24 April 2016

Questions I have for America

After six years in France, I’ve semi-willingly repatriated. The grueling repatriation process requires moving back in with my parents while I search for my first post-graduate job. Following a blissful domestic union with my dreamboat pacsé, my living situation is less than ideal.

What’s more, having spent my entire adult life in Europe, I struggle to understand things that were once natural. Now I’m constantly baffled by interactions with my compatriots. So I’ve compiled a list of questions for them.

1. Why is the American flag everywhere?
Homes, cars, freeways, supermarkets, churches, really? Are you worried you’ll forget what country you’re in?

2. Why doesn’t anyone say hello?
When you interrupt a stranger’s day with a question or a request, it seems like the least you can do is greet her properly, and maybe apologize for the annoyance. You’re so abrasive.

3. Why do you ask so many personal questions?
Stop asking people in airports where they’re from and where they’re going. It doesn’t concern you. Why is the cashier asking me what my weekend plans are? Why is my grandmother’s nurse telling me about her husband’s reaction to fatherhood?

4. Why do American men wear clothes that are two sizes too large?
Are they ashamed of their bodies? Are shirts only available in one size? Or are these men simply unaware of aesthetics? I swear, I’m tempted to go back to France for the eye candy.

5. Why do you pretend you need a gun for protection?
It’s pretty obvious you really want it because it makes you feel cool. They’re like the new cigarettes. In any case, I’m judging you.

6. Why don’t you include sales tax in prices?
You see one price in the store, and then you go to the checkout and it’s like 10% more. Your price tags are a lie.

7. What is up with tipping service workers?
Why don’t you just pay them living wages? They must feel like slaves, dependent upon the generosity and goodwill of their belligerent customers.

8. Why are you so boisterous and loud?
Is this some kind of competition for expression? Calm down, leave some things on the inside. It’s alright if you don’t externalize every feeling you have.

9. What do you mean, I have to pay for health insurance?
What the hell are my taxes for?

10. Why are tampons so expensive?
I could pay for two month’s worth of this shit with a single coin in France. It’s a health issue, for crying out loud. Do you hate women? I told the Frogs we had a strong feminist movement. Your pink tax has made me a liar.

And why can’t you be France? I want back my friends and my dreamboat and the ability to mix languages to my fancy. I want baguettes and uneven sidewalks. I want my tiny shared studio apartment with its unreliable water heater. I want to go home.

I complain a lot, à la française. And maybe I’ve become as much of a snob as you’d expect the French to be. But I can’t forgive you yet for not being France.

13 April 2016

Mouse versus humans

I have a cat who likes to catch small animals and large insects and then bring them into the house to play and share with us. Tonight he struck gold.

So I’m sitting down for dinner with my parents when our cat begins fumbling around in the entry, a telltale sign that he has prey. Abandoning our spaghetti, we pull aside a table to reveal a sweet gray mouse quivering behind an empty box.

I shoo away the cat to avoid further trauma to the mouse. My parents, oddly fearful considering the critter’s size, begin debating the most effective way to remove it.

“Get the cat, let him catch it,” says my bloodthirsty father.
“No, he’ll kill it!” my mother objects.
“That’s the point!”

Finally, my mother and I coordinate with strategically placed boxes to capture our uninvited guest. It runs beneath her box, and she scoops it up. We peer inside. The box is empty.

I turn to my father and see his panic setting in. “Are you kidding me?” he shouts, irritated.

We continue searching in bewilderment, dinner forgotten, but the mouse is nowhere to be found. My parents turn over two sofas and an armchair. They toss the cushions onto the floor. They shine flashlights into dark corners. They empty the shoe rack and peer into every single shoe.

At this point, I’ve grown bored of searching. I’ve had pet hamsters and rats, so I’m not concerned about a single scared rodent. Instead, I return to the dining room and observe my parents over my plate of spaghetti.

My father peers around and lifts a box. Suddenly he screams and drops it, leaping six inches into the air, his voice pitched higher than I’ve ever heard it, “SHIT OH MY GOD.” He stumbles backward, his eyes wide. The mouse, mirroring him, jumps about and throws itself against the wall, then disappears again.

My mother and I gape. Then we crumple into uncontrollable laughter. Now too wary of the mouse to continue searching, my father barks orders at my mother as she continues alone, still giggling.

“Where is my dress shoe?” he demands.
“It’s right here, honey, don’t worry.”
“And the sock, my sock’s in it.”
“The mouse ate it,” she snaps, exasperated.

In the end, the mouse was never found. The clever thing escaped despite the best efforts of three humans and a cat. She’s going to be alright.