Monday, March 15, 2010

The Date

Same time....last year.

I have been told by many people, who have learned the French language, that the very best way to learn is to find a French boyfriend.  Now, I’m really not in the market for a boyfriend, French or otherwise, but when my French teacher actually made the suggestion I thought I’d at least better think about it. I’m on a mission, after all, and learning tools are always important. So when the fabulous dancer asked me out, I decided to explore this method a little further.

I’m not new to dating exactly, so I wasn’t really nervous about the date. How hard can this be, after all? Imagine the beautiful language being spoken in your ear. Envision the exquisite flowers and the mouthwatering chocolate that will most surely be lavished upon you. Picture an evening with a French painter who restores 17th century furniture, composes music and adores jazz. Hey, I’ve seen all the movies! And this is my kind of guy. I could actually have a French romance. How cool is that?

So with all these romantic thoughts in mind, I donned my best (only) black sweater, my clean jeans, and my high healed boots, loaded up my purse with my phrase book, my French/English dictionary, some vegetables I had that needed to be eaten, and a bottle of wine and set off to meet my date.

And this is how it really went in this non-lingual, possible relationship-to-be…

Over drinks and peanuts, at his miniscule apartment with no furniture or refrigerator (he had just moved in),on only the second floor mind you, we attempted to make small talk. And believe me, it was small. No, we did not discuss the historical origins of musical styles as I had hoped…. or the beautiful afternoon light in Provence that Cezanne worked so diligently to capture.

He could speak a bit of  English, which was the saving grace in this entire situation, however,..... we were listening to music and I picked up a pair of scissors and began playing them like the castanets. I did a little mime and a little dance and then jokingly informed him that I'm actually a very talented musician. I could see that confused look that I’ve come to know so well. The one a dog gives you when you’re making a funny noise and he’s trying to figure it out. He cocks his head slowly from one side to the next, hoping eventually you’ll do or say something that makes sense to him. You know the look.

Gérald thought he knew what I meant by talented but wasn’t sure so this brought out his electronic translator and we spent 10 minutes in an attempt to find the word and find the meaning he thought I was looking for. The word he found was "tenter" which means to attempt. However with another verb added on, it means to try one's luck. We mulled that over for a while and finally realized that he must have the wrong word. My meaning was obviously not clear.

I kept repeating the word I thought it was in French and we still got nowhere. That brought out my dictionary and my attempt to find the word “talented” and the correct meaning of it in French. I finally landed on the word I meant..."doué".  Mind you, this was at least 25 minutes after my initial, silly little joke. Finally, the sentence came out the way I wanted. Gérald exclaimed, in English, "I get it.... it’s a joke" Yes, Gérald it is…it was… but it was really not that funny.

This process continued for the rest of the evening. At one point he asked me about my avocat. It was my turn to give him the confused dog look.

“You want to know about my lawyer?”

I’m thinking discussing my lawyer and my divorce is not only more personal than we really need to be at this point, but it’s obviously more detailed than we can possibly attempt.

“No your avocat…. your…. your…. avocados”.  

Oh, of course. I just brought them for an appetizer before we go for dinner.

Avocat means both lawyer and avocado in French. I know there’s a good lawyer joke in there somewhere!

He then decided we should speak only in French. Oh, oh!  Great idea for honing my French skills but this Conversation will most likely come to a grinding halt. I asked what we could possibly discuss in French when I have almost no capabilities. He thought perhaps something easy, like the rain and the weather. That sounded completely boring to me and I replied with a typical American phrase (that obviously doesn’t translate well), “that sucks!”

Well, okay…we can talk about sex….if you want” he replied. Yikes again!

Most of the time, by the time we found the meaning to whatever we were trying to say, we'd forgotten what the point was in the first place. Finally in frustration, I shouted…yes, I shouted, "OH MY GOD!"

 Within a split second, Gérald calmly replied, "No, my name is Gérald"

I get it.... it’s a joke. Perhaps we will actually get to a second date!

I'd love to hear anybody else's multi-lingual dating stories...I know they're out there!

      This article was originally published in the Wittenberg Enterprise, March 2009                                 


  1. I knew he fancied you after the earlier story. I've got no experience of love without a shared language. It sounds like purgatory to me - is he worth it?

  2. I've got plenty of multi-lingual dating stories, but I can assure you, none of them involve bringing over vegetables! Now poor Gerald will think that is some weird American custom!!

  3. Communication is difficult enough when you speak the same language........ I give you a lot of credit that you try. I think it would be so fun living in a new country and learning a new language..... not sure about starting a non-lingual relationship but the sex could be good :)

  4. FF: It is a little like purgatory. On the other hand, my ex-pectorant couldn't shut up (about himself) so I'm thinking this is more like heaven!

    Holly, didn't you know about the age-old vegetable custom? Where have you been?

    Jackye: And I'm still trying. Have not yet learned to swear, and with a mouth like mine, that little disability often leaves me with nothing to say. As for sex, it doesn't matter what somebody says in!

  5. Hi! I found your blog via paris (im)perfect. I'm about to pick up and move to France with my soon-to-be-husband. What a journey! You are brave and wonderful for doing it on your own.

    Also, I just loved this post! There are times when my beloved gives me that 'confused dog' look...and he speaks English very well. There are just some things that don't translate well.

    Thank you for the chuckle! Keep writing!

  6. Ha, been there! Love the bit about the confused dog. Good for you for trying!

  7. Hi: I just got here through A Taste of Garlic. This post is oh so funny and wonderful! What a time you had: and I look forward to hearing more!


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