Who let the dogs out?


« Chien qui aboie ne mord pas. » de Proverbe français

« Barking dog seldom bite » French proverb


chez moi : my house/home

chez ami : friend’s house/home

culture de départ : departing culture (culture of origin in a study)

normale(s) : normal

maintenant : now

étrange(s) : strange

une petite fille : a young girl

rêve : dream

même si : even if

le(s) chien(s) : the dog(s)

plusieur : several

malgré le fait

les parcs : the parks

attaqué : attacked

me demander : to wonder

peut-être : maybe

la masion : the house

étrangère : foriegn


I’ve returned chez moi in the US of A. I wasn’t quite sure what I would write about, now returning to my culture de départ, but after taking the cab ride from the airport to chez ami where we spent the night, I felt like a foriegner in my own backyard. It’s odd how quickly our minds and bodies adapt to a new ritual. And I began to notice things – things that have been normales my entire life, maintenant seem étranges.

Ever since I was une petite fille, I would walk and later run daily the loop around my house. These 2.5 miles of road were like a runner’s rêve. Up and down hills along the base of the mountain, in and out of forests, and past agricultural fields, where houses were few and far between. I always felt like I was in a Nike commercial running past each changing landscape. I still trek this loop, même si more houses have blocked my glorious views. 

I always wanted my mom to walk with me, but she quickly refused for fear of les chiens. There weren’t plusieurs chiens and I didn’t think they were so bad, malgré le fait I was bit by one during one of my runs. Like all runners I mentally marked those houses and tried to run on the other side of the street. My husband and I walked everyday the year before when I was pregnant. The majority of homeowners know me from when I was une petite fille and the rest would know of me as so-and-so’s daughter. I became nervous one walk when two chiens, luckily only curious, charged my husband and I in the middle of the street and sniffed my belly.

After living over two years in Paris, I was amazed at the agressiveness, many times unprovoked or unwarranted, of American dogs versus French chiens. The French love their chiens and their chiens are everywhere in all sizes and shapes. From public parcs to resturants and chicaucaus to mastis, chiens are a part of the culture as well. The difference is the demeanor of these chiens. I’ve never been attaqué by a French chien let along ever been stared down or chased by one either. Come to think it I’ve never seen a Beware of le chien sign in any home or apartment window or door in the city or in the country. And I haven’t read or watched a news report indicating that anyone of any age has been attacked by un chien. And this a country where living in 13 square meters is not usual, a dimension smaller than my college dorm room, where these chiens wait for their owners to return from work to go for some exercise. I haven’t noticed invisible fences allowing them run all day. I remember living in Baltimore, where I would run around Federal Hill when I was chased by snapping jaws of a chien when I heard the owner yell at the dog, stopped and then said, « Go head – good dog. We hate the Eagles. » Now, I am not a sports fan. I can not name all the teams in the NFL let along know when and what teams are playing and whom. Apparently, my green T-shirt, with no logo of any kind, beckoned aggressive chien behavior.

I wanted to find my mace to take with me to protect myself and I began to me demander why ? Is it that as Americans we live in such a culture of fear that not only do we needs guns but nos chiens have to be programmed to protect agressively if someone is walking by 20 yards from the property line and double or triple that from la maison? That even when the owners call them off, les chiens have a hard time calming down and viewing the new individual as anything other than a perpetrator ? Is this why we really can’t allow dogs to accompany us to restuarants because they would bite and/or bark disruptively at every new guest ?

It was not normal for me being home less than two days and thinking of and missing la France. I hadn’t imagined feeling étrangère so soon. And for all my back and forth this past year – are we making the right decision living here – I began to realize that peut-être I had crossed over the other side. 

Vagina Games Part II…



« Le doute amène l’examen et l’examen la vérité.» de Pierre Abélard

« The doubt brings the examination and the examination the truth.» -Pierre Abélard


Jour de mon examen : day of my test

Oui : yes

les devoirs : homework, tasks

un petit peu : a little bit

un petit pet : a little fart

rendez-vous : meeting

mal : bad

d’accord. déshabillez : ok. undress.

très bien : very good

trois fois : three times

c’est mieux : it’s better


Jour de mon examen. Oui, today was the day my vagina had to perform several squeezes proving it had done its devoirs this week. Ten times a day : squeeze, breathe, talk, release. And repeat. This vagina workout is designed to bring women back to their healthy selves pre-birth. I remember my mother always blaming us kids for peeing herself un petit peu everytime she laughed or coughed. It’s because of you kids, she would say. Or older women who accidently let a petit pet fly in mid-walk. And not to mention the sexual benefits of a tight and strong punaani. The reason for this is that, as I’ve learned, this muscle controls all three holes down there.

