It’s a good life, the French life…but not for all. It’s not always la vie en rose for everyone, and it’s time someone stood up and said something. Consider this a public service.
The way I see it, times are tough in France if you’re…
A Cat. If you’re a rooftop-hopping feline, tread carefully—I’m afraid you’ve got fewer do-overs than you think. Somewhere along the line the concept of your having nine lives got mutated and bumped down to seven in France. So for those of who’ve already burned through number 4 or 5, consider moving to safer rooftops.
A Table of Contents. Sure they’ll type you up and print you out, but that’s about all the respect you’ll ever get. They won’t care how integral a role you might play in the reader’s use of the book—you’ll be plunked at the end, sometimes as the very last page, never to see the light of day. And you’ll be forced to endure this indignation quietly under the threat of being pushed a page or two further and getting kicked out of the book altogether.
Groundhog Day. If you’re this wintry February holiday, don’t expect a warm welcome at Charles de Gaulle airport. This date is already taken by La Chandeleur, wherein the main activity seems to be cooking and eating copious amounts of crêpes. Don’t even bother trying to trump that with your tired rodent-out-of-a-hole act. The French also make predictions on this day regarding whether winter will last or if spring is around the corner, so basically they’ve done what America should have a long time ago—improved a boring holiday by adding more food.
An artist’s still life. Whether you’re a bowl of fruit, a vase of flowers, or a few random objects on a table, in the English-speaking world you have a romantic name which invokes the capture of a moment in time. In France you’re known as nature morte, or “dead nature”. You’re not getting the props you deserve here. Look into being immortalized somewhere else.
From England. If you’re English let me be clear: the French aren’t against you personally. Yet they do partake in some surprisingly unflattering expressions at your expense. The act of cowardly slipping away unnoticed to avoid culpability is known as filer à l’anglaise, or “to run away English-style”. While that seems rather unfair, it actually rates low on the diss-o-meter compared to this nugget: an old fashioned euphemism French women use to describe that “certain time of the month” is les Anglais ont débarqué, translating to “the English have disembarked”. Apparently this goes back to the Napoleonic wars where armies of English soldiers in red uniforms dismounted ships and flooded the northern coasts of France. I don’t know about you England-ers, but as a general rule I’d be wary of any country that associates me with menstruation. Just as a general rule.
The film “Weekend at Bernie’s”. If you’re this irreverent 1989 classic, don’t even bother visiting Paris. As hard as you’ll try to convince a Frenchman that using a cadaver as a prop somehow leads to fun-in-the-sun comedy, you’ll merely come across as weird and a bit too American. Trust me on this one.
Regular M&M’s. Let’s face it—it sucks to be a regular M&M in France. What seems likes a confectionary must on US shelves is virtually non-existent here. Yellow bags of the peanut ones are all over the place but the all-chocolate originals seem to be blocked out of the market by Nestle’s French version, known as Smarties. This doubly upsets me as a North American who believes “Smarties” is a name that should only belong to the chalky antacid-like rolls we used to find in the bottoms of trick-or-treat bags.
And finally…A self-pleasurer. (I’ll choose this moment to conveniently forget my rule of a picture accompanying each item.) Remember being warned that indulging in too much of a certain solo taboo act would make you go blind? In France they say it results in deafness instead. For those who didn’t hear that the first time I said IT RESULTS IN DEAFNESS INSTEAD. Considering each culture’s differing myths on the subject, if you’re considering a long-term stay abroad I think the message is pretty clear—consider which of your five senses you value the least, then choose your country accordingly.
And while we’re on the subject, I’ve learned of a French expression to describe liking sex: aimer la chose translates to “liking the thing”, and is considered a polite way to broach the subject in public. So in France it seems you’re more than welcome to like the thing, but just don’t go enjoying your own thing too much.