I was getting restless, and feeling overfeed soon enough. We had gone for some day trips, visiting local wineries, shopping in the neighboring towns and even one day to Marseille, about an hour and a half away. I bought a couple cute cotton sundresses and the uniform accessory for french girls, scarves. I wanted to travel real light. One bag. Wasn't easy. French women seem to pull more style out of what they wear. They wear jeans like us, but almost always way more fashionable shoes. And the tops would be nicer and always a scarf! I felt silly wearing them at first, but started to get the hang of it. How you wore it said something about how you were feeling. Tight if you were nervous, loose if you felt sexy, and just the right about of drape to accent not kludge!
Every thing I had sort of went with everything else. I didn't see the jeans under a dress thing like here, but it was summer. Leggings seemed to be standard, but not in the hot south and not much in Paris in the day either. I had the two dresses I bought in Marseilles, on blue and one a flower brightish orange blue and green flower pattern. Not as bad as it sounds, it looked sort of abstract. I had a pair of jeans, but I wasn't too thrilled with them because I am so fat right now, a pair of capris which were a gamble, but actually worked well because they are kinda american in a nice way even though they started in france years ago!
Of course I had a bikini. Yes I know fat girls like me should find some one piece with ruffles! But fuck em if they can't take a joke! I was going to let myself be seen, as I am, and not worry about it. And I planned to go topless anyway at least once and that would look silly in a one piece! It was sort of dark emerald green that was almost the color I wish my eyes were. I have specks of green in the brown, but … sigh …..oh well. And just for the record, yes my butt did hang out all over and was gross. What can I say, I'm a little bit exhibitionist. Why is it that its the fat people who want to show off anyway? Maybe cause the skinny girls get enough attention as it is.
I only had two pairs of shoes, one pair of plain black leather flats that were pretty comfortable, and a pair of darkish blue sandals. I should have brought or bought a nice something with a bit of heal for night, being so short, but I didn't get thrown out of any where. I had a sweater and 3 mid sleeve cotton tops, and a collared and buttoned raw linen shirt, so I could do several different things with everything. I know it sounds horrible, but I wasn't laughed at on the street or anything. Its the scarves that made it all work ;)
So one morning Dad and I hopped in the rental car and drove back down to Aix-en-Provence for me to catch a train. By my self. I felt like a lost little kid going off to the first day of school. Who knows what monsters were hiding in the future days for me? What scary mean people, accidents, embarrassment! Yeah dramatic. But I was in a country where I didn't speak the language, didn't act like everyone else and didn't know anyone other than my dad.
Really it was not so bad. Dad knew a family up in Paris and had arranged with me to couch surf them. They had a son and a daughter about my age, and it was assumed that they would clue me in a bit. And I had enough cash and credit cards to deal with any short term problems! And a rail pass, passport, clean undies and a real desire to throw my self out into it. I've lived a pretty protected life compared to many people my age…something I am coming to understand and appreciate. But for me it was the adventure of a lifetime. Well hopefully the first of many… :)
One of the first things I learned is not to go around, "la le la la la" smiling at strangers and saying hello to men who stare at me. I look about 15 sometimes, and I wasn't on the train for 15 minutes before some man sat down next to me and tried to engage me in too friendly conversation. At first he was all "were are you from?" California. "oh so nice, I visited disney land 2 years ago". "you are a very pretty california girl". Umm yea, I know. (pretty being defined as having both boobs and no facial scars in the minds of some men). And he was married and had kids! Why didn't I think he was just friendly? Well it was his eyes, always meeting mine in a questioning smarmy way, when they were not on my tits. I would have been flattered if he didn't have a creepy vibe. And didn't have facial scars! (kidding)
He gave up after an hour or so of my fading interest, and scarf positioned so that there was absolutely no cleavage! I learn fast. Scarves are very useful. Lucky for me he didn't want to perv my ankles !
The rest of the train trip was a repeat of the trip down, me looking out the window thinking how much it looked like California, but didn't. Paris came quick, first suburbs that didn't look like ours, but definitely were, then the industrial areas, the bad neighborhoods, and suddenly stopped in a station, getting out into a confusion of people, some knowing where to go and many not so sure!