My witch doctor, now turned grandmother – I mean I guess you’d have to be after she stuck her fingers in my Va-Jay-Jay and we had a moment, explained and demonstrated all this during my anatomy section at our previous rendez-vous. She placed her finger inside of me and pressed at the back of my pink taco and said, « And now, my finger is on the muscle of your rectum. I’m sure you can feel it. » « Oui, » I said. « And if I push a little further, you will poop on the table. » I didn’t dare move. « And here, » she was pressing on the front of my coin purse, « is your bladder. And if I press a little further, you will pee on the table. Do you feel that ?» « Ahh, oui. » Please don’t let me pee on the table, I kept thinking, I can feel it and I’ll trust ya on this one. « And here, » and she pressed right where it felt mal. « Oui, that’s where it feels mal, » I said. « This is your uterus, but you can’t feel your uterus. » « Oui, I feel it. » Apparently, this is where I was cut. « Yes, but you can’t really feel it. » No I guess not. 

She asked me a few questions before we started. One of which I didn’t understand, but I just said yes to anyway. I mean, this woman sticks her fingers in women’s poontangs for a living. She seemed impressed, whatever we were talking about. « D’accord. Déshabillez. » It was time to take my pants off and show my new moves. Fingers in position. And squeeze. « Très bien, » she said nodding her head completely impressed by the strength of my snapper. I only had to squeeze trois fois and then she she stood back and looked at my enigmatic vertical smile in all its glory and asked me to squeeze one last time. « Très bien. C’est mieux » She would see me again in two weeks. Oui! Gold star for my meat wallet. She confessed at the end that she was meeting with a woman next who didn’t speak any French and she didn’t know what she was going to do. I felt rather proud in that moment that I had done it. I had learned to speak and understand the language even though I have miles to go before I sleep. Afterward I went up to the secretary and made a rendez-vous in two weeks. And then I took my beaver out for a white chocolate chip cookie on a job well done.

The Vagina Games…



« J’aime une femme qui rit. Il semble alors que son vagin remonte jusqu’à sa bouche, en vrillant, comme certaines fusées de feux d’artifice » de Henry de Montheriant


« I like a woman who laughs. It seems so that her vagina climbs back up just to her mouth spinning like certain rockets of fireworks. » Henry de Montheriant


le rééducation périnéale : education of the puboccygeus muscle

un accouchement : birth

masseur-kinésithérapeute : kinestherapeutic masseur

mon vagin : my vagina

Oui. C’est moi : yes, it’s me.

le dossier : file

Pas de problème : no problem

dèshabiller : to undress

Réspire. Il faut réspirer. : Breathe. It is necessary to breathe.

l’examen : the test


I had heard tell of the phenomenon that is rééducation périnéale that takes place here in France after un accouchement. I had read blogs of other American women who had undergone this post procedure follow up strengthening their vaginas through what we know to be the Kegel’s method. And gentlemen – do not think this is a woman’s issue for strengthening the puboccygeus (yeah, say that five times fast) muscle can reduce premature ejaculation and increase the size and intensity of erections. And we all thought we needed Fifty Shades of Grey to spice up the bedroom.

Unlike in the US, women post-birth are given une ordonnance for ten sessions with a masseur-kinésithérapeute who reeducates you and your vagina to get back in the game. The sessions are to be made 6-8 weeeks after the birth. Due to out-of-town visitors and my own skepticism, I hesitated. I had the accounts of other American women who seemed think the idea interesting but not really necessary. These sessions are really geared towards women who had a natural childbirth where the walls and muscles were stretched, pulled, and torn. I had had a casearian, so I was already ahead of the curve.

Today was my first day of school for mon vagin. My vagina was very nervous. After waiting a few minutes, a tall, older, tan complected woman announced my name very slowly. Maaadaaammmme Carrrrrleeeton. Oui, C’est moi. Her frizzy curly hair and demeanor seemed more appropriate for a witch doctor than a certified practitioner. I followed her and her resident in training to her office where we sat down to discuss my accouchment. She informed me that she didn’t have my dossier for whatever reason and needed me to explain what had transpired during the birth. This was the second time that I was at the hospital talking to a secretaire or a doctor where there was a computer on their desk in front of them, but they couldn’t read my medical history because they didn’t have a bulging paper filled dossier with all the information in random order.

