My colleague and I were recently chatting about gaining weight - great topic I know. But, I had a revelation that I just can't help but share with you because I SAW THE LIGHT - IT ALL MADE SENSE - I had, if you will, an "AHA moment".
These kinds of moments don't happen all of the time, so when they do it's prudent to write them down lest you forget.
We were talking about the institution of the French aperitif. Basically, everyone is invited over to your house for an hour or so to have a drink and snack on little bites to eat (chips, olives, peanuts and weird little puff ball things that have strange flavors (bacon anyone??)). This could just as easily happen at an American get together as well, but there is one big difference - at the American aperitif you mingle - you walk around - you drink, you eat - you walk around and mingle some more. At the French aperitif you sit in a circle, you talk, you drink and you eat the food.
It all seems so simple - and it is - but if you are not able to participate in one essential part of the aperitif ritual...oh say.........talking - you are bound to finish off your year abroad with a double chin. Take my word for it - I know because it happened to me.
Say there are five Frenchies sitting in a circle at Benoit's house. All five probably know each other from infancy and have lots of friends in common - therefore lots to talk about. You however, are a new American with three-year old French skills. You can say s'il vous plait and merci and oh la la (perhaps with less fervor than you can now...) but a conversation with one person is hard enough, let alone FOUR others. So what do you do as you sit awkwardly with your Copain's childhood friends?
You eat some more!
You can't GO anywhere (say walk around and try to mingle with someone standing solo) so you reach for the olives - you grab a handful of chips - you gorge yourself on saucisson.
Now let's say you are at your Copain's family's home for dinner. The conversation is limited to the following:
Père: How is the fromage?
You: Mmmm le fromage est bon!
Père: (smiles fondly at the fromage) Oui! Le fromage est bon!
The awkward silences are deafening - they hurt your insides, make you squirm. Where you would normally jump in with a witty joke in English, in French you are S.O.L. So what do you do?
You ask for seconds!
You eat some more as you smile fondly at the fromage!
And this is how it happens my friends - before you even know it. Reality starts to set in when you realize that you no longer fit in your jeans and when your Copain yells at you for wearing your only leg-elongating open-toed platform shoes in the winter because people will think you're weird.
The full confirmation is made when your mom, feeling really bad for your lack of fitting jeans, offers to buy you a nice, quality (read: expensive) pair at Diesel. You go, but none of the women's sizes fit you...and you are shown to the "uni-sex" pairs instead. But you know the truth - you know the truth because there is an obvious man-pouch cut to these jeans. And you go through the rest of the school year in man jeans and an ambiguous crotch area.
No salads, exercise or off-the-wall diets got me back to one chin and out of the man jeans - oh no! Learning français was what got me back on track. Hard to believe, but it's true...
Sans blagues mes amis, sans blague.