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Excerpt from Sex, Cheese and French Fries

Chapter Four

We Be French Stylin'

Illustration by Jeannie Winston

They are strange people, the French. I just never realized how strange, until I married one. If they looked different from other Westerners, like the Chinese, say, you would expect cultural differences. But they look the same as anyone else you might know, so it comes at you from behind, like a whack in the back of the head from a stray tennis ball at a ping-pong tournament. You just don't expect it. So over the years, I've just learned to observe the differences in the way they think, dress, act and react; what makes them laugh, cry, and want to put a fist through the wall — basically, what makes them tick, most of it through the prism of my husband. And it's all so strange.

Ladies and gentlemen, mesdames et messieurs, I give you the late Boris Vian, beloved French singer, poet, metaphysician, humorist, musician (player of too many instruments to mention), writer of songs, novels, films, and opera; an anarchist and a surrealist. What? You were expecting a mono-faceted hero from the French? Here are excerpts translated from one of his most famous and adored songs:

I'm a Snob

I'm a snob, a damned snob
Just like all my friends, we're all snobs, and that's good...

I see Swedish films, drink whiskey a-go-go at bistrots
I don't have liver problems, that's so passé
But I do have an ulcer
It's less boring and much more expensive
I'm a snob, it's cool...

I hang only with baronesses that have hyphenated names
I'm a snob, extremely snobbish...

My friends and I meet every Friday to have snobbism parties
There's Coca Cola, which we detest
And Camembert, which we eat by the teaspoon...

I'm a snob, ha ha
I am overrun by this virus...

I have accidents in Jaguars
I spend August in bed
It's in all these little details that one is snob or not

I'm a snob, even more snobbish than a little while ago...

There's a reason why the French so love Boris Vian. He's clever, witty, and smart — something the French revere above all things, even cheese. In addition to being smart, he's got a great sense of humor and can laugh at himself. He's not afraid to expose his — and by extension — their obnoxious tendencies for the world to see. For this they love him even more.

Travel & Leisure

It would not be exaggerating to say that the French consider leisure time to be a basic, inalienable human right. While Bonsoirno cares very much about the number of dollars we have in our pockets, making and keeping money is not his primary goal in life. He is always more concerned with our next vacation destination.

"But Pierre, we can't afford to spend a month traveling through France, Spain, and Portugal. We need to finish remodeling the bathroom and kitchen."

"Princesse, don't worry, the money will come," he says. And it usually does. Our friends want to know how we do it.

"What do you want?" he asks them. "A good life or a new bathroom?"

Someone, please tell me how to answer this question.

• • • • •

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