I began everything that had transpired during the labor and birth. She spoke French so slowly that I had a difficult time understanding her. She began speaking in English with the same slow monotone cadance asking if I could hold my urine when I cough or lift something heavy, etc. Oui, oui. Pas de problème. And then the questioning turned into  linguistic malentendu. The French, perhaps because they don’t really go the gym, do not have a word for sore. So sore throat, sore muscles – nothing. Instead you say mal, which can mean a lot of things, but means bad or badly. When she asked me how sex was, I turned to the intern, who spoke English well, and asked her what the word for sore was. And she said, « elle a mal. » I said, well it’s not bad. It’s sore where they cut into me. I guess it’s one of those inaccurate trous that I’m going to have to embrace and go with.

She explained that today would consist of a lesson informing me about the anatomy of my vagina. I thought ok and dèshabillé for my vagina lesson. She placed her fingers inside of me and asked me to squeeze, but not to use my abdomen, thigh, or buttocks muscles. Only the prénenial. It was harder than I thought trying to relax all the other muscles while flexing another. I thought I was doing pretty good until she started clicking her tongue and shaking her head. « Toc, toc, toc. Réspire. Il faut réspirer. » I started breathing and she said – now don’t use your abs. « I’m sure your momther never told you about this muscle. Yes that’s because she didn’t know. She didn’t know. » I thought, no, considering my mother never spoke to me about sex because she felt so uncomfortable, she never did. And then I started envisioning my mother and I over tea and scones talking about our vagina muscles. Not a chance. I then had to learn how to squeeze and talk at the same time. Finally she determined my vagina workout was over, but that I needed to pratice 10 times a day for our next lesson.

I was greeted by my husband and son when I promptly said, « I need a drink. » I’m meeting her again next week when /ill let you know if I passed my first examen. May the games be ever in my favor!

Running with poussettes…



« Mon médecin m’a dit récemment que faire du jogging allongerait mon espérance de vie. Il avait raison. J’ai l’impression d’avoir dix ans de plus. » de Milton Berle

“My doctor recently told me that jogging could add years to my life. He was right. I feel ten years older already. ” – Milton Berle


Bonjour: hello

maman: mom

cependant: however

toujours ensemble: always together

le bébé: the baby

la poussette: the stroller

le parc: the park

l’aire: the air, atmosphere

grand-mère: grandmother

très: very

l’amour de sa vie: the love of one’s life

résultat: result

evidemment: evidently

normalement: normally

Oh la la! Encore! Et avec la poussette: Oh la la! Again! And with the stroller!

étranger: foreign, strange

sportive: athletic


My son doesn’t take naps. He did take naps. Oh, what a time…The first month was glorious  – he slept all day and then awoke to eat. Month two we started to see a little more of our little one during working hours. And then, at three months, they became non-existent. The normal child would still be taking a nap but, for my outlier son, naps are so last month. Like bonjour maman! As a parent, this can be exhausting constantly entertaining your child all day. So one gets to the point of tricking one’s child into sleep.

We haven’t been overly successful at this task, cependant, we managed to happily stumble into it by accident. I wanted to get back to running. I had been running up until the fifth month of my pregnancy when the mountainous terrain of my birthplace put a stop to that. Being an ex-pat means there are no grandparents or siblings to watch your child from time to time. It’s just us, toujours ensemble. This meant that my husband and I were going to try and run with our bébé in the poussette and see if he would like it. The rougher the terrain, the happier he is. So we tried it. And it worked. Asleep before the first minute passed.

The closest parc to us is Parc Monceau. The aire of the parc reminds me of the Upper East Side. Nannies with poussettes, grand-mères in designer pieces, and très chic gay Frenchmen wearing dark sunglasses. Running in France is greeted with a hint of skepticism. It is most certainly changing, but like all things in France, slowly. Elaine Sciolino describes her running adventures in France as the former bureau chief for the NYT as being the odd girl out in the 70s to gaining popularity now. She explains that for the French the idea of on ne sait jamais, one never knows, is one the factors that deters runners. One is always in communion with the environment around them. What you wear and how you present yourself completes the aesthetic Parisian landscape. And one never knows when they are going to meet l’amour de sa vie or an opportunity network for a new job. Sweaty in sneakers and running clothes?  Not very chic. Résultat: one should always look one’s best.

