to your street”, call after call.
What?
Defeated, we gave up. Pizza was not to be had.

No, no. Drivers No Work Tonight. 
Fast forward to 2014. Pizza craving struck again. I decided Pre-Historic pizza ordering services had to have changed. I tempted fate and tried ordering some pizza on the internet.
(If anyone cares to know, I preferred the online method because that way, I don’t have to deal with the straight up shitty customer service everywhere, plus I don’t know the word for “thick crust”).
Anyway, so I was about done- I had selected my order, and all I had to do now was give my address. Of course, it wasn’t just as as simple as that: I had to fill in the number, and then select my street from a pull-down menu.
My street was not on the list.
Puzzled, I looked for the neighborhood pizzeria numbers (shitty customer service it is!) and had the S.O. call, since he’s French and knows how to say “thick crust”.
Called the first one- nope. Two kilometers was too far for their driver. Called the second one: Nope. They had received so many orders that day that they decided their drivers were tired, even though closing time was 2 hours away. Called the third one: our street did not show up in their system and did not know how to get there. Eventually, after some cajoling, we had pizza!
Now all we had to explain was how to get to the apartment. That means we have to give the access code to the building, explain which door to take, what floor to go, and which door to knock on. A good minute or two are spent at this.
About an hour later, however, I should not have been so stunned that we received a phone call: “Yeah, hi, this is the delivery guy. What’s your access code and how do I get to the apartment?”.

No, You Shut Up!
If there is something I don’t do, it’s learning lessons. It’s like that cycle where you have to go through the same experience over and over again until you learn and you achieve enlightenment and spontaneously combust.
But I’d much prefer to watch the delivery dude combust.
Here’s what happened: In a moment of weakness, we decided pizza was what we wanted for dinner. We decided to call the people who so kindly sent someone to the Elephant Graveyard where we seem to live and placed our order: 2 pizzas and a bottle of Coke.
Again, address, code, door, blah, blah, blah…
One hour later: “Hello, hi, this is the delivery guy. Where is….?”
“We gave the information to the place”
“Well, they don’t communicate that to us”.
Ah.
Eventually, a lanky youth was standing in our doorstep, with…one pizza. No Coke.
Mon gars…

After explaining to him that we had ordered two, the kid sprung down the stairs screaming “IT’LL ONLY BE A MINUTE!” *THUD THUD THUD THUD*
Again, S.O. knows more than to order “thick crust” and so he called the pizzeria (*cough*dominosonavron*cough*) to inform them about the mishap. The man on the other end couldn’t care less and said “ok yeah”. Then he asked to please let their people know that, no matter how enthusiastic they are about pizza deliveries (ok, those might by my words), they should not scream in residential buildings at 11pm.
Little did we know this comment would lead to chaos just a few seconds later when the delivery boy knocked on our door.
A funny chain of events all began at around the same moment. Delivery Boy arrives, S.O. thanks him and advices him to “try to be a little bit more silent next time- the neighbors will get angry at us”, Delivery Boy’s phone goes off, echoing like hell, he picks it up and does that thing where people scream on the phone. After hanging up, he was ready for murder: “You don’t know what talking loud is- I can speak real loud!”. He was, of course, not whispering at this point.
Delivery Boy gets uppity, on my doorstep, and I’m real glad tipping is not a thing in this country.
You try enjoying pizza after that.

Two weeks later S.O. received a text message: “Following the incident on x day, enjoy a 50% discount on your next offer”.
The offer was, of course, nearly expired by the time we received it.

“A Round Hairbrush” or “Why France Will Never Advance”

All I wanted was a round hairbrush.

All I wanted was to lock the door behind me, walk my happy self to my nearest Carrefour, and shove money in their faces in exchange for a nice, round, overpriced hairbrush.

But it’s Sunday, and as we all know, Sunday is the day of rest.

I have no problem with this, except the French will take on any excuse to not work, and I’m not exaggerating.
For example, France prides itself as a secular nation. On Friday, however, it was a national holiday because it was the Day of the Ascension. Furthermore, Monday is a “banking Monday”, so I will not be finalizing the last details for my bank account because, hey! Banks are closed.

