A few months after I had started dating MB in Australia, one of his French friends (we’ll call him Pierre) came for a visit. I had never met him before and was super nervous about meeting one of MB’s friends from home. Would he like me? Would he think I was too American? Would he be snobby? Would he be mean? I had no idea what to expect and was full of anxiety about what kind of impression I would make. I rehearsed my speech in French over and over again, trying to memorize exactly what I wanted to say and hoping desperately that I wouldn’t choke.
Finally, the day arrived when Pierre got to town; I came to the house and was waiting with MB for Pierre to finish getting ready for dinner. Stage fright was washing over me and I was terrified that I would forget all of my French the moment he opened the door.
Well…you know how they say that if you are nervous about public speaking that you should just picture your audience in their underwear? I didn’t have to picture it.
When Pierre opened the door to come in and say hello, he was clad in only a pair of tighty whities. He walked over, nonchalantly kissed me on both cheeks and then proceeded to begin getting dressed.
Um…am I the only person seeing this? MB didn’t seem to notice that anything odd was happening; Pierre was chatting away merrily, completely unbothered.
This is a scenario that would never occur in the United States.
The French have a somewhat more relaxed attitude towards modesty than Americans. On my first trip to the gynecologist here, she laughed, talking about us, “ah oui, Americains – you are so seely (silly) with your sheet over the legs and only check the one breast at a time, pfff…” I remember looking at her thinking, so in France you just get splayed out naked over the table? I mean, what if it is cold? When I had to get my chest X-ray for my visa, I remained topless for ten minutes in the middle of the room before getting smashed against the metal plate and having the woman unceremoniously re-arrange my breasts. Welcome to France!
Perhaps, we are a bit stuffy about our bodies in the United States (a Puritan leftover?). While a nip-slip during the superbowl caused drama for weeks stateside; I imagine, if the same thing happened in France they would look at it and think, “ouais…is there a problem?” Here, most of the beaches are topless and the general attitude towards nudity seems pretty casual. In the U.S., we are incredibly sensitive to it; the doctor leaves the room for you to undress and some of our beaches don’t allow thongs, let alone, topless.
So this will be a new challenge for me to get used to. I’m not sure that I’m quite ready to go topless on the beach but maybe the next time I meet one of MB’s friends I’ll trot out in my underwear…no one’s ever considered what effect that might have on stage fright.