Parisian pregnancy privileges.

indecent exposure

I think whoever says pregnancy is beautiful is full of crap. I assure you that it is miraculous, incredible, awkward, uncomfortable, amazing, and interesting. Kind of like a science experiment. Or puberty. But it ain’t pretty, people. Your feet turn into sausages, your boobs get all out of control, and there are lots of strange bodily functions involved. It’s gross.

But that’s not to say growing a baby human doesn’t have some perks. Especially if you live in Paris. People here seem to go above and beyond the call of duty when they see me waddling their way, like the helpful store clerk who told me in no uncertain terms that I was not to take the stairs and led me to the elevator.

Or the very nice lady who watched me haul myself up onto a barstool at lunch, then marched all the way across the restaurant, pulled me off the chair and gave me her table.

People everywhere are very concerned about me sitting, which I have to say is pretty awesome, even if I don’t feel like sitting. Folks on the metro can’t wait to give me their seats, and they look downright offended if I tell them non merci.

I also get to cut in line, which is a miracle in and of itself in this land where people are notorious line-cutters. Pre-bébé, the Parisians would have no problem running over my foot with their cart as they pushed their way to cash register, ignoring me and the 50 or so people waiting patiently.

But oh how the tables have turned! Mwwaahhahahahaha! Now I get pulled out of the bathroom line and allowed to go first, called from the rear of the queue at H&M to try my clothes on in an extra-large dressing room, even ushered through the VIP security check at museums. I knew this baby was good for something!

But the joke is that the Parisians are happy to help out a pregnant lady, but as soon as le bébé arrives, no one wants to see you again. Restaurants especially. Watching a waiter look at an incoming stroller is like seeing one of Roald Dahl’s witches sniffing out a nearby child. Zay smell of dog poo and vill disturb our foie gras!

So I better enjoy my premier status while I can.

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Vocab Friday: Chez le coiffeur

Perhaps feeling emboldened by the gorgeous weather or just distressed by the snaggly nature of my tresses this morning, I decided on a whim to stop into a salon de coiffure in the 6th that looked friendly and didn’t cost more than 90 euro.

I’ve only been brave enough to get one other haircut here, fearful that my atrocious French would only lead to even worse hair than I started with. I’ve waited for trips home to see my main man Marcus, who thinks it’s totally insane that I don’t want to get coiffed in the hair capital of the world. But I’m really particular about my haircuts and my hair cutters. I don’t need or want anything fancy, but I’ve got weird hair. It’s super fine but also curly-ish and has a tendency to flip out in really bizarre, uncontrollable ways. Yet I still want to be able to just kind of roll out of bed in the morning and have it be luscious and long and flowy without having to do anything to it.

So pretty much I’d like to just wake up as Sarah Jessica Parker or Blake Lively. Is that so much to ask?

Anyway, at my first French haircut I was disturbed to discover that often everything gets charged separately. Le shampooing, the coupe, the blowout– even the dang conditioner were all sold individually. Which is really confusing if you’re not sure what the stylist is saying to you anyway.

This time, thankfully, le prix was all inclusive– and when I say all inclusive, I mean I got 2+ hours of chair time with a lovely French man from Bourgogne who attended to every hair on my head with delicate attention while telling me all about why starting a business in the US is easier than in France, his plans to visit the Grand Canyon, his love of architecture and opera, the current immigration situation, his opinion of Sarkozy, his distaste for socialism, his views on development in Africa, and how to take a boat ride down the canal St. Martin. He also told me I was the prettiest mother-to-be in Paris and wanted to know if I had a sister. Or a cousin maybe.

Sheesh. The last time I talked to Marcus all I got was a story about how one to many margaritas on the beach led to his shaved head. And that once you shave your head, you might as well go for the hoo-hah!

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le coiffeur/la coiffeuse

Pronunciation: luh kwah-fuhr/ lah kwah-fuhz

Definition: hairdresser (male/female)

le coiffure

Pronunciation: luh kwa-fyr

Definition: hairdo or hairstyle. As in,

“My, that coiffeur gave you a lovely coiffure!”

Seating hierarchy in the Jardin du Luxembourg.

