I was lying on the floor in Pilates class when it hit me. First of all, that I am really enjoying Pilates these days, after being initially so bored with it I didn’t think I could continue. When I’m away now I really miss the good it does and then there’s that chance to just lie there for a few minutes at the end – that alone makes it worth something. Anyway, I realized that I’ve now lived in France longer than I lived in Cleveland.
It feels like some kind of accomplishment, or as if a spell has been broken. Not that I lived in Cleveland that long – it was exactly seventeen months. And even though it was one of the loneliest, bleakest periods of my life, it was also the last place Hazel and I lived before she went off to college. And where I was holed up when Eric and I got together. I’ll always have a soft spot for the place. Like an old army buddy, someone you were stuck in a trench with. Every now and then you want to meet up, have a beer and remind each other how tough it really was. I reflected as I was lying there on the linoleum of our local Ecole Maternelle that I was happy to be where I am. But actually looking forward to playing at the Beachland in Cleveland in September.
Another thing that occurred to me was how, in a class of nine or ten women, I was the only American. This sounds a little like one of those simple arithmetic problems – if there are ten women in a Pilates class in France, and one of them is American, how many Frenchwomen are there? The answer – zero. They were all English, except the instructor, who was South African.
Which might explain why I’ve actually been learning not one but two new languages in the last few years. In addition to our French neighbors and friends, I’m surrounded by Brits.
There’s Eric of course, and anyone who’s ever heard him knows he has a…um, colorful way with language. I always thought Americans were the blunt, coarse ones but we’re kindergarteners. I can’t even ask someone to tell me where the toilet is without blushing. It just feels so wrong. But as it is with French, so all these English English phrases go through my mind now. The other day, some promoter told me what kind of deal they were willing to do for a show. “They’re taking the piss!” is all I could think. I don’t even know for sure what it means. It just felt accurate.
I go back and forth between American, English and French. Nowadays I don’t even know what to call most things. The “American” pronunciation of basil sounds so bad, but if I use the English pronunciation I sound like a pretentious twat…I mean asshole. Anyway, you get it.
So I just use the French word. Maybe it’s a convenient way to be forced to learn French – it’s a completely different language rather than a partially different one and therefore I have to take on a whole other persona to speak it rather than sounding like someone in a suburban high school production of “Oliver”. But it might reach the point where I am barely fluent in three languages.
So when I see you, please forgive me if all I can do is smile, nod and wave.