Memories of My Year (as A)broad

Lots of college students spend a year abroad.  I spent two years as a broad.  In Paris, in my twenties.  And lately, I’ve been reminiscing all about it.  See, I’m planning a trip to Paris next spring with my mother and my daughter.  And it’s been so long since I’ve been there.  And I SO didn’t have a husband or children when I lived there.  It was a lifetime ago.

A time when I was still Hip – hey I was living in Paris and working as a singer.  (OK, A Bar Mitzvah Band singer….but still.) A time when men under the age of 70 – hell, under the age of 30 – routinely checked me out and asked me out.

Yeah, like I said, that was a long, long time ago.

And it wasn’t because I was all that attractive, either.  I was just…other.  Just as we New Yorkers think that Parisian women are sophisticated and exciting, so did the French find it glamorous that I came from “zee beeg Apple.”  And just as American men find the French accent sexy…well, need I say more?

Back the, the French still LIKED us. They acted like they didn’t sometimes.  The ugly American idea was around.  But overall, they thought we were cool. (again: long time ago) Back then,  they learned much of their American culture through movies, and were convinced that New York was full of thieves, rapists, and drug fiends, but that the rest of Americans lived like characters out of 90210.  My friends were constantly asking me if I’d seen this movie star or that, and if it were true we only drank white wine.  They wanted to know if I’d seen cowboys, and were the refrigerators really that big.  Did I surf, they asked.  And once, someone even asked if it were true about the alligators in the sewer system.

The French seemed to think that I should know everything about every state in the Union.  When I tried to explain that being a New Yorker is not the same as being a Nebraskan or South Carolinian — and least of all a Californian, they looked at me in a dazed way and asked if I’d ever been to Miami.

It’s funny to me, that I was so “exotic” back then.  Because now, well, not so much.  I’m a mom, a blogging mom, kind of a cliche, in a way.  (Although Beccarama recently had a great post that I’d like to subtitle “Power to the Mommy Bloggers”)  Laundry, school buses, playdates, Gymnastics.  Not exotic.  Not at all.

That’s why sometimes I do crazy things, like Pole Dance, or Trapeze. Because even though I love my husband, I love my kids, and I love New York…I sometimes miss being that exotic creature:  The American who Spoke Fluent  French.

I miss Paris.  I’ve tried to keep part of it with me: I shop in small food boutiques.  I wander into Agnes B. now and then. I eat my salad after my entree.   But the truth is, New York is where I belong.  With my family is where I belong.

I’m looking forward to showing my daughter Paris. To introducing her to my French friends.  But even when I was there, I was still a  New Yorker.  Case in point: one time on the metro, some  man tried to stick his hand into my purse.  “Move your hand, or lose your hand,” I said in French.  You can take the New York woman out of New York.  But you can’t take the New York out of the New York woman.


  1. says

    Okay, the white wine thing? What do they do with it if they’re not drinking it? Or is that a sign that Americans are gauche for drinking it instead of, what? Cooking with it?

    Oh, I envy you a trip to France. I took French in school and thought that someday I would go there.

    Now I live in reality and know that unless they make a really long bridge to the UK, I won’t be visiting the Champs Elysee or The Louvre.

    BBC America is about as close as I’ll ever get.

    C’est la vie!

    (mine any way)

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