(Warning: this post contains a couple of pictures that may be NSFW. After spending so much time in France, it was bound to happen eventually.)
So I’ve decided that European TV is the best. I’d started watching television in the evenings hoping it will help me pick up French faster. Mostly it was French-dubbed versions of CSI: New York or classic American movies like Bad Boys II. But one night I was treated to a French reality show, which I think was called “Adam Searches for Eve.” It’s a typical dating reality show, where they strand two guys and a girl on a deserted island and let them figure out who gets to leave as a couple. And because this is France, everyone on the show is naked.
The contests to win Eve’s heart were pretty hilarious, from concocting the best cocktail to giving each other mud baths. (How did these naked guys manage to spread mud all over a woman’s body without… you know what, never mind.)
The best part was that the guy who won (the dude on the right, because I’m sure you’re dying to know) got to then decide if he actually did want to be with her. I’m guessing that normally the guys say yes. But this time Eve’s chosen boytoy turned to her, said non merci, and then got on a speedboat and left! Oh man. I laughed until I cried, even if I did feel a little bit sad for Eve stuck on the island with the guy she didn’t pick.
So after all that, my French skills may be improving only marginally. However, I realized something about the locals: if you start speaking to them in French, and they switch to English, and you follow suit and also switch to English, they tend to get huffy and put-off. It’s kind of ridiculous – come on now, you started it! I was the one trying to speak your language! But once I figured out what was going on I started asserting myself more and resisting the switch to English, which has made for some entertaining encounters. For instance, take the guy at the Lindt store where I bought a box of macarons. He started speaking English almost right away, but I refused to take the bait no matter how much he prodded me. I was able to pick out all the flavors I wanted (that silly Duolinguo app was good for something, at least I know all the fruit flavors in French) and he kept repeating them back to me in English. It was fun and we were both cracking up at the end, when he was like, “THANK YOU. HAVE A NICE DAY,” and I pointedly replied, “MERCI. À BIENTÔT.” The more I get out of my comfort zone, the bigger that zone gets, if that makes sense.
The great thing about my week alone in Paris is that it was truly stress-free; I’ve been playing it by ear and not making hard plans to do anything. A few years ago I’d gone on a month-long excursion to Australia, and I’d arranged all the transportation between the big cities ahead of time. While I enjoyed every bit of it, it wasn’t as relaxing because I was more or less on a schedule. Here in Paris I could wake up, have a leisurely cup of coffee, then decide what I felt like doing. Was I in the mood for culture? If so, which museum haven’t I visited yet? Did I feel like hustle & bustle? Off to the Latin Quarter or Montmartre. Did I want to go shopping? Champs-Élysées, here I come! After a while, I found that all the things that had been bothering me seemed far away, and the snotty waiters at the café down the street didn’t bug me anymore, and I had even stopped comparing myself to the gorgeously slim women walking around the city. Life’s too short to go looking for reasons to be unhappy, right?
As it turns out Paris is magical, but not for the reason I was expecting. Who knew that a city where you don’t speak the language and you don’t know anyone could help you get back in tune with yourself? It couldn’t have happened at a better time. For one, the last thing I want to do is start our marriage off on the wrong (bitter, miserable) foot. For another, I was set to fly to Italy to visit my Navy friends that I haven’t seen in years, and with the cloud of stress and unhappiness lifted, it was time to have some real fun!