Madame Varenne (Margot) met me with a little sign at the end of the train. "Chloe :) ?" it said. I almost cried. She was real sweet, younger than my mom, friendly and sort of perpetually excited. She seemed genuinely happy to meet me and have me invade her house. I suspect it was her who talked her husband into extending the invite when he heard my dad and I were coming to France. She wondered where my bags were, but it was just the one and a small purse. So we left, me following trying not to get separated in the crowd, and went downstairs and through some tunnels under the train station to the Metro, the subway, that is the coolest thing ever for someone who is totally dependent on a car usually! (Well I do bike at school). The way it works is you get a little piece of paper with a magnetic strip on the back and put it into the turnstile to get in, and then you need it to get out too. But she had a pass and just waved it at the turnstile pulled me through with her!
The metro goes all under Paris like a spider web. And you connect to other subways with tunnels so you can go down into it in one part of town and take several trains and then pop back up in the complete opposite part of the city! I ended up getting a pass and rode it a lot while I was there. It was fun to just ride to be around all the different people. It was strange seeing people from around the world. Since France was a colonial power once in Africa there were french people who were African. I even saw Africans dressed up like on National Geographic with colorful robes and stuff. One time on the street there was a group of African men all in robes down to their feet and with head wraps and walking sticks, and they were like 7 feet tall! It was a bit surreal.
Anyway we got to their apartment, its like everyone there lives in apartments if they live in the city. It was beautiful! Smallish, but with 3 bedrooms and great windows that opened up to little balconies, tall narrow floor to almost ceiling doors really. It had a kitchen and a dinning room and a livingroom and 2 bathrooms, which apparently is a big deal there, not like at home where everyones bedroom has its own bathroom!
Parisians are not like Californians. They don't like instantly welcome you into their circle, but are more formal and reserved. And me being the quiet and shy type, but used to being informal with people, didn't really know at first how to act. I was all chatty and smiley, and I think at first they thought some ADD kid was now in their home. It was like being with serious people who didn't smile right away and looked at you funny when you laughed at everything. But I learned soon enough that that was just the way they were, like how people from New York or New Jersey are loud, and people from the south are all pretend polite and warm.
Monsieur Varenne worked at the university and had the sort of "used to being listened too" way about him. His wife very obviously deferred to him. She would stop speaking and pay attention if he interrupted her! And the kids would too. And it wasn't like he was mean, but it was very different from what I was used to. Later when I got to know him better I found that he was really very nice, super intelligent and not at all as Imperious as he first seemed. He had a wonderful twitch and twinkle in his eyes when he was joking, and I really don't think he even realized that he would cut his wife off in mid sentence! It would be real funny though to have a reality show with some sarcastic disobedient american kids switch families with them and see what happened! Of course it will never happen because of the language thing.
Lucky for me, they all spoke english, and well. Yes they had an accent, but their grammar and vocabulary was better than many americans. My French is a solid 50 word vocabulary, mostly verbs and supporting words about body functions; eating, drinking and "le toilet". By the end of things I think I was comfortable asking directions, (not receiving them!), ordering food, and basic stuff, but I'm sure I sounded real bad. What I discovered was that if I tried in french first and they heard how bad I was, French people would automatically switch to english, just for their convenience! But if I started by saying "do you speak english", they would say no! I think it was sort of a pride thing and they didn't want to speak what they thought was their imperfect english and embarrass themselves! A lot of people spoke at least 3 languages, french, english and then spanish, italian or german depending on where in France they were. I was the one who felt embarrassed for not having really studied before hand.
I met their two kids at dinner, which by the way is pretty late! 8:30 or 9! Leticia is a year older than me, and also just finished with her first year of college, and Théo who was 22 and about to start his last year. At first I though Leticia was thinking "who's this beyatch??", but again its a cultural thing that she wasn't instantly bff's with me and acted formal and cold. Théo seemed warm enough and friendly but I think thats because I was a girl and he very wasn't! And by very wasn't I mean he was nice looking, good hair cut and clothes, a bit of stubble and attitude and he had a lot of self confidence. He moved and acted like a young lion, smooth and powerful and unafraid. My first thought was "heck yea!?" He's sexy!" But of course he was serious with someone equally hot, cool and fashionable, so oh well.