Today, the damn supermarket is closed.

A round hairbrush.

Readjusting to Parisian life has been a little hard in some aspects. I am very happy to drink good coffee, walk down narrow alleys with charming façades, have picnics on the banks of the Seine. But when it comes to everyday things, some stuff is just really annoying, like having to argue every single little thing, or having people scoff when you ask them to do something they are supposed to do anyway (I’m talking to you “information” guy at CDG International who rolled your eyes up at me when I said bonjour).

When I went to one of the big, scary Tribunaux last week, to get some attestation for whatever weird paper the government loves to ask for. The office reminded me of some Harry Potter scene: there were two ladies, drowning in piles and piles of papers and files. They had just started doing an online service, but of course, the system is faulty and full of bugs and the turnaround time is about 30 years, give or take. The lady kept on complaining to the people in line that the internet was ruining things- that no demands should be made online…and because it’s France, no one cares. It’s this collective “IDGAF” from both sides that, at a micro level, is not letting France have a more logical and seamless system. Administration here is, most of the time, inefficient and retrograde. The old school refuses to embrace change, impeding and blocking new, less complicated approaches. The descaro is never hidden: they are proud of screwing others over, it seems. They are too afraid of not getting to scoff or argue with clients.

Anyway, when my turn came, Lady #2 behind the counter was at a loss because she could not find the name of the city I was born in (Caracas). After repeatedly pointing it out on the translated Birth Certificate (that cost me 249 euros) she ended up putting “Santiago de León”.

I mean, technically it’s right- Santiago de León is the name of the hospital.

Santiago de León and a round hairbrush.

The cherry on top, though, came the day I went to open a bank account and I ended up in an office with two French people arguing in front of me in very heated tones. Sandwiched between the two, I wanted to melt in my seat from the awkwardness. 
Bank of America may steal my money from time to time, but they don’t call me names… at least not to my face.
I walked out with neither a bank account nor the hope of one, because…welp! It’s France!

Frustrated from my experience at the bank, I decided I wanted breakfast and stopped at a little Bistro to get me some good coffee and bread. It was empty, and the second my ass touched the chair, the nice lady behind the counter told me I could not sit there.
I looked at her, bewildered- there wasn’t a single person there, but I could not sit where I wanted.

A round hairbrush on a Sunday.

Cool story, bra!

“Il faut que tu ailles chez Darjeelin!”
You must go to Darjeelin, recommended my friend Soria. She, like me, is very well-endowed on the chest section.
And so when my financial aid kicked in and I had a small fortune, I made my way to this Darjeelin store to see what was up.

At first, I was a little hesitant. It’s just an underwear store- I had no qualms walking into Victoria’s Secret back home, so why am I just standing outside, looking like a fool?
I take a step inside the store.
Bonjour madame, bienvenue!
Hi.
Comment puis-je vous aider?
Oh, I’m here for a bra.
Vous cherchez quelque chose en particulier?
No. I’m just going to browse.
I picked up the first bra. Looked at the tag. 90B. What the fuck is a 90?

Ouate de phoque?

After much second-guessing, and looking like a fool, I approached the girl. Madame, I shily said, si je suis une 36 aux États Unis, quelle est ma taille en France?
She dropped everything, made a delighted noise and launched onto the explanation of size conversions. I’m a 95. Ok, good! First step done!
She then proceeded to whisk me around the store, showing me all sorts of models and designs, and teaching me new vocabulary: bretelle (strap), bonnet (cup), armature (under-wire), rembourré (padded), dentelle (lace)… Yay! Suddenly things were not as scary- I was ready to don my first sexy French lingerie  piece!
She shoved me inside a fitting room with the usual “if you need anything, do not hesitate to ask me”.
All right, I will!
Strip!
After a few minutes, there I was- my inner Victoria’s Secret Angel oozing out of my pores. Or was it Darjeelin angel now? Damn, I was looking FINE in those French bras. Mm mmm!

