Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Lesson Two

Lesson Number Two:
Even a Toothless Grandmother is Charming if Wearing a Skirt.
(part of a series, beginning with 'Lessons in French Courtship')

Perhaps the most common word I hear is charming. It’s everywhere. While initially flattered that I was effortlessly charming people left and right, I came to understand that this word has very little to do with charisma, but more with leg. In France, charm is directly proportional to the amount of visible leg, whether you’re wearing stockings or none.

The first time I wore a skirt in Paris was also the last. I was headed to a little bar in the fifth arrondissement, and, happy that the weather had turned nice, had decided to celebrate by wearing my then-favorite skirt.

It’s not what you’re thinking. This was before the miniskirt made its unfortunate comeback. (Incidentally, most Parisian women my age wear these miniskirts over jeans.) Not particularly form-fitting or sexy, my skirt hit my legs about an inch above the knees.

But a little inch goes a long way on the streets of Paris. Before I knew it, I was charming the pants off my fellow Parisians. Several times on the way to the metro, men stopped me. Excuse me, mademoiselle, but frankly, I must tell you: you are charming.

Oh was I? My mistake. I thought I was walking quickly and with a purpose. As soon as I realized they weren’t asking for directions and heard the word charming, I hurried on.

Then came the wait on the quai. Line ten. Longest wait between trains. I was sad to see the tail end of a train disappearing into the tunnel as I arrived on the platform. Eight minutes. For my wait, I looked for the poster featuring the most attractive model and stood next to it. I thought that if the men thought I was charming, that at least they’d have some sort of reference point that would set them straight.

No luck. I was quickly approached by a man in his forties, wearing a suit and carrying a bottle of wine. Though I was glad to be approached by one of the lesser vile men on the quai, I still couldn’t entertain come-ons by a man of this age. His opening line? Excuse me, mademoiselle, but I find you quite charming.

Was there a school for this? Do fathers sit down with their sons and teach them the ten vocabulary words of love? I’d heard of charm school before, but this was ridiculous. I told the man, Paragundi safa, mi cazo ne frata. That's right. I was willing to bet he didn’t speak whatever made-up language I was producing. I moved to another bench. He stared at me for six stops before getting off the train.

By the time I reached Teddy’s, which is a good fifteen-minute walk from the metro, I felt defeated. I’d received another dozen charming compliments en route. Feeling that familiar stare in the bar, I covered my legs with my sweater, and as I did, successfully rid myself of all charm for the rest of the night.

(Hit up the intro)
(Back to Lesson One)
(Move on to Lesson Three)
(Skip ahead to Lesson Four)
(Skip ahead to Lesson Five)


At 10:00 AM, Blogger Empty said...

Maybe this is the reason French women infamously refuse to shave their legs...

Have you been caught by a strike yet?

At 1:16 PM, Blogger Emily said...

Have I been caught by a strike yet?

I'm caught by a strike on a daily basis. This week it's public transportation, last week it was Air France, the week before, La Poste.

They were calm for most of the fall, but now the French are in peak strike season, what with May coming around and all.

Did you know that they actually have an entire holiday in May devoted to protesting? It's a national holiday. Everything shuts down, and pepole take to the streets for one of a hundred different causes. You can pick and choose, mix and match protests.

As they say here, "your question falls well;" I have the day off from work today, thanks to the good ol' angry RATP and SNCF. That's right, public transportation is down almost completely today. This was an organized strike, with rumors of it leaked to the public as early as Monday.

Almost daily, though, one of the lines spontaneously protests something or other. (The different lines are somewhat independent from each other. So the staff of line six might be perfectly content, while the staff of line 12 is up in arms.) For example, the other week, a driver on line A was roughed up by some hooligan. As soon as he reported it, the entire line went down in protest, hand-written signs left in all the windows, turnstyles unlocked. They were demanding more security. Not too shabby as a tactic.

Only, it was snowing, and I was left on an open platform out in the suburbs after a long day's work.


At 2:37 PM, Blogger Empty said...

Ah yes. The lovely "French Strike" (TM)
The reason I asked was that I had the privilege of traveling to Paris last summer. Having purchased my TGV ticket to Paris in Switzerland, I thought it would be no problem to purchase the return ticket at Gare du l'est once I arrived in gay Paris. Only there was a strike...I was told that the only place *maybe* selling return tickets was Gare du Nord...but I had to get there...on foot. Attempting to purchase my return ticket from one of the guichet's only set me back the price of one ticket and the ticket itself. So I trudged courageously by foot to Gare du Nord to get my ticket. On my way back to Gare du l'est I decided to stop by Notre Dame and take some photos (I love gothic cathedrals)...only the batteries on my camera died and I couldn't get the right exposure. I shot a full roll of film (24) at different exposures. Two pictures turned out. Haven't been back to Paris since...I feel your pain.

At 2:46 PM, Blogger Empty said...

Sorry for all the comments. I just checked out the SNCF homepage, in particular, the "Perturbations du jour" section!

Oh man, I haven't laughed so hard in a long time.

At 5:00 PM, Anonymous triticale said...

Paragundi safa, mi cazo ne frata.You should get that printed on a tee-shirt.


Post a Comment

<< Home