Last night I did something crazy: I took my Haitian husband to an event at the French Institute Alliance Francaise. I have been browsing a website where you can find folks who wanna-do-what-you-wanna-do. In my case I wanna learn to speak French conversationally, but you can look for ANYTHING – even Satanism, I’ll bet.
The “Meet-Up” was nothing less than a soiree. It was remarkable in many ways: my husband and I don’t do things by ourselves; we are both socialphobes, and yet we thrusted ourselves into an unknown sea of people, and there was booze involved. At the door we were given two tickets apiece, which entitled us both to two glasses of fancy French wine. Horror. Then we were washed in with a tide of strangers blabbing in French. If one wanted the evening to be of any worth, one had to barrel into their conversations and say (in my case), “Je m’excuse, mais Je ne parle pas bien de Francais, et Je voudrais introduce myself. Je m’appelle Catherine. J’espere que I’m not interrupting?” Ugh.
John visage was puke-green. In times of lesser stress, he is a lovely Cafe-au-Lait color. Not only is he afraid of people themselves, but he has this idiotic idea that his French is sub-par. At this point I was so uncomfortable that I begged him to get some godd@*ned wine for himself, just so that SOMEBODY could loosen the frig up. He did, thank God, because the first conversation into which I yanked him, he turned beet red and looked as if he might faint with mortification. But two seconds after he opened his mouth, his accent rapidly began to change from Haitian-French, to French-French and he was so damned impressive; I was proud to be at his side. We even worked as a team as his confidence grew. I would say something like, ” Je veux apprendre le Francais better parce-ce- que I learned quite a bit en ecole, mais je have forgotten it by now, blah blah blah..” And whenever I would get stuck I would look at John, who would provide me with the missing bits. It got to the point where all except the people who were not straight off the boat from France were asking him to speak “plus lentement, s’il te plait.” I was proud.
Some important revelations began to bloom as I was sipping my Perrier and coveting the French wine: If I were in a position where I was drinking the wine, I would have been too dead to make it to the function. Not only that, but I realized that as other people got a little red-nosed and silly, the more comfortable I felt, because I knew that their vision was becoming rosier, and I was becoming prettier, and they were judging me less. In the past, I used booze to feel less awkward, but hey- maybe to achieve party-grace, I don’t have to be the one imbibing!
Quelle Marveilleuse decouverte!