Les Confessions douces-ameres d’une femme dans le trentaine Copyright 2008 by Michelle Leddon Life in Dogville June 6, 2008 At dinner yesterday my friend Marie-Pierre, a fifty-something, listened to me as I complained about how difficult it is to be a woman alone in the world as I downed three ice cold shots of Polish Bison-flavored vodka at her apartment in Montreuil to the east of Paris. I had wanted a whiskey and Marie-Pierre was ready to pour me some, but her husband, Claude a curmudgeonly law professor with red hair and a complexion that betrays his seething anger shouted to her that whiskey is a “digestif” and we shouldn't be having it before dinner. She grumbled something to him and put the whiskey away then pulled the vodka out of the freezer instead. We drank it and thus kept her husband quiet while we talked about important things. Marie-Pierre ran away from Guadalupe when she was 17. She had been forced by her family to get married at the age of fifteen, had two kids and then, one day, left Guadalupe and her husband and children. She came to Paris where she went to school to be a nurse and later met Claude. I met her a little less than a year after I came to Paris. She wanted me to help her with her English. It does not come easy to her, but she is a devoted student. She dreams of speaking English perfectly and taking off around the world to do exciting things. She doesn't think that she can do these things in French. She may be right. Her husband, who doesn't like her to leave the house, doesn't like her learning English, and though he speaks it quite well, refuses to speak it in front of her. I told her about my day -- how I cried while on the phone with my friend Jean Hugues earlier that afternoon while running down Avenue de l'Opera in my favorite strappy summer heels trying to meet a deadline and dodging in and out of the crowds of white-westernized men in suits who all suddenly seemed to be trying to get my attention. These sorts of men find me attractive only when I am unavailable to them and when I look like I need help. They always act like they want to help, but I am pretty sure they just want to walk over and see if they can kick me hard enough to knock me over. Anyone ever seen Dogville? I had just left an internet cafe where I went to meet with George a tall, handsome, late-thirties, single, French/Canadian man who has asked me to marry him. It would be a very practical sort of marriage. Common wisdom says that I am in no position to turn these sort of offers down at my age. Besides, we do share certain goals. Ten years ago I would have never considered this kind of arrangement. Back then I had a lot of funny ideas about life. I believed that I was allowed to love as much as be loved, seek as much as be sought, make love as much as be
made love to. In the French unlike in English a woman can get fucked but she doesn't fuck ... the language won't let her. George and I have been working on a creative project together – he has been helping me on production issues. I needed someone who spoke French perfectly to get me past some of the bureaucratic hurdles that pop up and that can be exacerbated by less than perfect French. I had been working for days before this meeting non-stop from 9 to 4 in the morning trying to resolve some things that I thought George had already done but hadn't. I met him to pick up of the few of the things he said he did have ready... only to find out that none of those things were ready either. What is worse he didn't see it as a problem. I was angry at him at first and then just angry at the world. I realized that of course nothing is ready -- he doesn't have to work that hard at anything or take responsibility – he's a man. He can be quasi-competent and the world just lets him slide like so many other men I know. I am talented, I have ideas and interesting things to say, I am organized, dedicated, exacting and kind. I have gifts and all I get is punished for that. I get punished for using my sexuality to get what I want and I get punished for not using it. I get punished just for wanting. All there is left for me to do is to throw myself on people's mercy and when I do they call me a "profiteuse." I have to beg to get things I deserve – men like George, just ask for them. « I am jealous. It's not fair. » I said to Jean-Hugues. « Who told you that life was fair, Cherie? » I had been okay for a moment after leaving George. I shook his hand telling him thank you while repressing my urge to slug him. I didn't though. I crossed the street and headed towards the Louvre, to drop off the dossier. I threw my shoulders back, kept my head held high like my mother would tell me to do, when from around the corner came a man who stopped in front of me feigning like he had just had a knife plunged into his breast. « You have beautiful eyes. Tu veux prendre une verre? » I was half running carrying a stack of papers, looking serious... of course I didn't want to have a damned drink with him. Just because I have pretty green eyes doesn't mean I don't have important things to do. I wasn't born on that corner and hadn't stood there for the last thirty years just waiting for him to walk by. I ignored him and walked off thinking I was OK, but felt suddenly unsteady on my strappy heels they started to feel like shackles. I stumbled, grabbing onto the closest wall and started to cry wondering where the hell my tennis shoes were and why I didn't have them on.
I didn't have them on because of a conversation I had earlier that week with a man named David who has been trying to seduce me for a few months now, often by explaining concepts to me that I already understand like what Surrealism is and who Salvador Dali is. In passing, he saw me in tennis shoes and a skirt, and asked me why I was dressed like that. I showed him the high heels that I had been wearing earlier in the day and told him I had just come from the doctor where I was told I have severe compressed disk in my neck and that the shoes I normally wear were exacerbating that and my pain. David told me that I didn't look like I had neck problems, adding that tennis shoes with a skirt was just not aesthetically pleasing and that he hoped that this fashion never caught on in France. I wanted to ram my heels down his throat but I just walked off content to finally not be aesthetically pleasing to him. French people cannot stand it when women wear sneakers. Walking down the street in tennis shoes in Paris is akin to walking down the street in a bikini in Riyadh. When they outlawed the veil in public buildings and schools in France they should have outlawed high heels too. I finished talking to Jean-Hugues, let go of my anger, and wiped the mascara out from under my eyes and walked into the office that I had somehow found my way to, and handed over my dossier to a young man -- suddenly unsure of how to stand, whether to smile or be serious whether to do up the button on my dress or open up another -- wondering what I needed to do to get him to give my dossier a fair chance. Back at dinner, Marie-Pierre was trying to convince me to marry George â€“ anyone she said. It will only get more difficult for you from here on out without a man. Marry someone even if you don't love him and partner with him so that you can circumvent some of these problems and get what you want. I looked over to Claude, who was shoveling down the salmon dinner Marie-Pierre had made for us. He looked up, sensing something. We stopped, she was already out of her chair and running toward the kitchen by the time he got the words out... "Ou est le dessert?" ellemabelle