The Translation of Cool

“He brushed his lips to hers, a teaching, then a sinking, sinking until it was drowning deep.  His hands were on her, reminding her what it had been, confusing her with what is was now.

Strong, hard –“ *

I hear a beep and click my Ipod off.  The treadmill starts the cool down phase as I look around warily, wondering if anyone has suspected that I am listening to sexy romance novels while at the gym.  It is one of my secret shames that I absolutely adore these types of books and I’m always terrified that someone will somehow know that I am out in public listening to stories about “throbbing members”.

After the gym, I stop in at the Franprix grocery store to pick up something for dinner.  The same cashier who is always there and always wants to talk is at the register.  While he is a very congenial fellow, he sort of gets on my nerves; so I try to look as unapproachable as possible, ear buds in.

Him:  Bonjour!!!!!!

Me:  Bonjour.  (accompanied by a quick no-nonsense smile)

This conversation was entirely in French.

Him:  So, you are very serious this morning.

Me:  Yes, it is necessary for the gym.

What does that even mean?

Him:  Ah yes, I understand.

I guess he gets it.

I notice the old lady behind me in line soaking up every word of our conversation.

Him:  So, what music are you listening to?

Me:  Ah no, I am listening to a book, not music.

Him:  What book?

Slight pause.  Think, you fool, think!

Me:  Nora Roberts.

Epic choke.

The old lady behind me starts laughing.  A wave of embarrassed heat crosses my face.

Me:  I know it is not great literature!

I am feeling a desperate need to explain myself – suddenly, I’m the husband saying he just bought Playboy for the articles.

Him:  It is okay.

He catches the eye of the old lady behind me and winks.  I am the laughing stalk of the Franprix.

It is very hard to be cool in a foreign language.  Normally, in such a situation, I would have been able to come up with something brilliant:

Him:  What are you listening to?

I raise a hand for silence as I switch off my Ipod…oozing cool.

Me:  What was that?  (I smile condescendingly)

Him:  I was wondering what you are listening to.

Me:   Tolstoy, War and Peace…so powerful.

Him:  (just silence and respect)

This is how these conversations usually go…when I’m not frantically trying to figure out how to formulate a sentence in French.  However, I have found that my ability for blarney (and I kissed that creepy stone has been diminished entirely by my non-ability in French.  My brain is so busy scrambling around, searching for vocabulary while simultaneously trying to concentrate on what is being said that it can’t possibly take the time to worry about being cool!

The ramifications of this are substantial.  Usually, upon first meeting someone, I can fool them into thinking I’m cool for at least a month or so before my inner dork makes its appearance and they realize they’ve been duped.  But now, the curtain has been drawn; I am exposed:


Ahhh!  Shame spiral.

So, be forewarned. While you might think it sounds like the epitome of cool to move to a foreign country, the truth of the matter is that ‘cool’ is the hardest thing to translate.

* Excerpt from Nora Roberts ‘Black Hills’

4 thoughts on “The Translation of Cool

  1. Ugh! Cool is totally difficult to translate! I’m pretty sure everyone in my village thinks I’m a huge dork!
    And I used to read some pretty steamy books on the bus to work every morning (pre-France life). I was always sure that someone would be able to tell when I got to the naughty bits because I’m sure my face gave it away!


    1. haha, right? That’s what I think it is – my embarrassment is so intense that I feel like it MUST be obvious! How sad…I’m not even cool enough to read sexy parts of books without getting embarrassed. Le sigh. Acceptance.


  2. Mrs A Taste of Garlic reads Nora Roberts books!

    Perhaps there’s some sort of club all you non-readers of War and Peace could belong to?

    All the best


    P.S. If there isn’t one of those clubs perhaps there some medication?

    P.P.S. I used to read Jeffery Archer novels in secret but the sound of vomiting and laughing (and occasionally vomiting whilst laughing) tended to give me away so I had to give that up.


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