Leticia was nicknamed "leticy" sort of "let tea sea", but I never got close enough to call her that. I did make the blunder of saying "Oh thats like my nickname! My family and friends call me CiCi!". She looked at me like I was an idiot and like I was trying to get her dad to pay attention to me! As If I was out for her Dad! Oh well. She was actually very cool, and confident. She hung out with skater boys and sort of alternative people and she took me out with them a few times and she was really more "california" than anyone else my age that I met there. I hated how many of her friends smoked! But they were chill and up for shenanigans that didn't cost money, like just hanging and going places in the city and stuff. Its so funny though to see a girl in vans and jeans and tshirt, and a scarf that cost more than any my mother had. She is a kinda take charge girl and I don't think she would be bothered a bit being anywhere or in any style, she'd just rock it and act like it was nothing.
Once she figured out that I wasn't going to be a pain she was genuinely friendly and I really like her a lot. I think that it was just maybe that she thought she was going to have to babysit me for touristy stuff, and have to cater to me. All I wanted to do was hang and tag a long and chill. I was happy just to be there and see anything. It was cool to sit and watch a bunch of friends chill and joke, but in a completely different language and little bits of different culture.
Young people in France grew up a little different, they are used to drinking and smoking at an earlier age. High school kids have friends over and have beer and wine in the living room and their parents don't mind. I hate the smoking though. And in Paris they seem to be used to being independent in the city, going out at night, to clubs or parties or friends. It sort of makes them seem to me to be more sophisticated. I compare it to parties at college where 18 year old guys are drinking and making fools of themselves and girls are drinking too much and making fools of themselves, and its because its new and they never learned how to act. My mom and dad would always let me have wine if we had if for dinner, even since I was like 10. Although I did abuse alcohol a lot for a while, I think it is better to get some experience early and under some protection, rather than in the backyard of a frat house with 10 kegs and vomit all over and guys peeing everywhere! Eewwww bad detour of the story!
Leticia and her friends were fun to be around, its like they didn't care about unimportant stuff like having perfect clothes or being somewhere cool, since it was summer and everyone was out of school, every night was sort of a casual mobile party, we would go out and just happen to meet up with some others, and someone would say lets go somewhere, maybe someones house or a cafe and then other people would show up and some would leave and you would have been 3 or 4 places, had fun hanging out and all unplanned. Drinks would be had, maybe a little food, lots of excited talking, hugs, and on to the next.
Leticia didn't have a boyfriend as far as I could tell, but there were several guys who were very obvious to me trying to get her to pay more attention to them. Thing about French men is that they are still macho and dominant even though they don't think so! And Leticia was a strong independent woman and it made it frustrating for them I think. Its not like she wasn't friendly and affectionate with them, but like she was making them wait. I saw her make out with two different guys, but neither was like "it" for her.
French men could put some serious moves on an american girl. They knew how to talk and how to get to the point. They flattered and payed attention to you and openly asked you for what they wanted. I had to be careful because accepting a coffee invitation meant a little more in their minds, than mine. Silly me though it meant you go for coffee and talk and get to know each other. No, it was the venue for negotiating a hookup. So an innocent seeming invitation was really me agreeing to meet and negotiate! Not that it was a done deal, but it was a bigger deal than I understood. It was nice though, to have men be honest, not just sort of pretend they like you just to get some, or be so insecure that they cant even ask or tell you they are attracted! I mean its nice to have someone want you, even if just for sex. And if the guy is polite, well I can say no just fine, but who wants to be maneuvered and played with if they don't really like you. I think I like french men better, after figuring out how it was.
I met a guy who really liked me. It didn't work out, but it almost did. We had a strong attraction, both physical and as people. Not that it could ever have turned into a relationship, but it sure would have been a killer hookup! It would have been "that time in Paris" for me that I would have wrote about in my later years… :) Its my fault it didn't work, I got scared by some of the cultural differences I didn't really realize, and scared by some of my own issues that I probably ought to just keep light about and write about elsewhere.
