take one woman with low self esteem, but quite good hair
add one moronic illness
stir in some medication which causes hair to fall out
mix it all up and this is what you get...

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


Sometimes I wish I were in France.

Not for the usual reasons people cite, ah no. I'm not going to drone on about the food (yawn), the wine (double yawn) or the "café culture" (although I do wish more bars over here would consider table service - so much more civilised - but in the places where they try it, people just don't *get* it and seem magnetically attracted to the bar... a post for another time I think...)

No, nothing obvious.

It's the rules on greeting people which I sometimes wish applied here.

In my experience of living in France, as a woman, whomever you are greeting, unless it's either your lover (whom you'd probably kiss on the lips) or someone extremely "important" (whatever that really means) you kiss them on the cheeks, or "faire la bise" as this phenomenon is known.

Of course, depending on where you are in the country, the number of kisses will vary. In Lyon, where I lived, it was two, but some of my friends from Western France required four, others three. The key is to take your cue from the native. If they are puckering up for more, just go with the flow.

New Year parties were interesting. You would arrive at the party, and then spend some considerable time kissing all other partygoers present. If any further guests arrived, you would greet them with kisses too. At midnight, convention dictated that you kiss everyone in the room, and then you would go through this whole process again when you were leaving the party. You'd learn to make allowances for the extra time spent "faire"ing those "bises", especially if you had a train or bus to catch. Even if you hadn't spoken to any of the people concerned and had spent the entire party sulking in the corner on your own, you would still "faire la bise".

Simple rules. No variations here, please, we're French. There were some "rules" in France which I found frankly stifling, but this one was fine by me.

It's in this country where I am a little lost.

I used to kiss my mum, when she was alive.
I used to kiss my grandparents, sometimes begrudgingly, when they were alive.
I kiss my aunts, uncles and cousins (now that they are grown up).
I kiss Big's mother, aunt and uncle.

I kiss *some*, but not all, of my close friends. I'm not clear on how we've decided whether or not to kiss each other, but it's something which has evolved. I tend to "go along with" what they do. If they proffer a kiss, I will respond, but I probably wouldn't "start" it.

Despite being very close to my siblings in so many ways, we don't kiss. The only exception to this was when one of my sisters was in intensive care after having had open heart surgery (she had a congenital heart condition which was only discovered at age 18; she had a heart bypass shortly afterwards). I just felt a need to kiss her as she lay there, drugged up on painkillers, wired up to the hilt and looking incredibly fragile.

I don't hug them either. The only exception here being when my sisters and I stood clinging to each other at the foot of the bed where our mother was taking her last breaths.

The strange thing is, I am, in the right circumstances, a very affectionate and demonstrative person. Physical contact is so important to me. Being single for a long time made me crave human touch more than almost anything else, just to share in the warmth of another human being.

I love my siblings, dearly, but we just don't show our affection. It's almost as if when you've known someone that long, it's somehow too late to start...

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