Evidemment, in France, running with your child is a strange novelty. The weather has turned glorious and so we decided to finally start our new regime. Normalement, when I run, I try to stay as incognito as possible. But on this occasion, with my husband running beside me pushing the poussette, I noticed that we were the main attraction. With each lap I witnessed the eyes widen larger and larger on the surrounding park benches as if to say, “Oh la la! Encore! Et avec la poussette!” On the weekends, nannies are replaced by mothers, well-heeled strolling around the paths or watching their children on the playground. And although they look pretty great post-bébé, my husband leaned into me and said, “You’re going to make them feel bad.” I have no doubt the French thought we were mad collecting a myriad of expressions from utter confusion to being genuinely impressed.

I am aware that we weren’t fooling anyone – we were étranger. But perhaps we’ll start a new trend – fashionable running clothes, hot sportive mamans, and tricked-out poussettes. On ne sait jamais…

My own feminist mistress…



« On ne naît pas femme : on le devient.  » de Simone de Beauvoir

“One is not born a woman; one becomes one.” – de Beauvoir


cette semaine: this week

la beauté: the beauty

jamais: never

récemment: recently

métro: subway

belle: beautiful

désolé(e): sorry

pourquoi pas?: why not?

la femme: woman


There are some semaines when I’m not sure what I’m going to write about and then something so outrageously American or so outrageously French catches my eye and I am compelled to write about it. Such happened cette semaine when I read the headline that Obama’s marriage was in danger because he complimented la beauté of the California Attorney General. When I read that American feminists were getting their cotton panties (unlike their French compatriots who spend 20% of their salary on lingerie – one never knows?) in a bind over this remark and how it has set the women’s movement back, I rolled my eyes and said, “Oh dear God, that is soooo American.”

This article would never, jamais, appear in a French newspaper because women expect to be complimented on their allure. They are beautiful, they know it, and they expect a man to take notice. Unlike the normal animal kingdom, females are the more colorful and attractive. And there is a reason for that. We’re beautiful. The most famous statues are of women for all the world to gaze at in awe. Male designers do not create their new lines based upon men’s wear. They design for women. Récemment, I attended the Haute Couture exhibit at Hôtel de Ville where I was overwhelmed by the femininity of the ‘30s and ‘40s (my personal fav). I wanted to slip into every Dior fitted dress suit capturing delicate femininity in every curve and strength of character in his choice of tissue and neck hugging collars. I was amazed how this man had captured the softness of the female body and her heart possessing the strength of many men. In France, women are not expected to act and dress like a man. They are expected to be the alluring beautiful creatures, who expect to be treated like a lady. They will hold doors for me, smile as if to say I am belle, and seal the deal with a hushed, mademoiselle. They will carry my luggage down the métro stairs. And they’ll tell me if my scarf compliments my eyes.

Récemment, a poll on the Today show indicated that out of their jobs, their love life, and their appearance, women felt most stuck in their appearance. And why wouldn’t they. Like me, most women spend 30 minutes or more getting ready in the morning – washing, primping, styling- which goes completely unnoticed. If I spent that much time on a cool class activity and no one complimented me on it, I’d be pissed too. Considering, despite her protestations that she’s not into her looks, Michelle Obama has spent and continues to spend a lot of time and money on her hair cuts, designer outfits, make-up, and all the artists, personal trainers, and cooks who make her to look constantly fabulous, so that she can appear on the cover of Vogue twice. Désolée Michelle, you didn’t just get bangs for no reason. And she shouldn’t have to apologize for it or downplay it – she wants to look beautiful. Pourquoi pas? She’s a femme.

French women at The Crazy Horse coined themselves as “feminists mistresses of their own destinies”. There is something so femininely seductive about this statement. As a femme, I am both coquette and gérant. I am beautiful and brazen. And I know how to take a compliment for it. Merçi.


