Sunday, March 15, 2015

Lady Angela's Bohemian Etiquette

As I have mentioned in several posts previous, I sometimes attend a British Meetup group. I have been to a few midweek pub nights, and of course the infamous night when a handful of expats were cosmically fated to create a pub quiz and become champions of the night. This past Friday, however, was my first attempt at co-hosting a Meetup event. Though it is a British Meetup group, several of the organizers are from various other countries, so a delightful Frenchman asked me to be his Gal Friday for an early Saint Patrick's Day soiree. A Frenchman and an American girl hosting a British event for an Irish holiday. Yes and yes. Unfortunately, the event began at 8pm while I had to work until 8:30pm. Fortunately, however, the bar was a stone's throw from my job, just across the Champs Elysées. 

When I arrived at the pub, the party was already going strong, but would still be growing larger as the night sallied forth. The Frenchman gave me a Union Jack to tie around my arm in addition to a stamp I could smack down on anyone's hand for discounted drinks. I felt the power of authority rising through me immediately. Now, being a hostess means trying to mix and mingle and make sure everyone is having a good time. If this was 50 years or more ago I might consider the ideals of etiquette according to Emily Post. Instead, I decided to embrace the Bohemian ideals hailed by the timeless children of the revolution. And if we're taking a page out of Toulouse Lautrec's book (or maybe taking a color from his palette), that means alcohol. 

Now, it was never my intention to be a tipsytastic fool... It really never is... But as a hostess, I was adorably dressed, charming in manner, and therefore a beacon for free drinks. I had a nice little following of men creating an entourage for a while and at one point definitely decided that the Irish bartender was going to be my new best friend. I even ran into the Scottish douche bag I thought I had forever dispelled, and after calling him out on his past behaviour, we ended with overenthusiastic hugs and a promise of friendship. It was a banner evening for the Bohemian ideals, running free, looking beautiful, telling the truth in more ways than one, and effusing love to all. I was gracious, I was accomodating, I was bathing in attention, and I was absolutely absurd. While I doubt that Emily Post would have approved of me stumbling home in a late night Uber, I consider Lady Angela's rules of Bohemian Etiquette much more in tune with the Parisian, and in fact my own, spirit.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Think Like An American

For the past several months, my employment slash vaguely career-oriented path has taken a vastly optimistic turn. Back in November, I finally landed myself a job that fit the much-needed bill of not only working incredibly well with my bizarro world schedule, but also giving me a decent amount of money to boot. Since I am notoriously almost irreparably damaged when it comes to finances, having a consistent income could never be a bad thing. This job of which I brag and boast is at a school dedicated to English exam preparation, aka TOEFL, GMAT, SAT, etc... I currently teach the TOEFL, but have been slowly being considered for SAT, essay writing, and it looks like I will be captaining the currently flailing social media ship... taking the wheel and taking control, one might say. Prior to this job, I was doing my best to patchwork together enough private students to make a living... Epic. Fail. That being said, we live and learn and as is always the case with my dancing through glitter stars style of existence, when it rains it pours, good or bad.

The one double-edged sword about this job is that I have quickly fallen back into my old tendency to work like a fiend, at odd hours, nights, weekends, and all of the above. Now, the good news is that it allows me an enormous amount of flexibility, so I still attend French school (when so inclined), fit in a dance class, take guitar lessons, though I have many a creative brainwave making its way onto a nice long list of thoughts I need to manage my time well enough to actually conquer. My social life is also blooming again as the temperature rises and the sun begins to thaw, making my schedule even more incomprehensible. I'm also trying to fit in various forms of exercise, signed up for another 5k next month, but either have not nearly enough time to eat or want to gorge myself on anything edible. 