Parisians take their sunshine and relaxation verrrry seriously. At the first sign of glorious springtime weather they come out in full force to lounge, picnic, and lounge some more. Every square inch (or should I say meter) of every park is packed, and those folks won’t hesitate to pull up a chair or a blanket right next to you (or heck, just sit right on your blanket) if that seems like prime real estate.

And who can blame them? If you’re going to be lounging, you want the best spot. And the best seat. And what the common American tourist might not know is that not all seats in the Jardin du Luxembourg were born equal.

No sir. There’s a strict hierarchy out there, and if you’re not quick, you’ll end up perched uncomfortably on the stairs avoiding eye contact with the park guards instead of basking smugly in a recliner.

Thankfully, I’m here to educate you on your seating options, if you should ever find yourself strolling through the 6th on a sunny day. Your best approach is to make a few laps, scoping out your options and jumping on the best available chaise. If it’s a particularly crowded day or you’re just unlucky, you might get stuck with the lowliest of seats:

The Bench

Found mostly under the shady, treelined sides of the park, the benches are a last resort. You’re either too far away from prime people watching, bombarded by noise from the playground or tennis courts, or under serious threat from the pigeons up above.

If you feel like fighting your way through crowds of Science Po students talking philosphy, the next step up is:

The Lawn

This small landing strip of grass down the center of the park is actually the only place you can sit on the ground. It’s sunny and bright, but super crowded. And there’s no back support.

If that doesn’t sound appealing, walk towards the fountains and see if you can score a:

Green Chair (without arms)

These sleek metal beauties are scattered throughout the park, but you’ll find the highest concentration of them right at the main fountain’s edge. There’s no arm support, but this is a huge step up from benches and grass.

But don’t stop there, keep looking for a:

Green Chair (with arms)

Just when you thought your green chair (without arms) was the pinnacle of comfort, you spy the couple next to you relaxing with arm rests. And they’re using the armless version for a mere footrest.

So you get one, and feel like you’ve just conquered the world. Except once you’re happily ensconced with your arm rests right by the fountain, you’ll notice that true nirvana still awaits in the form of a:

Reclining Green Chair With Arms

Never mind if there are twenty loud, smoking teenagers eating MacDo next to you. This is the be all end all of park seating. Old ladies have been known to drag one of these puppies to a corner of sunshine, strip to near-skivvies, and hunker down until sunset. And I highly advise that you do the same. Except for the skivvies part, of course.

A glorious day.

It was (oh wait, still is since the sun doesn’t set until 8pm!) a glorious day in Paris today. Sunny, crystal clear skies, topped with a light breeze and enough warmth to warrant bare legs and luxuriously long lunch hours.

Which means tomorrow it will probably dip into the 40s and hail. So it was imperative that I stop all productive work and get outside to profitez.

I actually put on my running gear, thinking that a little fat lady jog would do me good. But a few trots into my run, le bébé let me know that running was not really in my repertoire anymore by fiercely kicking my bladder. It’s hard to argue with a kicking fetus, so I got lunch and power walked to the park instead.

And by “park” I mean the stunningly gorgeous, golden gated, formally planned garden space known as Parc Monceau. It is amazing. It puts U.S. parks to shame. And on the weekends it has pony rides. But on days like today, it’s full of Parisians lounging:

And strolling:

And sunning their bellies:

Ahhh, I can feel the vitamin D slowly returning to my system.

Brain drain.

It’s a well known fact that I have limited French-speaking capacity. And what I mean is, on any given day, I probably have about 2 hours max during which I can converse somewhat successfully. After that my brain starts oozing out of my ears and it’s all I can do to stare blankly into the faces of the people yapping around me.

So when I hopped in a cab this morning on my way to what promised to be at least a 2+ hour French-speaking cooking class, I knew that I needed to conserve my energy. So I avoided eye contact with the taxi driver and said the address as brusquely as possible. I tried to give off an unfriendly vibe. But opening your American-accented mouth in a Parisian taxi is akin to opening Pandora’s box – 95% of cab drivers will immediately want to know Where are you from? How long have you been here? How did you learn French? And why don’t Americans like Obama’s healthcare bill?

So there I was, stuck in the back of a taxi with a really nice man from Morocco, discussing international politics and the details of my family life in French. Most people would be slapping themselves a high-five, but all I kept thinking was SHUT UP! YOU’RE USING ALL OF MY FOREIGN LANGUAGE RESERVES!

