Sunday, July 5, 2009

Yet Another Tale of Idiocy in Picardie

Long-time readers may remember my French friend D, a woman who works with me at the school where I have the monster class. Last year at this time we were thick as thieves, but this year she has decided to spend every waking moment with her boyfriend. The occasional time that we have seen each other or chatted at school the conversation is only about her and how unhappy she is in her relationship and yet she refuses to break up with him because she doesn't want to end up alone. Clearly nothing interesting happens in my life that she would need to ask me about. She also wants me to be at her beck and call so that whenever she wants I'm around to listen to her problems. Sorry D, it's a two way street, both people have to play the game.

But the break up = alone rule has a post script, which is that if she has some other guy waiting to immediately be her next boyfriend, then she would be okay breaking up with her current boyfriend. Enter Arnaud, who she met last summer, and who has been interested in her ever since. Back in April, when D was extremely unhappy while spending vacation with her current boyfriend and his daughters, Arnaud sent her a text asking her to have a drink with him and she said yes. Since then they've been seeing each other frequently for drinks and dinner, but haven't yet crossed "the ultimate line."

So not only do I feel that D hasn't been a very good friend to me and have little desire to hang out with her anymore, I find her behavior with Arnaud completely reprehensible. Which I've tried to explain to her. Her response? "When I was 24 I wouldn't have behaved this way either." Because clearly once we turn 35 the moral compass in our heads becomes a mere suggestion!

But I am on the point of leaving, and she wasn't seeing her boyfriend this past weekend (I guess she's getting close to finally cutting him loose), so she said we should go out together. Fine, I thought to myself. We'll go to the same bar we always go to, where there should be people I know and can talk to, and I'm sure Arnaud will make an appearance but whatever.

Well, D came to pick me up and immediately told me that no, we aren't going to the usual bar, the only place in town where people hang out on the weekends. She's returning to Arnaud and his friends at their tiny neighborhood bar and how lucky for me that I get to come along! I was a bit annoyed at being told what to do, but as I said before, I know how she is about wanting me to always do whatever she wants to do, so I guess I wasn't too surprised.

We got to tiny neighborhood bar (of course she had boyfriend complaining to do in the car), and there was Arnaud with four other guys. One of them, Bruno, was immediately loud and obnoxious and demanded my attention to introduce himself and faire la bise. And then his next question was "comment dit-on mélon en anglais?" Well, it's pretty easy, melon. He starts going off about melons, I didn't understand all of it, but eventually it became clear to me that he was talking about my breasts and wanted to know how my melons were. I was confused and rather insulted and didn't know what to say because he wasn't exactly talking to me to get a response, he had his own one-man show going on. Then he starts telling me that he's seen a picture of me, but I was much fatter back then. Now I'm totally confused. I'm trying to find out how he could possibly have seen a picture of me, and of course I'm feeling very defensive after having this rude, loud, very large man attack me about my weight and my boobs. He and Arnaud and D thought this was all really funny, meanwhile the other guys and I were not laughing. It must have looked like a comedy skit: large man yapping and dancing (yeah, that was thrown in their too), two people laughing along, and half of the table totally silent.

Where'd the picture come from? D took a picture of me last year with her phone. I'm lying on her couch with my chin down so that I look unbelievably fat, and my chest is sticking out so that my boobs look huge. It is a horrible picture of me. She showed this random group of men before coming to pick me up. To get a laugh maybe? How lovely, a laugh at my expense by a whole bunch of foreign men I don't know. I'm going to make sure I do that to all of my girl friends from now on.

This thing with Bruno goes on for 5 - 10 minutes, and then he finally leaves. Thank goodness. Of course the funny part is that he's the fat one and not at all attractive. But apparently he's married and has children. Go figure.

I was very uncomfortable and majorly faire-ing la tête (being angry) but luckily the other guys saw how upset I was and were very nice to me, asking about America and how I like France, etc. The usual stuff that Americans get used to talking about when we're abroad. But then the patron comes out and sits with us and asks why I'm upset and D says it's because I wanted to go somewhere else. Either she was lying to avoid insulting Arnaud's friend, or she's stupid enough to really think that was the only problem. In any case, she was too occupied with Arnaud to pay any attention to me. Maybe she her French wasn't good enough to understand what Bruno said?