This is me, duh

I heard the sing-song of the sales associate girl.
“Are you all right, miss? Would you like me to come in so we can see it together?”
Dafuck? She wants to get inside with me? Suddenly, the velour courtains of the fitting room began to shift- she was going in.
Terror gripped me. You want to see me in my bra!? WHERE AM I?
“I’m OK!”, I replied, trying as best I could to mask the sheer horror in my voice. When I said I would let you know if I needed help, I meant peeking my head out from the inside and asking for a different size! Not for you to come and look at me! What are you doing? Trying to sell me something that fits right!? Victoria would never do this!

After a few more bras, it seemed I surpassed the time limit without an associate inside the fitting room.
Despite my pleas to not come in and my insistance at the fact that I did not need her help, Sales Girl was inside the boudoir-style room with me.
There was nowhere to run, and if I had anything to cover myself with, I could not do it- she was pulling and tugging at my undergarment. My girls jiggled, my heart raced- I am hispanic! You can see me in a bathing suit, but never in my underwar! That’s just indecent!
After an eternity (or, like, 10 seconds), Sales Girl stood back, cocked her head to the side smiling and said “So, do we take it?”
It was as awkward as anything- We stood there, face to face. The measuring tape hanging from her neck, mocking me.
“Yes”, I said, “I’ll take them all”

True rendition of what happened outside

What did Beatriz learn from this experience? After much soul-searching and questioning, I realized that our bodies are not taboo! They’re just…well…a body! It’s our property and we have objectified it so much that we have made it taboo.
If you go to other stores, they have something called la cabine collective, or the “collective fitting room”. If you ever don’t feel like standing in line to try something on, just go in. There will be others trying on clothes as well…so what? They have bodies, too!

So did I go back to Darjeelin? Yes! Did I let Sales Girl come in?

Guess

A Farewell to Paris

(Let’s get uncomfortably personal!)

When I started this blog, I was merely following the suggestion of a very dear family friend who saw in me what I could not see (and still fail to see sometimes).

I, in the middle of a severe bout of depression, was desperate for a means to let out what I had bottled up inside my mind, inside my heart.

I hated Paris. I hated it so much. I hated its gray skies, its horrible, cold weather, its grumpy people…but most of all, I hated the isolation and the loneliness I lived in.

I know I have talked about the subject before, and it probably annoys the hell out of readers, but let me go into a little bit more detail, so you can understand what transpired:

It was first a little bit of seasonal depression. The lack of sunlight began to affect me here and there. Then, in the middle of this period of time, I had a falling out with someone I cared (and still care for) deeply. It was a fast descent into what has been probably the hardest time of my life. I found myself alone, half a world away from any source of support, and broken-hearted. There was a moment where everything settled and things seemed to finally be going well again, but once more, I tripped over the same stone and fell hard. Two people can care for each other all they want, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will end up happily together.

I became a carcass of what I used to be. I no longer smiled, I started skipping class, I failed courses. I did not eat nor get out of bed. My thesis remained unwritten for the good part of 6 months. I lost sense of what I came here for. I was ready to abandon ship and go home.

But I couldn’t do that.

I decided to take matters into my own hands, and with the help of a friend, I found a psychologist.

The healing process began and I have to say that actually working through these issues was more difficult than the situation itself. There was a lot of guilt, a lot of resentment, anger, regret, self-doubt, and sadness. I felt stupid to be going to a shrink because of a silly broken heart, but as it turns out, these sessions where I would be torn down were what helped me get my head once more above water. I learned it’s fine- nay, necessary- to ask for help. It’s not that you can’t help yourself, it’s that you’re ready to pull yourself by the bootstraps and carry on.

Slowly but surely, I came back to being me. A renewed me. A me that loves life so much more, for I realized what a beautiful gift it really is. I learned that I was the one who gave myself my own worth, I learned that even though I am a small person, I muster the strength of a giant.

