I’m back in San Diego after a five week stint in the south of France. As some of you may know, I’ve spent a lot of time in France, and have devoted much time and effort to mastering the unmasterable french language. This recent trip was a test for us. Exam question: Do we want to move to France? Answer: The jury is still out.
France, for me, particularly the south, has long been an idyllic escape, a locale I can long for when I’m away. After all the time I’ve spent there, I still idealize the place, even if it means subconsciously denying its imperfections.
There is such joy in being in a foreign country – new sights, smells, sounds. But part of that joy comes from not knowing what exists in its dirty underbelly. In seeing only the glamorous parts meant for the tourist’s amazed eyes, and not having to deal with the day to day aspects of living there. And part of that joy also comes from not knowing what is being said around you.
One afternoon, after hitting the beach, I was absolutely overheated. On my walk home past the chic private beaches and touristy shops that spilled their postcards, film (people still buy film?), beach towels, and bikinis onto the sidewalk, I didn’t pass one of the many ice cream shops. Instead, I stopped for some of that devine delicacy, a gob of gastronomic goodness, a jolt of gelato, yes – bliss on a baked waffle cone. I got chocolate – chockfull of chocolaty cheer. I’m a purist. I’ll make no apologies.
As I walked away with my temporary treasure, it of course began to melt, so I stopped in front of a shop window to eat some of it and ensure that I didn’t arrive home covered in telling chocolate drips. An older man, short and stocky with a genial smile, walked by and said something to me. It took a minute to process what he had said, so enraptured was I in waffle cone wonderland. So, for a brief moment, I existed in that blissfully unaware state that always occurs when I’m traveling in a country where I don’t speak the language. I saw a sweet little old local, probably flirting with me judging by the way he was smiling, or perhaps recommending a pair of shoes from the window I was absently eyeing. He stopped to watch me, and then my brain finally processed what he’d said:
“You’ll get fat if you keep eating like that.”
Jackass. I liked you better when I had no clue what you were saying.
Snappy comebacks aren’t my forté – they come to me later in numbers, hence the characters I write are witty geniuses, I’m sure. When offended, I revert to a wordless, helpless little girl.
But perhaps my actions in that moment spoke louder than words. I shrugged and took another big lick. Did that translate, monsieur?