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Monday, September 26, 2005

men and onions make me cry

I didn't sleep very well last night. My head ached, my nerves were shot, and everytime I went to the bathroom I turned on every light, looked far down the hallway, and had my cell phone in hand, just in case.

I sent a message to the young man causing me grief, and basically said that I didn't want to be his friend, that he made me uneasy, and that I didn't want to see him ever again.

In the morning I spoke to the woman I work for. She is a hard headed business woman and a quick thinker. She got the painter's number from me, called her husband, and made him call the guy to tell him that he couldn't ever see me again, and that if he attempted to, his company would be called and he would be fired from his job. I was later told that he seemed understanding, that he said he had gotten my message and was going to leave me alone.

But she also went over a few things with me.

For one thing she said that in France you don't mix with people who are of a lower class than you. That a girl like me wasn't to make friends with a painter.

I protested. I have done painting jobs, I have friends that are painters, and I have made good friends with proffessional painters. She told me that it must've been an exception. That it's okay if it's a student working as a painter on the side, but not if it's their job. "But..." I protested as she continued.

She then told me that I dressed too sexy, nodding at my low rise jeans and tank top. "French women dress chic, but not sexy. It sends out a bad image."

She was giving me advice. Honest advice. She is straightforward. She told me I shouldn't talk to strangers, or give out my number.

But my hopes and heart hit the floor. My eyes started to water. She rubbed my back. "What is it that you're afraid? Lonely?" She asked. "It's all of it," I answered.

I stood there, feeling dumb, naive, and underly dressed. I thought I had been doing so well by leaving my short skirts tucked away under my bed.

I stood there feeling like Paris was up against me. Like everything I believed in wasn't accepted here. I don't believe in class systems, judging or labelling people, and I like to wear whatever I feel good in.

I went to the grocery store with red eyes, bought myself some cereal, went home and fed myself.

I cried again later, but that's only because I was cutting onions to make an onion tart. I cut more onions than I have in years-my eyes are extremely sensitive to them-telling myself I had to learn to handle pain.

The onion tart, baked with tears, was delicious. Even if the kids hated it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The unfortunate thing about Europe is that, while they have mastered revolution and several variations of democracy, they really don't do equality. If they can put out the aristocracy, it's just to build up the corporate/technical/bureaucratic elite in its place.

There is a dedication, in Europe to how things are supposed to work as they are written down. That the same rights fall apart in practise doesn't long as they benefit the people who feel they deserve the benefit and not for those seen as undeserving.

Hipocrisy has many, many forms, but your employers are trying to protect you. And while I hate the clothing comments (and my own observations of the streets of Paris resist them), it's your employer's way of saying you can't lose control, you can't be vulnerable. And, you can't. That's the thing.

When women have to take care of others, it can be a huge burden, but it's also a burden when a woman has to take care of herself.

Hard, hard stuff.

Love you, glad you're safe.


11:36 AM  
Blogger Wenda said...

I don't like the clothing comment, either. It is so "blame the victim", one way others have of convincing themselves that the same thing could never happen to them because they would never tempt fate in such a way. Maybe the same applies to the classist comments.

Sounds like the advice is well-intended, though, and that your safety and comfort are being taken very seriously. That, I suppose is a great gift, despite the packaging.

11:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay, here's the irony in the comment about your clothing: after hanging out with you for two days, I was thrilled when my cousin Mariette back in Holland gave me a little tie-up short cardigan that reminded me of what you had worn, and I put it on over a tanktop with my low jeans for my flight back. I thought to myself, "I feel so European! so chic!" in my little ParisianGigi-style get-up.


6:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oops, that was Jenn (back in the very non-Euro New Jersey) in the last comment

6:25 PM  
Blogger Haley said...

I can't say I'd enjoy an onion tart either. Haha, i hate onions, and damn they make me cry too. Even if someone is cutting them in the kitchen, my eyes water in the living room.

I don't think you should feel like you've been defeated. I think you're doing just fine there and you just need to be careful. You aren't a stupid girl, obviously..this guy was just a little much for you. Don't let him discourage you and keep your chin up.


10:10 PM  
Blogger Gillian Young said...

Kate- Yes. Hard, hard, stuff. The burden of taking care of my own safety, and then having complete responsibility of someone elses children and everything they do a lot for me. But I'm safe and learning.

Wenda- Some people say things bluntly and honestly to get their point across. I prefer prettier packaging as well, but I got the message. Thanks for all your support.

Jen- Even more ironic, is that I was wearing exactly that when the comment was made!

Haley- Thanks. And yes, we've been on the same page a few times lately. I'm not defeated, just realizing there are a lot of Parisian standards I was unfamiliar with, and don't particularly enjoy or feel are suited to me.

Thanks everyone for following me up on this. I need some ears to listen these days.

10:27 PM  

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