I look back at this dark time, with this new perspective and I realized how necessary this whole ordeal was. How I could not change a single thing about it.

Today, I am where I want to be: I am sad to leave Paris.

But it has to finish. The ending page of this chapter is upon me, and I must turn it and continue writing my story.

As disappointed as I am to be leaving, I find comfort in knowing that I dictate my own life.

In Paris, I was torn to shreds, and I was able to rebuild myself. This has given me a new outlook: I can do whatever I want.

Last week, I defended my thesis, and passed. The sole act of finishing the document was a victory itself. To pass the test of fire (that was the defense) was proof that an effort does pay off and that I am a fighter and I can conquer even my greatest demons.

Furthermore, I realize now that I was never as alone as I thought I was. Despite the big distance, I had a huge support system that constantly made me feel like they were near me. Over the time I have been here, I have also forged the most beautiful friendships with the most caring and welcoming people. Their kindness and love will never be forgotten. I lock the memories in my heart, to always remind me that there is goodness everywhere and that I, too, must be as good to others as this group of individuals has been to me.

As for that gentleman I mentioned earlier, all I have is gratitude towards him: In giving me the darkest time of my life, in inducing in me the most pure and thorough of sadness and fear… he gave me light. He gave me the most beautiful thing you can give anyone: a stronger, more compassionate self.

Though it is highly unlikely these lines will ever encounter him (which is what emboldens me to make the statement about to come), it has to be said, at least once: I love you. And I wish it could be something I could tell you, face to face. Why? I know you don’t understand yet, but I love you for the beauty and joy you brought to my days with your sole presence, with your conversations, with the knowledge that we had each other and (at least on my end) we were thus invincible. I love you because I saw how big your heart is. I love you because I fully admire your determination, your courage, your ability to reason.

Now we go our separate ways, and that’s all right because that’s how things were supposed to play out. There is no point in going against anything. I embrace it, and seeing that you have not cast me aside (for whatever reason), despite all of our misunderstandings and heated arguments, has taught me compassion and forgiveness. I love you, and I will love you, because of all the wonderful memories I hold of us together along the years. My sole desire is that you, too, will smile when you think of me and that next time our paths cross, we are just two happy people.

And so, in six short days I bid farewell to this magical city- the place where in a single year I learned what should be learned in ten lifetimes. I go back home a different person, excited to begin life. I wish I could carry in my skin the grittiness of your streets, the sensation of freedom I encountered once I realized that everything was going to be OK. But I can’t. And that’s all right- I’ve learned to be patient.

 

Thank you, Paris. 

A day in the life

So this is what a very typical day consists of for me. Do notice a few things:

1. It’s very raw footage (shaky, etc. I’m warning you right now so don’t come to me with the “omg it’s shaky” comments afterwards). I’m a complete mess when it comes to iMovie and stuff.
2. Notice how many stairs I have to climb.
3. Notice how on the subway I was the first in line, and suddenly some guy gets in front of me (typical Parisian).

Enjoy!

So you’re coming to Paris, huh?

As I’ve said before, there’s something mythical about Paris. Whether it be the picture of the Eiffel tower pasted on everything that says “travel” or the whoring out of (faux) French culture spread through the world, everyone feels entitled to this city.

Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Champs-Elysées…
All tours take you there- all tourists want to see it.

Oh, for fuck’s sake.

This is not Paris, you fools!

You’re telling me that you’re hopping on a jet plane for (what I’m assuming it’s HOURS) to get to a foreign land, to ride a bus without a roof to go see something that is not at all representative of anything here?
I want to yell and scream at silly tourists who just come to duckface under the tower.

THIS. IS. NOT. PARIS.

People come here to get awed, no?
Well, awe is not elbowing your way through a mass of Asian tourists, it’s not riding the silly bateaux mouche (though it it is kind of nice), or dining atop the Eiffel Tower (you actually lose perspective of the city because you’re so high up).
You want to be truly awed? You want to experience something cool- something different?Look beyond your own nose!(!!!)