And then later in the evening the issue about me being upset because I wanted to go to the other bar came up again, and this time I stood up for myself, mostly because I didn't want the patron to think I was rude. I said no, that is absolutely not why I am upset, I am upset because the minute I arrived this strange man who I don't know started attacking me and that made me very uncomfortable. The guys all agreed with me that it was pretty terrible, except for Arnaud, who starts going on and on about what a great guy Bruno is, how when he's had a bad day he calls him to get a laugh, how nice he is, blah blah blah. Meanwhile, the other guys gallantly come to my rescue, practically riding white horses, and tell Arnaud that I'm right and that if the situations were reversed they would have been upset too. Well, I was never one to wait for Prince Charming to kill the dragon, so I jump back in the game and say to Arnaud that I understand that Bruno is his friend, but I found his behavior towards me rude and inappropriate. The other guys get back into the conversation, I try to get back in, and then Arnaud turns to me and says: "if you go through life being polite and constrained all the time, you'll never get married." He continues to tell me that Bruno is married, the implication clearly being that if I were more like Bruno, I would be married! To a great guy like him! And stuck in Picardie forever!

And then I totally lost track of the conversation because I was trying to verify that I hadn't been abducted by aliens and transported to a parallel universe. At this point I just dropped the conversation because it was obviously not worth the effort to try to explain myself to a person of Arnaud's caliber. Although, now that I think about it, I should have taken Arnaud at his word and started behaving like Bruno and called him out on the size of his bite, which is clearly much smaller than my mélons. I bet he would have proposed to me on the spot.

Anyway, shortly after that D finally agreed to leave for the other bar (Arnaud in tow, naturally) where I could separate myself from the two of them and talk to other people, and even had two guys come up to me and tell me how beautiful I am. And I didn't even have to insult them to get such a lovely compliment! Full disclosure: one of them works in Paris and only comes back to Picardie on the weekends. This confirms my theory that I have been abducted to a parallel universe. I bet Arnaud and Bruno were just trying to make sure that I'll miss Picardie when I leave!

I am so mad at D. First of all, that she would show that ridiculous picture in the first place to men I do not know, and then that she didn't say one damn thing to defend me, but found Bruno funny enough to laugh at him. Guess I don't have to waste any time missing her when I leave. Even the guys who were so quick to defend me later in the evening didn't jump in and tell Bruno to stop. They made up for it later at least, but still, way to be polite to strangers guys. If they could see how uncomfortable I was, why didn't they say something in the first place? I will be very happy to leave this part of life here in my small town behind!

I guess the only bad part of not having any more encounters like this after I leave is that I won't have ridiculous stories to post anymore. Sorry readers, I'm not willing to put myself through this again just for your entertainment!


Rose said...

I was disappointed when your outings with D ended; I thought you were really lucky to have made a friend.
Unfortunately, it sounds like she is entirely self-absorbed and insensitive.
You, my dear, have the world's thickest skin.

Andromeda said...

Good for you for standing up for yourself! It's sad that you've lost what was once a friend, but obviously it was for the best!

And that "polite and constrained" comment is interesting, it makes me think just how important banter is for French relationships. Though Bruno was definitely way past banter and just plain rude.

au soleil levant said...

Rose - well, I don't know, I think I'm just too dumb to realize right away when someone isn't worth my time and effort. But you're right, I had thought that I had made a good friend, unfortunately not.

Andromeda - thanks! True that French relationships seem to depend a lot on banter, even friendships, there is so much joking that to my American ears verges on cruel. Wonder if that comes from a history of emotional abuse in schools?

Zhu said...

Melons? How OLD were these guys?? Grow up!

Well, D doesn't seem to be much of a friend. Her loss...

Mary Community Farm Kitchen said...

So, it took me a few hours after your post to come up with the suitable witty riposte to the "polite and constrained" comment, (and the whole situation in general) but here it is. Not the sort of thing one would actually SAY, but helps put perspective on, I think!

SOME of us take the time to cultivate real friendships and different kinds of loving, caring relationships, so that we won't find ourselves LONELY and DESPERATE at 35!

au soleil levant said...

Zhu - it never fails to amaze me how may grown men here act like teenagers, despite full time jobs, marriages, children, etc. It gets worse after they divorce.

Mary - excellent riposte! Well done! I still can't believe I actually experieced that evening. It's just too weird to have actually happened.

Animesh said...

I think this link definitely deserves to be here, for references :-)


P.S. Next time someone asks about melons, ask him if he would like a kick in the nuts :P

au soleil levant said...

1. I can't believe you spent time looking that website up :)

2. My favorite is definitely Angel Cakes. I think I'm going to start using that ;)