Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Being Different

It’s true; there is less dog merde here in the suburbs of Paris compared to La Rochelle. But I have accidentally stumbled into a more pressing problem.

“Hey, English! Come in, come in!” Was what I was greeted with the other day when walking along the high street past the bistros and cafés where the tables spill out onto the street and the smell of strong coffee and smoke hit my nostrils.

I’m taking a romantic stroll along the charming boulevards, hand in hand with FP, while the sun rays beat off my uncovered, pale, Scottish shoulders. As we pass a café I hear a young French man beckoning to me, addressing me as ‘English’. I was sure he had shouted ‘common, common’ but FP assures me he said ‘Come in,’ so I’m sticking with that less insulting phrase. I want to turn round and tell him ‘Hey! Connard! Je suis Ecossaise!’ but I decide to stay quiet just in case I end up having a beer bottle smashed over my face.

“Is it just my imagination or is everyone looking at me?” I ask FP. He laughs and admits that yes, I do seem to be attracting a lot of attention. Remembering past experiences when this has happened before, I smooth my hands down the back of my skirt, making sure I haven’t tucked it into my tights. No, everything seems alright there.

“It’s because you don’t look French,” FP tells me, with a slight shrug as if to say ‘c’est-la-vie’.

I look down at my mini dress I had carefully chosen that morning; full of colourful swirls, purples and blues, some little beads here and there, thin, crinkly material; my hippie dress. Very Sienna Miller, I had thought when I bought it.

Wearing it over a pair of thick black tights and some flat boots, I realise he is right. I don’t look French.

We continue on our walk, stopping to buy a croissant and a pain au chocolat at the boulangerie before heading home. A group of teenage girls are sitting on the pavement, talking and laughing loudly. They talk so fast I can’t understand them, except for the moment when one says, “Oh non, putain, C’est MOCHE!” (f**k, that’s ugly!)

They turn to look at me.

“I’m not moving to France anymore.” I say to FP, my arms crossed in front of my chest, my bottom lip pouting in a huff.

When I get back to his apartment that night, I get undressed, thinking to myself that if I want to fit in with the people here I will need to start dressing like they do. Does that mean I should never wear my hippy dress in France again? I wonder.

Five minutes later I’m in bed, a smile on my face, in the arms of FP. My dress hangs in the wardrobe, ready for its next outing in Paris in a few days.

I’ll never look French. I have pale skin, blonde hair and I talk funny. I am also a vegetarian. And I don’t eat moulles et frites. Or rabbit. So what will a little change of clothes make me?

I made a decision that night to stop caring so much what other people think.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Yesterday, FP and I drove off to a lovely lake in Beauvais. In the 21 degree heat we walked around the 3 km (2 miles) perimeter of the water; me in my stilettos. It was a beautiful day, lovely summer heat for the beginning of April. It was a ferrier (holiday) so we were not there alone; in fact the place was crowded with families, lovers and dog walkers.

After having walked enough to work off our breakfast, we took a seat at the water’s edge, soaking up some sun and appreciating the view. People came and went, and when four teenage girls sat nearby, I watched them warily through my dark sunnies. Time passed and I eventually relaxed.

Until… “pssst, regardez…”

Four sets of criticising eyes turn to concentrate on me.


ColbyPants said...

silly french people. . . .

(I am 75% of french heritage and 25% of Irish, and I would claim the Irish first any day of the week.)

Dont become like those french people, for sure.


sylvie d said...

Princesse ecossaise
Welcome back....French stare that is a fact that you will have to live with. I had forgotten about it but it has comeback to haunt me yet again!!!
Mr K and I are tall and speak english all the time and we drive around with an english car on the wrong side of the road so they stare. We now have great fun and decided to stare back and wave at the culprits...they don't like it! try it!and don't change your dressing code dark colours are so dull!

Drew said...

MY motto is "!##" 'em if they can't take a joke." Be who you are, because who you are is a pretty cool person. Ignore the mean folk.

T.D. Newton said...

Take solace in the fact that in ten years the girls will look back on their style at that age and feel like complete morons. It's better to wear what you want, what you like.

Princesse Ecossaise said...

that's totally true, everyone looks back at what they used to wear and thinks awww maaan what was I thinking?!

Sylvie, I am glad I'm not the only one who noticed this! So the French stare at the French too? Ahhh so I feel better! Think next time I will indeed wave and smile at the culprits, it will confuse them!

Miss Despina said...

You must stay as you are, if only to remain sane! Sod what other people think.
Incidentally... My tall dark boyfriend wears a long black coat and has recently acquired a black trilby to go with this. He looks stunning. However, recently people have been staring at us, and I didn't work it out until we were at a gig a couple of Fridays ago - people think we are Jewish. Amazing how and why people will label you, especially those scruffy northerners.
I think it's hilarious, considering that neither of us even has a Jewish grandparent. But if I was Jewish, I wouldn't find it hilarious, I would be very upset to be stared at as some sort of cultural exhibit every time I'm out. He had an old man staring at him in the motorway services loo for goodness sake!
It just goes to show what a load of numpties we exist alongside.
Enjoy France and being in love!
Desp x

Princesse Ecossaise said...

Numpties is the correct word Desp!! I have a thing for trilbys, I really do...they're nothing but hot ^_^

Froggy Woogie said...

Just read this.
I'm French and I've always lived in France. For some reasons, I've never been comfortable in public places because I always feel I'm being looked at, especially that I was extremely shy in my youth.
I also noticed I feel MUCH MORE comfortable walking down the streets in the UK or America. So yes definitely, in this country people use their eyes on you. I'm not sure it's always in a bad way but that's the habits. Just try to ignore it.