I’m just going to take a small example here: Notre Dame. The big, imposing Cathedral that dominates Île de la cité is incredible, however(!), its surroundings are just as beautiful and interesting. Odds are you’re coming to see it from the Saint-Michel area, and if so, you will most likely hit this tiny, non-descript church on the corner beforehand. Well, this church’s name is Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre, and it is built on foundations older than Notre Dame itself by almost 5 centuries. Yeah, you’re welcome.

Also, there’s a park right on the grounds of the church, Place René Viviani. A lot of people go there for the great Notre Dame shots, but they fail to see what I believe is what makes the park (and the reason I like it so much): A monument to the jewish children of the arrondissement who were deported during the Vichy government. Before the names and ages of the children are listed, the glass memorial asks for one thing: “Passerby read their names for your memory is their only sepulcher”.

If that’s not a tangible piece of history, I don’t know what is!

You’re going to see Place de la Concorde? When you get off the métro, look behind you, at Hotel Carillon and look at the doormen- their outfits are beautiful!

You finally went in and want to take a picture of the Rose Window at Notre Dame? Go for it, but save your camera memory for the chapel all the way in the back, dedicated to the Crown of Thorns. Better yet, attend service. Even if you’re not Catholic or don’t even believe in anything, the experience is incredible.

You want to take a picture at the Eiffel Tower? Take it from Passy, an affluent residential neighborhood right by the tower (line 6, stop Passy. Boom).

The real charm to Paris- the real­ Paris lies in its tiny, winding alleyways. The best way to truly get to know the city? Go off the stupid tourist trail, and get lost on foot in these passages.

You want to experience French fine dining? Why? You’re not even going to like the escargots you will most likely order, you will most likely get overcharged, tip like the tourist you are, and leave the establishment as hungry as you came in.
My advice? Eat in the streets or at mom and pop places.
Eat a “grec” (gyro) at Rue Saint-Severin. Look for the guy that looks like Anthony Bourdain- he makes the best ones. Eat a panini or a crêpe at Génia, right next to the big McDonald’s at the Cluny-La Sorbonne metro station. My girl Zoyla will hook yo hungry ass up.

You want to go ape-shit at the Louvre? Do please, by all means! But remember there is also Musée d’Orsay, Musée du Moyen Âge, free expos at Hôtel de Ville…

The list of things to do in Paris is endless! ENDLESS!!

Also, do please have a level of decency!
Expect to get pushed and shoved if you decide to open your map in the middle of a sidewalk. If you take the escalator because you’re too tired/lazy to walk, keep to your right. It’s like the highway- the left lane is the fast lane. People (power)walk/run on the left and they will be rude if you’re blocking them.
The trick to Parisians is to at least say hello in their language (and I know you know how to say this!). Do it with a smile, and they will most likely be civil to you. Overall, though, I find it that they will go out of their way to help you.

Paris is a big city, just like New York or Chicago. People are on a schedule, so just keep that in mind.

Also another tip, Concorde is the absolutely worst place in the world to buy métro tickets. So, don’t.

I know this is a very passive-aggressive post, but believe you me, I do it with all my love. It really does irk me when people pay incredible amounts of money to come here and they don’t even see a hundredth of what the city truly has to offer. It’s not the Eiffel Tower that matters- it’s the city around it that makes it what it is!

Paris is magical, specially as a traveler. Do not dilly-dally so much with the small stuff- get out there and explore!

(Recommendations of places upon request! :D)

The Day Richard Gere Fixed My Toilet (and gave me a history lesson)

Bathrooms are a funny thing in Europe. That is, if you have the good fortune of living somewhere that actually HAS a bathroom.
You know you’ve heard it- that horror story your mom’s friend’s cousin’s sister-in-law told at some dinner party a few years ago about her travels through Europe and how sometimes you come (hopefully not) face-to-face with a gaping hole in the floor. How barbaric must it be to squat and go back to nature, right?
Actually, yes.
(A thousand times yes!!)

