It's been nearly two weeks since my arrival and I'd say I've been extremely diligent about trying to fit in. It only took me a few days to learn some of the tricks to blending in with Parisians. For instance, numbing your face when you enter the metro (especially in the mornings). You can't be happy, sad, or bitchy. It's more of a numbing expression. You may be in the metro and have a 60 year old man about an inch away from your face because everyone is packed into cart like canned sardines, but you have to keep that same robotic face if you wanna be Parisian. Also, I've learned it's not so much about what you where, but how you walk in it. A Parisian woman might be in a simple raggedy sweater with a big scarf, jeans, and don't forget the messy hair, but if she walks down the street with pursed lips and a little runway walk then she makes you think damn she's so chic! It's kind of like the cheerleader effect, but the group of girls/guys is replaced by the attitude. (See definition of cheerleader effect)
After one week of taking the metro in the mornings I thought I had it down. I had scrutinized and imitated Parisians enough to not stick out like a sore thumb (disregarding the map I carry everywhere, of course). I made sure I didn't smile on the street (I learned they think people who smile a lot are stupid), I numbed my face in the metro, and I made sure to walk with purpose. I'd even try to mumble things at the cashier so my accent wouldn't be as noticeable (usually failed). Little did I know that being a Parisian is an art form that takes years of practice before one can begin to master it. The question was, did I wanna become a Parisian? It wasn't until two days ago that it hit me, literally.
I was doing my little confident runway trot down a road, looking at all the people having intellectual conversations as they elegantly smoke a cigarette outside cafes and suddenly WAM! The pavement was inches away from my face and all I could see was my huge red bag flying over my head. I was so embarrassed and sprung up so fast that no one noticed (not really). Smokers in neighboring cafes even turned there heads. I said the two word that never fail in French "Ca va" it's all good) and walked off, or more like fled. After passing all the cafes I started cracking up because of how rare my fall might have been for Parisians. I'm sure someone dropped some wine on their pants when I fell. A girl slipping and making a fool of herself on the street?! Why that's unfathomable in Paris! In fact, I can't even picture it in my head. My imagination can only do so much. Even if it ever did happen to a Parisian woman, I'm sure her expression wouldn't change an inch and she would make so chic it would look intentional. That's when I realized I will never master the art of being Parisian.
I still cracked up about it the next morning when I left my house. That day I smiled while on the metro, a rarity in the mornings. After reflecting on this "AHA moment slip" I came up with a few reasons why I could never be Parisian. Here's the list I came up with.
- I'm too good at getting up after tripping and falling
- I can't eat cheese in small proportions
- My eyes will always wonder too much while I'm in the metro
- My big will always be too big and heavy, keeping me from looking chic and graceful
- I will never be able to perfect the "chic hipster I didn't even try, but I still look good" look
- I will never be able to squeeze between to cafe tables without bumping everyone around me or looking like an elephant trying to walk on a tightrope
- I will always speak too loud
- I will never be able to go through a day without keeping my cool for the entire day
- I often feel the urge to laugh too loud in public places
- I will always want to strike up random conversations with strangers
- I will never be efficient enough and make use of every inch of every wall in my house. I mean come on I'm from the US. Better yet, I'm from Texas!
- I will never be able to passionately make out with someone in a metro station. PDA is not my thing
I'm sure by the end of the semester I'll be a few feet closer to being like the French, but I will have miles to go before becoming a full breed Parisian . However, trying to be French still has countless benefits like eating great cheese everyday.
I'm learning things about Parisians that you don't notice as a tourist. As someone in my family once said, "vive con el." Just think about the things I learn when I start going people watching!