New Yorker et Parisienne: Plan your social life 3 weeks in advance
Mrids explains the secrets of La Vie Franglish. Rule no 1: make friends with your agenda.
PLANNING your social life in Paris can often become a case of plan in advance or else... you'll be stuck with whole weekends alone with the TV. Parisian social engagements are often planned two, three or even five weeks in advance. This can be quite confusing to an until very recently single lady about town, fresh-off-the-boat from New York, where evening engagements were often affairs of random spontaneity.
IN MY RECENT PAST, my planning in advance included buying tickets for a vacation about a month in advance, which was when it was appropriate to assume, after careful observation of the climate in the office and a scan of upcoming project engagements, that a) I would probably not be in some remote location at a client meeting, b) I would not be fighting fires at the office at midnight and c) I would have enough time to choose a day when my boss was in a good mood to request the upcoming vacation.
Frenchies look at me with incomprehensible horror and sadly pity (I think) when I say that vacation time was a luxury .
CUT TO MY PRESENT LIFE and my husband asking, ‘Do we know if May 17th works for dinner with Valerie and Thomas?' At the start of my Franglish Life in Paris, this question always threw me; we are at the beginning of April, god only knows where we'll be in a weeks' time, let alone in May. I always automatically just said yes, because at the time I was too New York; hadn't gotten an agenda, didn't know how to stick to it, and honestly, didn't have any Franglish friends to make set-in-stone, two weeks in advance, cannot be cancelled at pain of death dinner dates with. Oh, the days of me saying, ‘sure love, anything works' were such happy times for my husband!
Now, I have the Parisian art down to a few solid steps when a date for dinner is ‘proposed' (French for suggested) by our French friends:
Step one: I whip out my agenda, or google calendar,
Step two: I sigh and peek in my calendar, shake my head, pout a bit and
Step three: say like a good Franglish lady should, ‘ah, non, desole, c'est impossible. I'm booked'.
At which point my husband emails his friends to ask if there is another date. They check their agendas and email their spouses, who shake their heads and say they are unavailable, and finally, somehow, by some miracle of coordination, everyone agrees on another date, three weeks away from the last one, because they are booked solid in between. So now ask me: what are you doing Monday in three weeks, and what's the bet, for the first time in my life, like a good Franglish Wife, I will know.
You might say that this setting dates in advance, planning vacations in advance, knowing when you'll next see your belle mere might take some of the fun, the spontaneity out of everyday life.
And you know what, you are totally right. It sucks the fun damn right out. Which is not to say you won't have fun, it is just a very different kind of fun, one where you have to learn the rules, know the codes and have fun with the little space in between - one that takes a lot of getting used to.
Reprinted with permission of New Yorker et Parisienne.
Mrids is a former New Yorker now Parisienne and the author of the blog newyorkeretparisienne.com where she writes about Franglish life and food, style and fashion in New York and Paris. She is also a photographer who recently held her first exhibition in Paris. She is married to a Frenchman and is the organizer of a support group for Franglish Wives on meetup.com.