16 September 2012

French handcuffs



Skype this evening.

*

Me: "Yes, I do like femininity, it's not a secret—"

Mom: "It's because your dad is so feminine, you've grown up with—"

Dad: "Fuck you!"

*

Dad: "Do you really want to start this war, Kristen? Because I'll have them deport you. Do you want to be put in French handcuffs?"

Mom: "Oooh, French handcuffs, that sounds hot."

26 August 2012

White like you

For the most part, I enjoy living in France. Aside from people greeting each other by bumping cheeks and making kissing noises, and the French aversion to hugs, I don't have many legitimate complaints. But I have a problem with the socially accepted racism among white French people.

If you've never lived here, note that Africa is to Europe as Mexico is to the United States. There are a lot of immigrants. But the cultures don't blend like in America. French society tries not only to integrate its foreigners, but to assimilate them, to make their foreignness invisible, to make them French.

So, setting the scene: Today at work, a black African woman comes to my register with a few items. I'm not Sarah Palin, I know there are lots of countries, cultures, languages, and skin colors in Africa, but I don't know which specific country she's from. I tell her the total, and she's 20 centimes short. The white French woman behind her hands me a 20-centime coin. The African woman thanks the French woman and leaves.

Then the French woman says to me, "Blacks aren't like Algerians and all those."

I look at her like, holy shit, did you actually just say those words to me.

What does that even mean? Is she insulting black Africans or Algerians or the whole fucking continent? That she says "black" instead of a proper demonym rules out cultural commentary. She's going racial with this.

But I don't say anything because I'm a cashier and she's a customer, and if I speak I'm going to end up calling her a racist, and my supervisor will have a talk with me about my social skills. Again.

I scan the rest of her groceries, not looking at her or speaking. Then she says, "You don't like my mentality."

"No," I respond flatly.

I mean, what does she expect? "Au contraire, I love racism!"

Call me an overly sensitive American, but I think there's something wrong with a culture when people think it's okay to make a racist comment to a complete stranger (or to anyone, for that matter). If I was black or brown or anything but white, she wouldn't have. She assumed that because my skin was like hers, I'd share her ignorance as well. This isn't even an isolated incident, white French people say racist shit all the time.

I'm not saying there isn't racism in the States, but at least there even racists know it's unacceptable. Unless you're in the deep south, it'll get you a lot of cold stares and a reputation as a bigot. Point for America.

26 June 2012

The planting of the face


So my family and I go on a 2.5 mile hike at Pinnacles on our way to San Francisco. 'Tis a long trek. Once we're out of the caves, the trail is mostly uphill. Wanting to be done as quickly as possible, I begin to jog up the mountain, shouting, "Soldier on! We are troopers!"

My brother begins to jog behind me. "Hut! Hut! Hut!" he hollers.

"I am hutting!" I shout back at him.

"You're gonna fall," he warns.

I soldier on. Foolishly.

Up ahead, some jagged rocks form a small crevice. I consciously tell myself to place my foot between the rocks where it's flat as I continue to run.

All of a sudden  and I swear to Finland, this is how it went down  the rocks reach out and grab my leg, slamming me to the ground.

It happens in slow motion, my panicked inner monologue in real time: "Oh my god I'm falling. I'm going to eat shit. I'll fall over the edge of the mountain. And these assholes are going to make fun of me."

I throw my arms out. My forearms and knees slam into the rocks. For a few seconds I lie very still, stunned and stinging while my family reacts. My brother and my mom rush over to see if I'm alright. I look back along the trail to my dad, several meters behind us. He holds up the camera, snapping pictures.

My brother quickly helps me up, although I would like to continue resting on the ground. I've grazed a bit of skin off my palm, it's dirty and bleeding. I hold it up in awe: my very own battle wound.

My mom retrieves her small first aid kit, the one we'd rolled our eyes at her for bringing. She rinses the dirt out of the cuts from my hands to my elbows and applies antibiotic ointment and band-aids while my dad comes closer to take more pictures.

I'm still shell-shocked. But I turn to him and hold up my bandaged arms, a (wound-) decorated soldier.

15 June 2012

Hold it in your mouth


When I lived in California, my little brother smoked only covertly. Now that he's legal, he likes to whip out a cigarette whenever he sees a designated smoking area.

He lights a cigarette, holding it in his fingers somewhat ineptly, and raises it to his puckered lips. Sucks the orange filter confidently, unabashedly. Takes the smoke into his mouth languidly. Holds it there for a moment with no visible reaction. And then blows gently.

And that is it.

I've never smoked a cigarette, or anything at all, but I'm pretty sure at some point the smoke is supposed to enter your lungs. Maybe creep down your throat a bit. That's how it works, right? It settles in your lungs and works its magic, relieves tension, that whole bit?

This child is telling me I'll never be able to properly smoke weed as he incorrectly smokes a cigarette. And he's completely unaware of it. Bitch scoffs at my clean lungs while his own are unpolluted.

If ever he asserts superiority over me in any domain, he's wrong, misinformed, simply confused;

07 June 2012

The creeper that crept too far

I knew I was living with two fairly fat spiders, a jumper and a creeper. But I thought, they don't want me, I am not prey. Vegan is one with nature. We can coexist here and they'll hunt bugs for me.

So I'm settling down to sleep this eve-morning after a bad bout of insomnia. And I feel a light tickle cross my arm. And I think: mosquito. My own hair perhaps. I turn on the backlight of my iPod to have a look.

And there is the fat creeper spider skittering ACROSS MY ARM.

I shriek and leap away from the predator towards the wall. I fumble for the light, find it, and locate the spider that sits motionless where I'd been lying. I stare intensely at her. She stares intensely back.

We size each other up, trying to determine who is alpha. The bed has always been my territory, the ceiling hers. She had crossed a line.

I realize then that we can no longer coexist, me and this spider. I escort her out to the backyard in a glass after a brief struggle. She didn't want to go, creeper-crawled away from me, but our understanding had been breached and it was time to say goodbye.

I will always remember the times we shared. The playful tickles. The surprised shrieks. The intense stares. We need not forget.