What a difference a letter makes…





« L’orthographe est le cricket des Français. Le cricket et l’orthographe ont en commun d’être incompréhensibles aux étrangers, sans parler des indigènes.  » de Alain Schifres


” Spelling is the cricket of the French people. What cricket and spelling have in common is to be incomprehensible to foreigners, without speaking of the natives. ” –Alain Schifres


Normalement:  normally

Récemment: recently

Mais: but

ma langue maternelle: my maternal language

les erreurs: errors

plusieurs anglophones: several anglophones

rue: street

s’il vous plaît: please

mes étudiants: my students

tout le monde: everyone

les étoiles: the stars


Normalement, my experience with a foreign language has been on the learning end. Mais récemment, I’ve now become the instructor of ma langue maternelle. I remember reviewing corrections made by my professor on my writing indicating what I should have said and how to say it more properly, aka more French. I may have misspelled a word by one letter. Maybe I forgot an “s” at the end of a plural word. Or maybe I forgot to add an “e” on the end of a feminine adjective. It didn’t seem like a big deal. Granted it was wrong and needed to be corrected, but I’m sure the natives make the same erreurs from time to time.

However, there are those occasions when one little letter can make all the difference in the world. Here in France, they have a tendency to not have a native English speaker correct their translations, which is bizarre when there are plusieurs anglophones to choose from and its universal language status. My husband and I were walking down the infamous Rue Mouffetard as I was desperately crazing a nutella and banana crêpe. On this lovely rue, there are several stands to choose from, but one caught both of our eyes and laughed for this particular stand was selling salty crêpes and sweety crêpes. Now, I must admit that my cockles were warmed at this endearment, but I’m not sure that was what they were going for unless they meant to put a comma after sweety and a question mark after crêpes. And then, I’d have to say, “Why yes! Nutella and banana s’il vous plaît!”

But nothing prepared me for the addition of a letter in a common noun that changed its meaning entirely. I had given an exam to mes étudiants where a picture of Times Square in New York was provided followed by questions for them to answer in English. We had already done this exercise in class with a picture of London, so I was expecting tout le monde to do rather well. The first question asked the students to identify the city and justify their response. One of my students wrote: This is New York City because of the busy streets and the skycrappers. Now, there are some New Yorkers who would agree that the skyline might be crappy at times blotting out les étoiles at night, but again, unless the sky has little gnomes crapping on persons below (which one might call pigeons), I’m not sure this is what he was going for. I mean, there wasn’t anything falling from the sky in this particular picture.

I can only hope I have entertained my professors as much as the French have amused me. Perhaps, that’s what makes our relationship so wonderful. You never know when a little unassuming letter can change my day from sweety to crapper. 

Ready or not, here I come…



« C’est peut-être ça que je suis, la chose qui divise le monde en deux, d’une part le dehors, de l’autre le dedans […] » de Beckett, Innommable

“It is perhaps that quich I am, the thing which divides the world in two, of one part outside, of the other inside…” – Samuel Beckett, Unnamable


il faut la lire en français: it is necessary to read it in French

l’amant: lover

la langue maternelle: mother tongue

étrangère: foreign

pour les ados: for the adolescents

bien sûr: of course

cependent: however

en fait: in fact

un nouveau jeu commence: a new game begins


Henry Miller said that in order to improve his French he went to a café with a French novel and a dictionary. I live in France, so I use the language everyday, but I feel my skills atrophying from the intense French experience I encountered the year before. I’m a visual learner – if I can see it, I can learn it. As frustrating as reading in another language can be at times, it truly is the best way to learn a language. New rule – I have decided to only read books in the original language in which they were intended to be read. In order to really understand the voice of Proust, il faut la lire en français.

On the side, I’ve been secretly writing a romance/erotica novel. What better culture to explore this terrain than France who put Sade in sadomasicism.  Naturally, I turned to Miller’s amant, Anaïs Nin, who serviced him in many a dark corner along the Seine and then journaled about it. Based on her name and the time she was in Paris, I assumed she was French. She’s not. That tramp. So my French copy of ‘Venus Erotica’ was originally written in English. I quickly moved onto Proust and Flaubert. Psst…you can download those copies for free on Kindle!

Nothing prepares you for your langue maternelle to seem completely étrangère than when you’re teaching it as a foreign language. I was recently employed to teach English at a private school pour les ados. I remember taking French classes and my teachers rattling away in French and sometimes I would get all of it and sometimes I would get 30% of what was being said. I never realized what it was like on their end. Now, I do. The students are constantly translating what I say to one another or responding in French to my questions in English that sometimes I find myself fighting to speak in French because it would make communication so much easier. The textbook the students are learning from is written in the British English language because, bien sûr, American English is trash. So now, not only does half the class not understand a word I’m saying, the other half that does understand is copying spellings and grammar completely American. For the first time I feel foreign in my own langue.

