On top of having to learn French here in Paris, many of us native English speakers have had to familiarize ourselves with the French's interpretation of the English language. One word that I find is often misused is the coordinating junction "so". As we know, this word generally goes in front of an adjective (e.g, "so pretty", "so minty"). Here the word so seems to have found itself a home anywhere and everywhere, mostly in advertising. I've seen "So Music", "So Savings" and my personal favorite, "So Shopping", which I like to say in my Cher from Clueless voice.
I'm not a grammar Nazi -- not by any measure -- and I know that we have been guilty to mold French words for our convenience as well. I'll never forget Aurélien's bewilderment at an American diner when I explained to him that à la mode to us means a plop of ice cream added to a dessert, not Tom Ford's latest défilé.
Last weekend, we were invited to a housewarming party. Our two friends are getting domestic; taking the "next step" by moving in together into spacious, high-ceiling, hardwood floor loft in the 18th. The invitation boasted twerking (okay, I requested that on the Facebook invite), candy-infused shots, and a blind test. Blind test? Quel mystère! Days leading up to the party, I had envisioned myself wearing a bandana over my eyes and tasting eclairs to guess which boulangerie it came from.
Yes. I have seen this done at gatherings here before.
Arriving at the party where we didn't know anyone, the hostesses thoughtfully put up a poster announcing the teams for the blind test. This was meant to encourage us guests, total strangers, to introduce ourselves and chat, sober. At a party in Paris, this has been proven to be strenuous.
Once the main space was what appeared to be at capacity, the blind test was announced and all of the teams packed in tight around the hostesses who were positioned behind a laptop. Where was the food? I asked myself. Or the drinks? And more importantly, where were the blindfolds for the test? At the command of our hostesses' fingers, music started to play for mere seconds arousing the teams to bark out the song titles and its musicians.
Ah ha. Blind test means name that tune here.
Okay. Got it. So music.
Assuming that all of the songs would be French tunes or unknown American pop songs that didn't make it in the States but somehow were a hit in Europe, I positioned myself off to the side to cheer everyone on. It wasn't until I heard the wailing opening guitar to Shania's "Man! I Feel Like a Woman!" that I realized hey, I could play too! Rejoining my team, we enjoyed an exuberant victory in the first round, prompting cheers from my teammates who were benefiting from their American teammate who has a penchant for cheesy pop music. Everyone was playfully competitive, screaming, jumping, and singing. The energy was contagious, and was the most animation I had even seen at a French party.
With full intentions of forfitting the game after the bonus round of the American portion of the game, the young girl, couldn't have been older than 20 kicked my ankle. Twice. And it hurt! At first I ignored it because, it was obviously a mistake, right? It wasn't until she dug her finger into the small of my back that I was forced to believe that I was being provoked. In hopes to clear this up, I turned and looked at her, and with a smirk she looked the other way to whisper in her friends ear. Oh come on. Were they serious? Were they really that annoyed that I called the song "Mmm, Mmm, Mmm, Mmm" by the Crash Test Dummies. In hindsight, I guess they were just jealous. That song does rule.
After experiencing variations of her physical contact that included her pinching me, flicking my left shoulder (what was she 10?) and bumping my hip with hers so aggressively that my plastic cup filled with water almost got heaved onto the laptop, I had no choice but to address it. Willing to accept that perhaps I had at one point bumped into them unintentionally and this was their childish retaliation, I apologized in advance and reminded them that we were all just having fun.
In French, she told me that I can explain in English and to not strain myself desperately trying to speak French, and then patted me on the head. Oy vey.
"Oh okay, so you understand English?" I asked.
Giving me a look that said, obviously and turning to her friends to giggle.
"Great," I smiled and calmly handed my cup to Aurel, "How about then, you keep your fucking hands off of me because you don't want to know what will happen if you do it again."
And then I stared her down. There was definitely some neck swiveling happening and I may have even raised an eyebrow.
I know, I know. Even I'm laughing now. Even though I wear bamboo earrings, I really am not tough but at that point, I had been pushed way too far. People don't have the right to just touch other people. I'm sorry. And just between you and me, I didn't know what would happen either if she had done it again. I hadn't exactly planned it out. Because you know as a rule of thumb, I avoid threats and name that tune fist fights at parties. Luckily she didn't further engage and to move on, I removed myself to go eat chips. I was getting hungry anyway.
Thirty minutes later, the sore loser approached me as I was talking to a guy with long, wavy red hair rocking leopard print leggings and a bandana whose name was Axel (like for real), and before I could dismiss her by telling her it was done, there was no problem, she apologized, with sincerity. What I also noticed was that she was now speaking to me in formal vous and asked me to please accept her apology.
We never did get to the bottom of why she had a sudden change of heart. Perhaps she just came to her senses that hitting people at parties is unacceptable anywhere? Or that she realized that I was much older than her and that of course I would know Metallica's "Enter Sandman". Who knows? But Aurélien on the other hand, entertaining his American villain fantasy, believes that I was just that bad ass and no one messes with his wife. N'importe quoi.
I wish you all a lovely weekend!
And please, use this as a cautionary tale,
beware of name that tune.
It's not what it used to be.
It's not what it used to be.