lesson

Bachelorette Parties, Baby Showers, and Fruit Salads

No, no! This little one is not getting married anytime soon- though suitors do abound, if I may be so bold. It’s just that I realized I never spoke (wrote?) about something that struck me as particularly interesting about French culture.

I am under the strong impression- due to personal experience, narratives, and my countless nights out on South Beach- that here in the United States a bachelorette party is all about getting trashy, getting that awkward lap dance, and adorning one’s body with phallic paraphenalia (or… it just so happens that’s all I have seen). I mean, it even feels like a Bachelorette Party is just an excuse to “cheat one last time”.

In France the “enterrement de jeune fille”, which if we want to transliterate means “the burial of the young girl”, is slightly different. From what I got to see, the bride-to-be is dressed in the most ridiculous of tenures (not that sporting a penis necklace around your neck is not ridiculous enough). I’m talking “Tacky Day” on drugs—spandex, brightly-colored afro wig, etc.
She is paraded around the city and given a series of dares. Sometimes they even blindfold the girl and take her to an undisclosed location, kind of like that last episode of SVU….except, of course, this is fun.

Anyway, I think I have pretty much failed at not being biased on which one I find less degrading.

 

Then there’s this cultural thing that made me cock my head to the side and scowl:
Baby showers.
Now, it is no secret I don’t particularly care for children. I am very selective of the children I like- either the kid is genuinely witty (yes, WITTY), his or her parents are people I like, or the kid has to be related to me. Other than that, my dormant maternal instinct will remain as such, and I will be the awkward person not cooing and saying how cute the baby is.

Sorry not sorry.

Anyway, now that that’s out of the way, on to the story!

One day I was invited to a baby shower in Paris. It was, as a matter of fact, for a very well-loved couple from our exchange group. It was all kept hush-hush, as it was a surprise. In the email exchanges, I volunteered to make a fruit salad, because I’m boss at making fruit salad!
So I went to the market and selected the most delicious-looking fruit. I was going to show how much I liked these two people through fruit. Mmhmm.

As life would have it, the night before the baby shower, I went out and I, uh, got classy trashy.
I stumbled back into my apartment and plopped on my bed, boots and all, when I remembered: the fruit salad!
I got up slowly, because that’s what you do when you’ve had one too many, and made my way to the kitchen. I wielded my ceramic chef knife around and cut up the fruit. Oh yeah…they were going to love my fruit salad. Mm mm! Fruit!

Anyway, the baby shower was a success. We made merry and showered the mom-to-be with presents for Incoming Baby. It was the closest thing to a family Sunday afternoon that I had had in a few months, so I felt pretty happy to partake in an activity I would most likely avoid like the plague back home.

A few days later, while exchanging drinking stories, I decided to tell the story of my drunken fruit cubing skills with my sweet blade.
“What was it for, anyway?” asked my French friend.
I was stumped. How do you say baby shower in French!? Bébé douche?
“Um…in English is called a ‘Baby Shower’”, I replied.
She stared at me. Her French eyes filling with French judgement.
To make the story short: why on God’s great Earth would we celebrate and gift a baby that is not born yet? What if the baby dies before it is born? (this was an actual question). We were decidedly the craziest and most obtuse society for partaking insuch activities.
An uncomfortable silence ensued, my friend looked down and laughed at herself.

I sat in silence, feeling sillier than a jeune fille.

Paris, Round 2

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It’s funny how at some point I really dislked- nay, detested– Paris. Those of you who have been reading this humble little blog since the beginning are super familiar with that fact. Those of you who talk to me on a daily basis know that I have a love-hate relationship with the place- “I love it but…”, “The metro is awesome, except…”. It seems I am never satisfied.

(Ok, I’m never satisfied)

Coming back after an eight-month stay in the States, in which I have established myself as a professor (a position that I had actually projected to be attained in 10 years, and not ten weeks after graduation), Paris proves to be the same mind-fuck it was back during my grad days. I love it- oh, I love its streets, I love to walk, I love to take the metro! And also, there are those omnipresent pitfalls to Parisian life: the rudeness, the cold, the sticker shock. But really what is incredibly special about this time around is all the positivity I was exposed to:
I got to see my “Parisian” friends again (and by Parisian I mean Colombian, Chilean, English, American, Puerto Rican, etc) – the people that, without knowing, saved my life when I was was going through the roughest little patch. They were there, arms wide open, smiling the same smiles that warmed up my days and kept me trudging along. I also got to see my Middlebury friends- the people who made the summers at ClubMidd bearable and who now shine in Parisian academia. Most importantly, I stayed with the greatest host anyone could ever ask for- a man whose heart is so big it might as well need its own métro wagon. A man who took my hand and showed me how love heals all and endures all.

I laughed at the irony of it all when I looked out the window and saw the Eiffel Tower and the Montparnasse Tower standing next to each other. How many times did I look out my window and looked at them, day and night, and wondered if things would ever be ok. Now, I got see them from a distance, in another state of mind- fully aware of the changes I underwent right under them.  

I realized then it was a way to show me that those days are long gone. I may move on, without fear or hesitations.

Paris, this time around, was the Paris I lived before losing my innocence (not going for the dramatic here!). I smiled easily; I ate everything in sight. EVERYTHING.

I walked around my old neighborhood (I may have teared up), stood outside my old building (I may have kissed the door), visited my old Zara (yes, that is crucial information!), ate the panini in Cluny (made with love by Zoyla), ate the Grec in front of Saint-Severin (the one where the guy looks like Anthony Bourdain), went inside my favorite church (Saint-Germain-des-Pres), and bought so much Speculoos I may have to make a special declaration at US Customs.

But above all, I was loved. I was so warmly welcomed that I now realize my time in Paris was not in vain. Though I did not have time to say hello to my thesis director, Madame Auzanneau, I heard she speaks of me in her lectures, and how my efforts that went into writing my thesis is the growth process educators like to see. Even if only a comment in passing, this means the impression stayed. Though I did not have a stellar thesis (passed with the lowest passing grade, a B-), I feel I am not supposed to be ashamed about it. It was my baby that I somehow managed to nurture in a time of extreme anguish. Little by little the pieces have come together again.

In April I find out if I landed a job back in France. I feel this time around I am fully prepared.  

In the meantime, Paris has inspired me enough to revive this little blog with a few entries in the coming days. So yay, Paree! 
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