I’m not sure if it’s progress in my French culture assimilation. Cependent, it is the first time in my excellent game of le cache-cache when I’m not the one hiding. En fait, I am completely and consciously exposing myself in order for them to copy my cultural idiosyncrasies. And for the first time, they are hiding theirs. Un nouveau jeu commence…

Wishes, Love, & Death…



« La popularité, c’est d’éternuer à l’écran et de recevoir le lendemain des centaines de cartes postales avec écrit : A vos souhaits. » de Léon Zitrone

“The popularity, it is sneezing at the screen and receiving that next day hundreds of post cards which writes: to your wishes.” – Léon Zitrone


le pays: country

les États: the States

en France: in France

Cependent: however

l’éternument: the sneeze

les rêves: the dreams

oui: yes

Fait attention: Watch out!

Donc: Therefore

soit…soit: either…or

Bien sûr: of course

les belles femmes américaines: the beautiful American women

Pour moi: For me


Discovering the rituals of another pays is always a little treat. Particularly when they don’t exist in your own. This is true in the case of sneezing. In les États, we say ‘God bless you’ or the German “gesundheit’ (to your health) whenever someone sneezes. And we keep saying it to ad nauseum until the sneezer finally stops. There’s no motivation for the sneezer to really let a few go and clear out those sinuses.

In France…oh en France…there is an extraordinary build-up to an ultimate climax when the listener shouts die! The ritual of sneezing has changed among certain groups and over time. Cependant, the first two remarks are consistent.

The first éternument: à tes souhaits/à vos souhaits

This means informally and formally ‘to your wishes’. The intention is that the wishes or les rêves of  the sneezer come true. How lovely! I clear out my nostrils and all my dreams come true. Disney should give Mickey a constant cold.

The second éternument: à tes amours/à vos amours

This means ‘to your loves’. Apparently, your wish for good health didn’t arrive so maybe your loves will care for you. Or maybe you’ll fight harder to live for your the loves of your life. And why wouldn’t you when multiple loves causes them to change gender. Oui! Fait attention! This transgender noun goes from masculine when there is one amour and feminine when there are multiple amours. Donc the response can be soit  ‘que les tiennes durent toujours’ soit ‘qu’elles durent toujours’. Either ‘that yours last forever/always’ or ‘that the loves last always’.

Here’s where it gets a little dicey as their use is tenuous depending on the company. The third éternument: Crève! Friends of mine googled this because we thought it was hysterical. Die! In my Larouse la crève means bad cold. How very Lady Macbeth of them, die bad cold! die I say! Bien sûr they are not saying the cold incubator should die. They are simply telling that bad cold to exit the body and die! I’m not sure how often you hear this in France, but be sure there is a group of belles femmes américaines, who are giving it a comeback! Other sayings include: à vos aïeux (to your ancestors) – used more rarely, que le Seigneur/Dieu vous benisse (may Lord bless you) – in very religious circles.

Whatever your pleasure – wishes, loves, God almighty –  there is a buffet of blessings for the health and happiness of the sneezer. Pour moi, I’m all for expanding my linguistic palate so à vos souhaits!


He loves me…he loves me not…



“L’amour ne veut pas la durée; il veut l’instant et l’éternité.” – Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

“Love wants not the duration; it wants the instant and the eternity.” – Nietzsche


ami – friend

manquer – to miss

aimer – to love

se tromper – to trick or deceive

Pourtant, cependant – however

en vérité – in truth

le tutoiement – to use the informal ‘tu’ with someone

les amants – the lovers

au contraire – to the contrary

malheureusement – unfortunately

bien – fine

la langue française – the French language


The French language never ceases to surprise me. Like its verbal ami, manquer, aimer (or to love) can se tromper even the savviest of language learners. Aimer, a seemingly one-dimensional verb, changes its meaning drastically when used in a sentence to the point where you might be declaring your love to a frenemy or caste off the love of your life with the wrong adverb.