Once upon a time, my toilet stopped working.
Not a big deal, right? Just use the plunger and let Jesus take the wheel.
Don’t forget I’m in France, though. My toilet is not a regular toilet. As a matter of fact, my toilet has an plug that is to be plugged in to wall for the engine to work to flush it.
A plunger is irrelevant in my life.

After letting out a cry of despair, I had to do what I had been dreading most of my stay: use the latrine in the hallway. Which belonged to my neighbors from across the hall. And smelled like dirty cat litter. I mean this thing is worse than the girl’s bathroom at the club after 3am.
Justpopthatsquatanddontlookdowndontlookdowndontlookdown.
I pulled on the lever to flush and down came the walls of the Hoover Dam.
I don’t think I’ve ever run so fast in my life. Faster than I do when I flush an airplane toilet. Did I even undo the lock?

JUST RUN, BEATRIZ! RUN!

I ran straight to my landlady and begged her to call her plumber.

Twenty-four hours later, I welcomed the man I have been waiting for more than my own Prince Charming: Monsieur Plumber.
But what sight doth met myne eyes when I threw my palace doors open?
Richard Gere.
And I’m not talking about a slight ressemblance. I’m talking Richard Gere, complete with those squinty eyes and white hair.

OMG HIIII!

For a tiny second, I was glad to be living in Paris.

He went into the bathroom for a “diagnostic”. I explained to him what was happening with the toilet. But, of course, as a good French man, he held up his hand and told me “Je sais” (I know). Of course he knew. He’s a plumber. “I installed this bathroom”.
My b!
I should have learned my lesson because I tried to explain to him that I had tried to fix it on my own. Hand up. “There’s a motor. You have to have unmounted the toilet to ‘fix it’.”
I’m sorry, Mr. Gere, sir! I really am! I am woooormmmssss!
After an uncomfortable silence, he asks me what it was like to use the hallway bathroom.
I smiled uneasily (“You Americans…”), but before I could get my answer out, he launched into the most fascinating monologue about shit I have ever heard.

“You know, the Romans already had some pretty advanced bathrooms. They had these long slabs of marble or whatever, with holes in them, and people would just sit down and use them and it was a group activity. They had running water underneath to carry away all the waste. You’d be shitting side to side with your neighbor, your mayor- didn’t matter! Can you imagine? Just farting up a storm and taking a shit next to your boss? That’s the ultimate concept of equality! Oh! Also, did you know that in the Middle Ages people would throw out onto the streets their chamber pots and sometimes people would get drenched in crap and pee!? HAHAHA”.

Thank you, Mr. Gere. What has your plumber taught you?

Degenerate.

So then Paris says to me it says: Grow the fuck up!

And it sucked.
It kind of…sneaks up on you and you’re like “No, wait! I’m not ready!” and then it drags you by the ankles (while you scratch the floor with your nails).

It’s de-stabilizing, it’s harsh, it’s…shocking.

Peter, please! Help me!

One minute you are invinsible, with the world at the palm of your hand singing sensible songs (hey! Alliteration! Totally unintentional) that may go like “I tell a bad bitch to do whatever I say” or “I hit the strip club and the bitches find the pole”.
And you’re single.
And never been to a strip club.
And broke.
And live with your parents.
But it’s totally acceptable because- hey! You’re at the threshold of adulthood but have not quite crossed over yet! And I can’t say I don’t enjoy singing about bitches and all of my swag (I got a lot of it, I will have you know)

Hmmmm!

But the day I realized I had physically and mentally left the nest….well…everything changed.

The second you must fend for yourself you will find yourself thinking “Shit….momma was right” so. Many. Times.

All of a sudden you find you have no one but yourself to rely on. Granted, some have the fortune of coming from very tight-knit families where they always pull through.
But what if you don’t? Or, better yet, my favorite tease: What if you have a wonderful family half the world away? My closest direct relative lives in the south of Spain.
You learn to be savvy and cut your losses because sometimes, even if you win at something, you lose more than you have to gain (see: supermarket story from “La queue”).

