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Excerpt from Sex, Cheese and French Fries

Chapter Ten

Raising France

Illustration by Jeannie Winston

I have an aunt who once told me that having children is necessary for a woman to be "complete." I think she is delusional. There is definitely a case to be made for women who never should have been permitted to have children. Some people also think that those of us who don't have children are selfish. I happen to love kids, and they tend to be very fond of me. But I love them just as much when they go home. Is that selfish or just a different kind of love? Must a man and a woman have children to have a real family unit? Or can they say, This time around, I think I'll sit this one out. You go kayaking in that freezing, turbulent water. Go ahead! I'll be right here on the beach getting some Vitamin D.

Pierre has a first cousin his age who lives nearby in San Francisco. His name is Jean-Michel, he is married to an American woman named Kathleen, and they have a 17-year-old son named Michael (she won the name game).

One summer, Jean-Michel and Pierre decide it would be a dandy idea for Michael to come spend two weeks with us while his parents go away on vacation. One week and six days later, as I wipe the sweat off my brow and thank all the gods in the sky for the little stinker's imminent departure, Jean-Michel calls with a life-changing announcement: he and Kathleen are getting a divorce. Kathleen has already boarded a plane home to Oklahoma, where she can nervously break down in close proximity to her mother; and Jean-Michel needs desperately to leave for Paris the next day to see his mistress, who is the immediate cause of the breakup. He isn't sure when he'll be back. He doesn't want to be in the States anymore. He knows he is being every kind of dick there is, but he can't handle the thought of dealing with his son at the moment. We can either send Michael back to an empty apartment in San Francisco or enroll him in a Los Angeles high school for his senior year. He will send money, he promises. Whatever we decide to do, he will understand. He will not hold it against us if we send him back. Really, he won't. Bye bye. Click.

This is beyond folly. I suspect drugs. Who behaves like this? I know hot sex is a great motivator, but....

Michael isn't really a stinker, I convince myself. With parents like these, no wonder he's a chronic liar. Of course he can stay with us, I tell Pierre. We can handle it. Now we'll find out just how lucky the children we never had would have been if we'd had them. Or something.

• • • • •

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