Now don't get me wrong, I am never ever happier than when my schedule is fit to bursting and I can enjoy the trials and tribulations of confidence, fulfillment, and a brain active enough to not create quite so many dramatic interpretations as normal. My head held high, I wander the streets aware of how lucky I am, how beautiful life can be, though also very much aware of how much more work there is to be done. The benefit of being raised in the United States, in a relatively privileged environment, and in a family with open enough minds and hearts to let me frolic the globe as I see fit is that I often really do believe that anything is possible. Perhaps naive, perhaps cliche, perhaps living in the fairy tale world I so often yearn for. I don't shield myself from tragedy or heartbreak or the realities lingering far closer to home than we can ever imagine. At the same time, it's not such a terrible thing to feel confident and productive, maybe work a bit too much, maybe speak a bit too loudly, maybe even feel I am right just a bit too often. 

Still, there are a great many times when I am working with one of my students and I see that their confidence is waning. They feel insecure about speaking in English or unsure about their future goals. It is much more common in the French culture to be trained in one career path that you follow till your dying days. An older country means that traditions are embedded that much more deeply. As a girl from the United States who has had a billion jobs, creative interests and life paths, sometimes changing daily, I don't see walls without immediately brainstorming ways to conquer them. And I certainly don't speak without doing it at a hefty decibel. When trying to get them through what can be a strange and trixy little English exam, I often tell them to go ahead and think like an American. For better or worse, own it, use it, fight for it, and never do it quietly.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Language Barrier Breakthrough

I haven't done language exchange in quite some time. If you have ever read my blog before, you know full well that this is an issue rife with ups and downs, pros and cons, moments of living in the moment seize the day sort of euphoria matched equally with moments of wait how did that just turn into a date with a married and/or in a relationship Frenchman? Needless to say, I go through phases of thinking this is a good way to practice my language skills often followed by phases of keeping an epic amount of distance. Why do I not make a larger effort to meet with other GIRLS for language exchange? An obvious question, to be sure. The answer includes reasons like the fact that females are a tricky breed, French females even more so, and frankly I have a billion female friends as it is. I am single, I am running around Europe, I am an obscene romantic, and I might as well indulge in a bit of male attention while practicing a language supposedly renowned for romance. One day there will be a man who thinks I am just that little bit extra special enough to make a princely gesture, fight through strange dwarfs or treacherous thickets and climb my blonde locks in pursuit of my shining soul. Until that day comes, I will do my very best not to technicolor myself into a Disney animated classic.

That being said, I once again became frustrated enough with learning French to seek out some rendezvous. I go to classes (sometimes) and use my 5-10 boring French phrases on a daily basis. But via the grammatically-centered French learning system in general, combined with the fact that I teach English every day, speak to most of my friends in English and can rarely shut up regardless, speaking is the most difficult of all. I therefore set up some meetings. Now, unbeknownst even to myself, I have apparently been learning more than I had thought over the past few weeks slash months slash years in France. Yesterday I met with a guy for an early evening drink and for whatever reason found myself engaging in French from the first moment, producing rapid repartee of a degree I was never aware existed in my current skill set. I have always known that starting the exchange in English is a ginormous no-no. Little did I realize, however, that beginning in French gave me a strange level of confidence that would persist throughout the meeting. I actually had a moment where I felt like it might be easier to explain what I meant in French rather than English... What the WHAT?! My brain normally rejects precision via the gallic tongue. Yet here I was, openly communicating in a language I normally want to guillotine right along side that crazy Marie Antoinette. Sorry girl, I love the dresses but so help me God if I have to consider gender specification for even one more second I might have to light Versailles on fire.

Not only that, but the following day I met with another gentleFrenchman, and found that this brand new phenomenon had prevailed. The weather was fine, the sun shining, the ripples à la Seine were flickering in the breeze as I made my way to a café with another guy I continued to word vomit to in brilliant français! Now let's be real, not at all brilliant. But I did manage to produce complete sentences without pause, making few grammatical errors, not stopping to consider what I was going to say and lasting more than 60 seconds at a time. Something clearly has clicked, my friends, something clearly has clicked. And while there is absolutely no way on Earth that this miracle of miracles will last for more than a shining star beacon day or two, I will embrace, I will brag, and I will wear that little lightbulb of spontaneous epiphany just as confidently as all the other cartoon creatures of the world... And I will wear it atop a sparkly pink beret!