Vocab Friday: March Madness!

What, were you expecting brackets? Cheerleaders? An explanation of why I picked Richmond to go to the final four last year? We’ll you’re not going to find anything like that here. This is France, and the only connection they have to the glorious madness that is the NCAA basketball tourney is the half-French Joakim Noah. And he left for the NBA (Zzzzzzzzzzz) years ago.

Nope, I’ll have to resign myself to watching live updates of the first round games and living vicariously through my old office pool until I get can home and hopefully catch the 2nd and 3rd rounds on TV, preferably with a stack of Matchbox mini-burgers in front of me. In the meantime, I’m gearing up for a whole different kind of March Madness– also known as Parisian weather in the springtime.

It starts off innocently enough: suspiciously long streaks of sunshine, a few days that hover in the 50s, a few daffodils poking up through the defrosting ground. But right when you’ve been lulled into thinking it’s OK to leave the umbrella at home BAM! The wind picks up and the sky lets loose with a barrage of hail. Yes, I said hail.

Five minutes later it’s blindingly sunny again, albeit 20 degrees colder. All of a sudden you can see your breath and want nothing more than to seek shelter and a nice bowl of onion soup. But before you can get to the nearest cafe, the wind starts howling again, this time bringing black clouds and a gush of rain.

By the time you make it home, soaking wet and thoroughly confused, the sun is back to mock you. So you hunker down inside, turn up the radiators, and vow not to step foot outside until May. Except that you wake up sweating to death because the temperature has swung completely in the opposite direction, and when you open the windows for relief a swarm of mosquitos blows in along with a cloud of pollen.

And when you ask your French teacher what the hell is going on, all she can muster is “C’est printemps à Paris. Et les moustiques n’existe pas ici.”

That’s springtime in Paris. And oh, mosquitoes don’t exist here.

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Here are a few critical words you’ll need to survive here during the madness that is March:

1. la grêle

Pronunciation: la grell

Definition: Hail

2. le vent

Pronunciation: le vehn

Definition: Wind

3. le soleil

Pronunciation: le so-lay

Definition: Sun

4. les nuages

Pronunciation: ley noo-age

Definition: Clouds.

5. les jonquilles

Pronunciation: ley jon-keeyeh

Definition: Daffodils

 

Granny carts are the new black.

As you may have already heard, I have to haul my groceries around the city in a cart. A 2 wheeled, pull it behind you and try not to roll through the dog poo on the sidewalk granny cart, in fact. And it’s kind of embarrassing.

Part of that embarrassment stems from the fact that I refused to pay more than 30 euro for a stupid grocery cart, so I ended up with a crappy plastic neon yellow and orange version. And a year later, it pretty much looks like a family of rabid street dogs has been living out of it for the past 6 months.

One wheel is about to wobble off and there’s a class 4 blowout in the back left corner from a too heavy load of sparkling water and pasta sauce. There are shriveled up green beans inside and blueberry stains throughout. My 7 year old niece wouldn’t even take the thing out for a spin.

Despite this, I have been hesitant to spend more money on a new one. But the sorry state of my cart really worried Husband. He claimed I needed something more sturdy and fashionable. Maybe bigger, too, so I could bring home more stuff. Heck, I could even use 2 carts at the same time! You know, to make it easier to do all the grocery shopping by myself.

Of course I truly appreciated his concerns. So I promptly starting replying to his offers of bigger, better carts with WHY DON’T YOU GET YOUR OWN BLEEPITY BLEEP BLEEP CART TO PULL AROUND ALL AFTERNOON! AND FILL IT WITH PAIN AU RAISINS WHILE YOU’RE AT IT!

Which, in retrospect, was perhaps a bit inflammatory. He was just trying to help after all. And I did need a new stupid cart, however much I hated to admit it.

So here it is: The BMW of grocery carts. It’s got a sturdy metal frame, a very preppy non-neon canvas bag, real tires, and it cost a small fortune.

I actually kind of like it. The somber colors make it slightly less embarrassing, and it’s got a nice comfy grip pad on the handle bar. But I just can’t help thinking: This is what my life has come to, luxury granny carts.