As a lone female city dweller I have had to learn to protect myself. I’m not talking about carrying a bottle of pepper spray or a shank (though I do like the idea of brass knuckles). I’m talking deception, setting boundaries, and learning how to say “No”.

Let’s start with the easiest one, which is actually one of the trickiest ones: Saying no. And being firm.

I was a people pleaser. I actually still am with a handful of people in my life, for very personal reasons. Anyway, the first time I said “no” to something I was still at home. It was easy, peacy because I had my parents to rely on. I didn’t have to do anything I didn’t want to because I had a support system. Sometimes “No” was wise, sometimes that “No” translated as “I’m still a kid plo plo plo plo!”

Earlier this year I ended up getting chatted up by a guy at a bar. He was not sleazy, he was not disrespectful. He was genuinely nice. And fruity! We exchanged information and I saved his number on my phone even though I didn’t even pay attention to what his name was. But I had secured a fruity french friend (I seem to be into alliterations today). So days passed, we would exchange the random text and then I agreed to meet him for drinks.
It was a trap.
It was a date.
When I finally caught on that he was not gay I felt like a fool. This man had been an incredible gentleman the whole night. He took the tab, which raised my first red flag; was very interested in what I did and what I had to say and then tried to get the elusive first-date kiss.

(Hi, mom! All those times you didn’t like me going to clubs taught me how to turn him down without humiliating him! See? Educational!)

Eventually, after more pursuing from him I had to give it to him straight. I had, for the first time, straight tell up someone “No”. No, I am not interested. I felt a little guilty. I had been foolish enough to let it drag on. He has a paid job, an interesting life story, was very sweet and attentive- the complete package for a real adult- and he could have been using his energies pursuing someone who would have really appreciated him.

The story is not the greatest example, I know, but a start’s a start.

And this segways me into boundaries! A smile is a boundary bulldozer. You don’t smile at stragers. You don’t reply to what they say. They approach you? Ignore them, and if they don’t get the hint, you move. You can also use your deadliest weapon: “No”. If all fails, use deception. My favorite weapon. I have only had to whip it out a handful of times.

The most recent one was maybe like ten days ago. If you go back to the “Métro” post and watch the video, there’s a part where a man sort of walks by the camera and gave the peace sign. Because I was feeling so happy to hear such great music I let my guard down (first mistake) and smiled (FOOL!). Minutes later, I was still listening to the music and noticed this man was back. Standing directly opposite from me, leaning against the wall doing what French people do best: STARING.
DIRECTLY.
AT.
ME.
Um…
Ignore him, girl! Ignore him! That’ll send a hint. I stood there for a few more minutes, and he was still there. He was beginning to burn a hole in my face from all that staring. I decided to make my escape as a huge crowd emerged from the tunnels and hurried to my exit.
What is my surprise? This man caught up with me as I was about to take the stairs to go down my street. Oh, hell no.
His mouth was so close to my earlobe I could feel his body heat.
I put my foot on the first step, he does the same.
I’m not dealing with this right now.
I whipped around and made a 180 and got lost with the crowd going up the opposite stairs. Tonight, I would use an alternate route home.

Like I said, no one but yourself to protect you. Get savvy.

And if you think this is the scariest thing about growing up- it’s not. Some of us struggle so much with what life hands us at once that it becomes overwhelming and must ask for help. Pride is no longer a matter of, well, pride.
Memorize this, as I preach to the choir: Learning how to ask for help is what separates the men from the boys (in my case the girls from the women).
The good news is you learn to handle it and then it becomes your nature. You become an adult.
I’m still in the process and still moan and roll my eyes. But then I have to strap down, put my big girl panties on and take care of business.
…Because if you don’t, no one else will.

I will say, though, that there is a beauty to this whole business. You re-learn everything you thought you knew. You amass enough experience to form your own conclusion on things. You assert your personality a little better. You become a little stronger. You love yourself more and appreciate everything that people have done for you. Once you get over the initial roller coaster of “BUT I DON’T WANNA GROW UP!” there’s a certain magic to being a young adult. Growing up and becoming an adult is not the end. I would actually say it’s the beginning of great things. I am only at the very beginning of the stretch, but I still keep my inner child alive, I like to stop and smell the roses, and I treat myself by doing/eating things I enjoy.