Traditionally, we think of aimer as to love something or someone. Pourtant, aimer can also mean to like. The conditional, j’aimerais, means ‘I would like’. J’aimerais une café/I would like a coffee. J’aimerais te voir/I would like to see you. The dramatic love doesn’t really apply here and so the change from love to like is, like many things in France, implied. I fell into this trap when I wanted to switch language teachers while in France. En vérité, I really disliked the professor, who, when she decided to show up to class and teach something, was horrible and I had big plans. Cependant, I couldn’t say – you suck like big time and I want out and into another class where the prof actually teaches something, so I decided to turn on the French charm and hope she would fall for it as I needed her permission to change classes. The professeur in France is always addressed by the formal vous creating that familiar superior ranking difference. Now, je t’aime, quite famously means I love you. With the use of le tutoiement, or the very familiar tu indicating that a little something something has transpired between les amants, it’s obvious to the listener that aimer in this case means to love. So I thought that vous would equate to like considering there is a distance between the individuals. Au contraire! I understood after the fact why my professor’s eyes bugled out her head when I said, je vous aime, thinking I was saying that I like her but that the class wasn’t challenging enough. Malheureusement, what she heard was I love you.


It was then that I learned about the three-tiered system of love that occurs in the French language. These three-tiers surprisingly have nothing to do with the distant and familiar pronouns of vous et tu, but with the addition of some unassuming adverbs.


So if you kind-of like someone or something you add bien after the verb. Donc, I should have said – je vous aime bien. I like you. I’m fond of you. It’s difficult to think of adverbs in this case diminishing the value of the verb, but such is la langue française. Je l’aime bien, mais je ne suis pas amoureux d’elle/I like her, but I’m not in love with her. J’aime bien mon nouveau travail/I like my new job.


If you make it to level 2 with your significant other, they’ll say – je t’aime beaucoup. The first descriptive word one learns in French is beaucoup de, which means a lot of or as I like to think, a shitload or a shit ton of something. Il y a beaucoup de livres/There’s a shitload of books. Je le deteste beaucoup/I hate it a shit ton. So when I said to my future husband, je t’aime beaucoup, I thought I was saying I love you a shit load, but, in truth, I was saying – I like you like you. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink. So, now I’m in love with my prof that I detest and I’m very fond of my future husband. Imagine encouraging a lover with this system – you think you’re indicating what you want him to continue when in reality you’re saying, any day now.


And the final level, level 3,  je t’aime. I love you. Simple. Elegent. Understated. Like a Chanel little black dress. Perhaps for the French, to love someone doesn’t need to be quantified. I love you. It’s enough. To love someone is to open oneself completely exposing all the vulnerable and flawed aspects of one’s self. To make that leap to level 3, you strip off the extras and are left with the original raw material. J’aime ça. I love that. 




“L’amour n’est pas qu’un sentiment, c’est aussi un art.” Honoré de Balzac

“Love is not only a sentiment, it is also an art.” -Balzac


ce mot: this word

contrairement: contrarily

en français: in French

la première position: the first position

tu me manques: I miss you

l’autre: the other

Joyeux Saint Sylvestre: Happy Valentine’s Day


Recently, I’ve been missing. Missing sleep. Missing the daytime. Missing the ability to accomplish anything. My son, it seems, is collicky. I never believed this before until it happened to me. I thought parents were to blame for this problem. But when you’ve seen eight in the morning and you’re not at a nightclub, however much dancing, music, and movement resembles it to make your child sleep, you realize the screaming is not cries of a drunken madman.

The French word for to miss is manquer. Phonetically it sounds like monk but with a low “ah” sound instead of the “o”. Mahnk. The lowness of the “ah” sound echoes in the emptiness of the throat and chest recalling the loss. It is a verb I had very little difficultly forgetting when I first learned French. Je vais manquer ma classe. I’m going to miss my class. J’ai manqué le train. I missed the train. When communicating the lack or the missing of events or objects, the verb is quite simple. It’s exactly like English. “I”, being the most important, miss or lack something in my life.

I had great difficulty employing ce mot when communicating that I miss an individual. English follows the same pattern. I miss you where I, once again, takes la première position. Contrairement en français, the verb takes on a different function, a rather poetic function. In this case, tu me manques, which reads literally as you me miss or in reality you are missing from me. As if to say, I am incomplete without you. I am no longer whole. The person is the most important and is missing from the life of l’autre.

As my husband is out of town, I have felt this missing during the witching hours when my docile and curious Dr. Jeckyll turns into the overwhelming Mr. Hyde.  After he roars his terrible roars and gnashes his terrible teeth, I lie him down on the bed and feel the cavern of emptiness on the other side of the bed. He is missing from me. My husband’s ability to calm the little one and myself and relieve the exhaustion is missing from me. Il me manque. I realize he is also missing from my son, who depends on him to rock him and soothe him throughout the day. Il nous manque. He us miss. He is missing from us. He, we miss.

Joyeux Saint Sylvestre