Help! My husband is French!
Some people disagree with me on this, but I say relationships are work. That's not a negative comment on how hard it can be to maintain your sanity when you live with someone who seems bent on driving you crazy. Work is not a bad thing. Most things worth having require time, energy, patience, and a good nighttime mouth-guard for all that teeth-grinding, and relationships are no different. But my husband is French, so I feel that puts me in a special category, as in, I have special needs. Why? Although I'm happily married, I have to say that the French can be...difficult? That question mark is not indicative of a real question. It's more in line with that way we Californians have of inserting a question mark at the end of any statement because the speaker seeks your agreement? In any case, it's true that the French are special, even though I admit that the more I hear women talk about their husbands, the more it seems we're all married to a bunch of crazy foreigners.
...My husband's name is not Pierre Bonsoirno. It was our friend, Jackson, who started calling him Pierre — more like Pee-erre, really — whenever he went into insufferable French mode....
That's Latin for "would you let me finish?" Sitting around at a dinner table with French people is like being in a boxing match, or driving in Italy. You have to move fast if you plan to get anywhere.
...Pierre went to a special school where they teach the French how to stop anyone from finishing a thought. No sentence is too short to be interrupted....
...So, I have seen Pierre's apartment in various states of chaos before — that just-trampled by an elephant herd look; that car-chase-just-went-through-here feeling; that rough-thugs-just-broke-in-looking-for-family-jewels effect... [B]ut the real shock comes after I agree to marry him....
"Did you clean the apartment?"
"Yes, it is clean enough."
"Is it clean enough for a stranger to see it? You never get a second chance to make a first impression, you know." I totally sound like a mother and, right then and there, start developing self-hatred for it.
It would not be exaggerating to say that the French consider leisure time to be a basic, inalienable human right....
"But Pierre, we can't afford to spend a month traveling through France, Spain, and Portugal. We need to finish remodeling the bathroom and kitchen."
"Princesse, don't worry, the money will come," he says. And it usually does. Our friends want to know how we do it.
"What do you want?" he asks them. "A good life or a new bathroom?"
Someone, please tell me how to answer this question.
I come home one day and Pierre tells me that one of our neighbors called.
"She said that her dog had poopies and wanted to know if we want one. I told her I would check wiz you but that I had big doots on the subject. I am sure Antoinette [our dog] will get very jealous and it will hand up being a big drama."
It's bad enough when a meal rates low on your own success scale. On those occasions, if my guests are American, somehow I'm not that desperately ashamed. But Jean-Bernard and Marie-Alice have a subtle way of making you feel less than adequate. It's a certain something they exude, like pity. I decide on the spot that they are heartless, and try not to hate them.
...As the subject of war heated up both abroad and here at home, at dinner parties, dry cleaners, and supermarkets, I suggested to Pierre that he dump his "Dump Bush" t-shirt and settle into joining his French brethren, who could expect, for a while anyway, to feel like Frogs out of water.
"You're right," he said with an annoyed shrug. "Americans are good for making a mice out of a mountain and then forgetting about it in a few months."
One night, Pierre asks if I might be in the mood to have sex.
"Sure," I say. And then, on a whim that seems to come out of nowhere, perhaps from a place called 15 years ago, when my sexual stamina matched his — a place that has, for some unknown reason, gone the way of things like Studio 54 and Bewitched — I propose the following: "How about we have sex every day for the next three months?" I am feeling positively fiendish and excited at the outrageousness of the proposition, and suddenly I am looking forward to it. Pierre looks at me as if I've gone slightly mad but he doesn't skip a beat.
"Okay!" he says, running into the bedroom to light candles, hightailing it over to the stereo cabinet to find the right music, then speed-walking into the kitchen to pour us glasses of wine....
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To read more brief excerpts from Sex, Cheese, and French Fries, along with chapter synopses, click on any of the chapter links below.
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