If you ask him, this is a genetic issue - one that cannot be controlled because his family is from l'Averyon. The Averyonnais people are very proud of their region known for some of the best food and richest terroir, however, along with being well known for their fierté of the region they have also been stereotyped as being the cheapest, tightest people on the planet. The French sum in up in one great word: radin. A male Averyonnais is radin and a female Averonnaise is radine. It's very simple. **And please note that even the Averonnais call themselves radin - so please, do not think I'm taking liberties where liberties should not be taken.
What I have now come to call Copain's maladie (illness), manifests itself in a way I never thought possible coming from someone who grew up in the leading European country that is France - especially seeing as how he was not raised during times of famine, Communism or The Great Depression, but instead lead a privileged childhood complete with a city home, a country home and daily nutella on his 4pm snack.
But somehow, for reasons I cannot yet explain, the radin in Copain has slowly but surely taken over his life (and mine) causing a diverse range of challenges over the past six years:
1. Despite the fact that we both hold down full time jobs and earn a respectable living, we have now lived through three winters without the use of our heaters 95% of the time. As I type this, my fingers are slowly but surely starting to freeze - Copain has just held his hands up to his mouth to breathe hot air on them in an attempt to warm them up. I ish you not.
Call me spoiled, but I appreciate a warm-ish ambiance when it is 3° C outside. I have now taken to wearing full pjs, slippers and a fleece robe at all times in the home.
2. Regardless of the fact that our summers in Cannes were hot, muggy and AC free (not Copain's fault), he obsessed over the constant "running of the refrigerator" that wasn't normale and therefore turned the dial for the cold setting to 2 - out of 6. Goodbye yogurts.
June, July and August were spent in a constant refrigerator battle - 2 then 3, then I would go on a weekend trip with friends, come home and it was 2 again - then 3 when he went on a business trip - then 2 when I went out to dance class...etc. etc..
3. After a long-haul summer flight from California to Nice with a stopover in Frankfurt, Copain refused to take the air-conditioned 14 Euro, 1-hour Express bus to Cannes and instead took the AC free, 2-hour city bus for just 1 Euro. I preferred to pay for comfort and he preferred to suffer for cheap. I took pleasure in treating myself to a quick trip home after a day of travel; Copain took pleasure in saving 13 Euros and yet still getting to the same destination no matter how uncomfortable or long.
Because this decision to take different modes of transportation began with a very heated discussion because I preferred to wait 20 minutes for the Express bus to arrive (knowing what comfort awaited me) and he wanted to jump on the city bus that was already pulled into the bus station and was departing in 2 minutes, I took even greater pleasure in beating him home, especially since my neighbor helped me lug my 55 pound suitcase up to the fourth floor and Copain had to muscle his up all by himself.
I do realize that this may seem immature, bratty or even spoiled rotten on my part - logical and rational on his part - but all of that goes out the window with me after 10 hours of recycled air and plastic-covered air plane food.
4. Sometimes when I bake batch after batch of cupcakes (I only have one good pan), Copain runs back and forth from the oven to the electric meter, watching the dial turn faster and faster in absolute horror.
He has requested that I now only bake cakes.
Which now brings us to Paris...
5. Worried that our water heater was "running uncontrollably" and "overheating" our water, Copain decided to pull out the fuse for the water heater in our fuse box for long stretches of the day which resulted in not 1, not 2 but THREE cold showers for FCC - in the middle of minus-degree Parisian winter 2011.
Now, again, I understand that electricity is expensive in France - I sing it to the rooftops to the Americans I welcome in Paris. However, don't you think we could use just a little bit of all that energy we are saving by surviving nuclear winter without heat? Just a thought...
6. Again, riddled with worry about using hot water and therefore making the water heater run unnecessarily, Copain washes the dishes with cold water only. Not tepid water - FREEZING cold winter water. Despite my admiration for the ecological benefits of of this practice, I would also enjoy the germ-killing benefits of washing with hot water as well as the hand/skin/health-saving benefits of not going into hypothermia every time we eat dinner and therefore dirty a dish.
7. After receiving a 25 Euro amende for riding the Parisian metro without a valid ticket (in his defense, he is waiting for his Velib pass to arrive in the mail), Copain refuses to take a metro anywhere and instead walks - even if it means it will take 50 minutes to get home after a late night out and even if his girlfriend has to work early the next day.
I'm all about exercise (see my post about my new gym membership) but sometimes I JUST WANT TO GET HOME. quickly. and go to bed.
8. I have been lectured by Copain about the increased warmth we will experience in our apartment if we close the window shutters when it gets dark at night. Now I realize that the French are big on the closing of the shutters in general, and I could understand the logic if we actually used our heaters, but really - does is matter when the heater hasn't been on all winter?
You are probably wondering how I manage - but this is what you do when the rest of the time you are showered with bisous and affection - reminding you that freezing winters and bad yogurts really aren't the end of the world. Also, I have now come to discover that I can live without a heater (I've proved this over the past three French winters I have experienced and could probably now survive an Alaskan camping trip), I can live through cold showers (though I did empty his entire can of shaving cream into the sink for vengeance) and I can survive the hour-long hikes home (free gym membership) BUT I have my limits and the buck stops here -
I WILL NOT DRINK CHEAP COFFEE!!!!!!!!! So when Copain brought home the value pack of cheapo- nasty- Maison du Café - I-only-paid-three-euros-for-a -5 -pack- coffee - I went straight down to my local Starbucks and spent three times as much for just one package- because mes amis, I may be able to revive a hypothermic dishwasher but I cannot live through a bad cup of joe.
Next up, my very profound blog post on cultural understanding, global competence and perhaps even some self-reflexion regarding the effects on my perspective due to growing up as an American in the suburbs of California with two working parents, summer vacations, a dog and weekly dance classes...
Maybe I'll just stick to my original theory that Copain is the cheapy and I am clearly the normal one.