But in the meantime, don’t ever be in a hurry to grow up and enjoy this very moment.

La queue

“Il faut faire la queue!”
La que?
La queue!
Stand in line! In an orderly fashion! Wait your turn!

Except we’re in France.

And it’s more like “Allez! Let’s all clusterfuck!”

Remember when you were in school and people would cut the lunch line? There really are fewer things that peeve me as much as that. The hoodrats in my suburbian school where houses went for half a millino dollars (or around it, you know, we keep it classy) would love to cut as they stole juice pouches or milk cartons.

I guess they did make it far enough. I remember this girl who made it all the way to the top of the industry- from home video to porn star. And she was that big cutter.

But back to the point at hand.

People in France have this love for cutting lines. It’s as if they’re allergic, or against their nature, to stand behind a person in an orderly fashion. It’s the big n’importe quoi and all of us just gotta deal with it.

Sometimes it’s the very subtle sneak-to-the-front that was so good, so smooth that you’re just like “Well, I guess I deserved it…” and then you let it go.

Sometimes, it’s the shoulder dance where they sort of just…push you a little here, wiggle a little there and bam! After putting a little resistance you just drop it.
Then it escalates.
You wait for the people to get off the wagons, and this trick just comes from out of nowhere and pushes you out of the way. And that’s when you get that instinct à la Mean Girls and you just wanna pounce back. And that’s how most fights are started in the métro.

Oh, and did I mention they do this with a straight face? Like it’s all kosher?

Yesterday I was making my way across town and as I changed lines in the wonderful Charles de Gaulle-Étoile station, someone decided to jump onto the tracks (remember what I mentioned about the microphone on a previous post? “Accident grave de voyageur” will ruin your night. Sometimes your life).

So, anyway, there’s a huge crowd in a tiny platform because the service has been interrupted and we’re all hopelessly waiting there because there is nowhere else to go. I am towards the back and this girl decides she wants to be first to get onto the imaginary train that was going to never going to pick us up. So she shoved her way to the front.

I SEE YOU, GIRL. I SEE YOU.

I SEE YOU, GIRL. I SEE YOU.

All aboard the magic bus, bitch because that train ain’t gone show up for the next fifteen minutes. But I see you’re ready.

She was elbowed away by someone else when the train FINALLY came. Ha.

It’s like that panic that people feel when boarding a plane. Regardless of the fact that there is a seat assigned to you, and that in order to miss a flight you have to not even be at the airport at departure time, people push up and create a blob of carry-on luggage and humanity by the gate. Relax, darling. You’ll be a chair in the sky anyway!

Also, a simple trip to the supermarket might suddenly go south.

I’m behind a girl who is about to pay and I hear this commotion behind me and bam! Someone decides to place two beer cans in front of her. Some other man comes behind me, as if he’s trying to save the day: “Hey! Before cutting you have to ask the people to see if they’re ok with it!”
Because you were going to get in line anyway, right?
Whatever. I’m not stupid.
So the savior turns to me, with a ratchet smile and was all “Do you mind if I go in front of you? We only have two beers!”.
“Well, there’s a line for 10 articles or less. What if I say it’s not ok?”
And then, I get the murderous look.
They chose this line because they saw two girls. Two lone females who surely would not put up a fight.
I realize what is going on and was about to fly into a rage because I felt so hopeless. A simple little thing like respecting people in line, something so basic, they can’t do.
It’s like…seriously, bro? Where in your DNA is it encoded so we may pull that bit out? Also, while we’re at it, I’d fix your face because it’s so butt-fucking ugly.

No one complained. No one did anything. Not even the cashier.
Welcome to the world of cultural differences. Don’t die of a coronary malfunction set on by ire.
All in the bordel that is organized chaos.