We spent 8 of the various days I was in Paris, together, hanging out with others and sometimes alone and it was probably more intense than anything I have felt with a guy. Not that I totally fell in love and not that I slept with him, but almost. :) (To both!) I have never wanted a mans tounge so far down my throat or his hands on my body as much. Maybe its that I'm older than the last time I had a guy around, and that he was older than me and knew what to do with me. He treated me, like me. And talked and listened and appreciated me for who I am. I got the impression that he could probably have sex with any girl around him and wasn't all that worried about it, and didn't need to put any pressure on, and that something guys should learn, we want it too, but we don't want to feel like that's all it is, unless thats all we want!
I met him at a club that I went to with Théo and his girlfriend Suzzane, he was a friend of Théo's. Théo and suzzane were into a different thing than Leticia, they liked stylish clothes and clubs and more chic places. Suzzane was in school too, but she also had an internship somewhere prestigious, and came from a family with money, and looked like a model. I felt like I was with celebrities when I went out with them, people noticed them when they came into a room and they know a lot of people like themselves. I was real out of place around them, short fat me with just a few changes of clothes, and no ability to even speak! At least in the cool language.
Théo's parents were even a bit deferential to Suzzane, I suspect they thought her family would be a good match for their son or something! She was beautiful and gracious and would be a real asset to him. Women as assets, silly Chloe, what am I saying? But it's the truth, who you have around you shapes your life.
Back to Nicolas, Théo's friend, my "thing in Paris". Sigh….. We were at a little club somewhere and I was off making sure the wall was decorated while the tall beautiful people chattered away about French stuff and this man walks up. At first I though he was older and was all getting ready to put up defenses, but it was Nicolas who I had been introduced to quickly the night before and he just real naturally started a conversation with me. God he looked good. Like 6 foot, 175 and athletic, but not at all buff, and wearing a simple shirt and jacket and slacks that would look silly on an american but casual on a frenchman, and he smelled good, (except for those damn cigarettes!) and knew just how not to shave, and smiled easily with little crunches at the edge of his eyes, and dark blue eyes and dark hair, something I'm not used too.
I still wonder how it happened that he liked me. I'm not much to look at now that I'm fat, and I'm really pretty shy usually, but we got to talking about stuff. He's at school with Théo and serious about things like politics and the environment, and in a way that is not all unreal and radical, but practical and smart. I think his family is rich and connected and he is the kind of guy who will move in the same sort of circles as he goes on in life. We had in common an interest in budhhism, which he dabbles with a bit and reads about. Actually I probably meditate more than he has yet, but he has read a whole lot more and was way better educated about it than me. We talked about my dad and his work, and about the writing project I'm working on and it was like he got who I was, more than this quiet chubby little american GIRL. I was a woman and interesting, and that felt so wonderful. We sat by ourselves and talked until it was time to go.
I just thought it was a great night and that it was a one time thing, but he called at the Varenne's for me a couple days later. Margot had a funny look on her face when she handed me the phone, sort of like well! What have you been up too? Go get it girl! She knew him of course and I suspect she kinda thought that he was out of my league! I mean if you know me and stuff, and know what I look like now, I'm maybe cute, but Nicolas is what american women call tall dark and handsome, and rich too!
We talked on the phone for a while, sort of flirting and getting to know each other in daytime mode, and I suspect he was sort of thinking "what am I doing with this girl?". But then he asked me to dinner, and I explained my clothes situation and didn't know if I could, which made him laugh, and he assured me that he would take me somewhere I would feel comfortable. So we did. And I love the way the french eat. You go to a place and you own the table for as long as you want, no waiter acting like someone is waiting for it after you. I think some people would think the service is slow, but really its relaxing to sit and have some wine and talk and have a little something come out, and you eat it, and drink some more and then something else comes out, and drink and more, and cheese and coffee and talking until you are just tired of being there. Which is hard to image when you are flirting with those deep blue eyes that are flirting back. And genuinely find interesting in conversation and interests.
Then we walked for a couple of hours in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, at night in the warm summer. Funny. First date and we are walking along talking and laughing and I realized that he is holding my hand and I could NOT remember him taking it. I know its all 5th grade, a guy holding my hand, but it was so….wonderful.
Maybe its a new thing to him to have a woman like to be with him and talk and not just want him for his georgeous bod and money, or maybe he'd had enough of tall beautiful model/slut women who had sex on command, or maybe we knew each other in past lives and were rediscovering each other.
He took me home sometime past 2 am and he was smiling at me and telling me he had a nice evening, and I just stood my my tiptoes and kissed him full on the lips. He was a bit surprised but kissed back just fine, thank you. I had a hard time getting to sleep with all the silly stuff in my head, and then slept till noon. Margot had a funny little smile on her face when I woke up.
He called again in a couple more days and asked what would be fun for me, so I told him that I wanted to go to the beach, by which I meant the Plages, where they close the roads along the Seine and cover them in sand, and make beaches. The have concerts and swimming and lots of ice cream and snacks and people hang out. Theres three different areas and they're open till midnight and I was thinking maybe picnic and maybe champagne and lying in the sun, and he was into it! So we did.
Of course I had forgot completely that this meant I would have to wear my bikini in front of him! Holy stupid chloe! I guess I felt pretty comfortable with him to just completely forget! But I did it anyway. See, I do live dangerous! I don't quite look pregnant in it, but its not the look that you see in ads, my little boobs and big butt and belly spilling out of something too small for coolness. Maybe I was testing him, like "see, this is me" "still like?". But he didn't react badly and I did notice him looking. Of course I looked too, at him. He was wearing a traditional europeon swim suit, what we call a speedo. Not all men do there anymore, a lot of the young guys wore board shorts like they see on mtv. But he looked so masculine in it! I mean you could really tell he was a man and there was no doubt! There is something about the confidence men have, just so out there where everyone can see you have one, but not a worry in the world. I know its sort of eeewwww when guys do it here in the US, but maybe its more about the confidence. Guys here at home seem to give off a vibe of being a bit self conscious about it.
I didn't go topless there. That would have seemed weird to me to do it there with him, although I did later in the summer! But thats later.
We went to the Plages 3 different days, not for all day, but we would get dressed and walk around or go and eat or go to someones house and hangout for a while. We went for a drive a couple times, once to Versailles and had a picnic on the grounds by the lake. Thats the first time I really understood how much physical passion he had, and was holding back. We ate a bit of like deli food, little containers of nummy stuff he bought in a market and some wine and bread, and talk, and we were off by the trees and the french seem to like to make out in public, other couples were, and well we did too, and had been for a while, and I was so….just melting into it, and laying on my back and him on top of me a bit, nothing obscene, but certainly more than just kissing. If we were alone in private….well. We weren't, but I could tell exactly to the inch how much he wanted me, and suddenly I thought a bee had stung him or he was having a seizure! But then he starts busting up laughing! And hugs me and kisses me different, because, well, he had had a little accident! Ah the power of a woman, to make a man loose all control.
There is nothing so happy looking as a man cuddling in a park, satisfied. I think we both dozed off for a while, me thinking a phallic gaullic objects, the eiffel tower, cathederal spires, Nicholas.
We had a fight the last time we were together. Just a little one and certainly within the bounds of the intimacy we had going. He wanted to, was a little tipsy and a little macho, and I was dramatizing my issues and not acting willing, and he got a bit frustrated and said something mean. And the moment he said it, I knew he knew what a mistake it was. I don't think he realized either, that it would have been my first time. We were both embarrassed and upset with each other, and said good night, and that's the last time I saw him. We did talk again a couple times on the phone, but stupid me, too proud to just tell him my issues and get the intimacy back. Now I look back and think how silly. I wanted him so bad. I just don't have the skills with myself and with people to recover from mistakes like that. It would have been perfect.
A couple days later I ended up leaving Paris for the south.
Sorry Nicholas. Now maybe you know why.