Sunday, June 01, 2008

Warning: Grizzly Bear Alert

The French have no problem calling Americans fat, so much so that during my first visit to France the Frenchman sitting next to me at dinner turned and asked "Are all Americans fat?" The other thing they have no problem with is acting superior because they address problems with diplomacy not brute force. However, if you simply imply that a French woman is fat, be prepared for a beating.

The other day while shopping for greeting cards, I waited my turn while the woman before me spun the card rack round and round. After she left, I stepped up and started looking. Moments later I was joined by a couple. They removed some cards and started reading them. I slowly turned the stand to get a glimpse at the cards on the other side, stretching my neck back as far as possible as to minimize the rotation. This small movement sent the woman into a rage. She grabbed the rack and jerked it back and forth in an exaggerated motion.

Fred politely explained that we were looking at the cards and she claimed in a smart ass tone that she didn't see us. She went on to tell us that we weren't alone in the world. Fred continued to try to reason with her and explain that we were there first and had almost finished, if she could just be patient. She retorted by asking us if we had a receipt to prove we were there first.

I couldn’t take it anymore. I picked up a card with a big chocolate birthday cake on the cover and interrupted the dialogue by showing Fred the card and saying in French: “Look! Here is a card with a cake on it, she probably wants this one.”

I was completely unprepared for what happened next. She turned bright red, raised her arm, and slapped me with all her force. Then she came at me like a hungry bear. Fred and her husband (him, half-heartedly so) had to hold her back, while she continued to yell and struggled to get free. First, she screamed about my “accent de merde” (accent of shit) - funny, since her husband had an accent too - then she yelled “fuck you” - impressive, when I’m angry I have a really hard time speaking a foreign language - then she reminded me that "this is not America" - ironic, considering she fulfilled the stereotype of what French people claim about Americans - fat and violent.

I was in shock and couldn't stop laughing, which only made her more upset. Fred couldn't let go because if he did, she would have attacked me. Hearing the commotion, the shop owner came outside to see what was happening. He stepped in to calm the beast and hold her back while Fred and I made our get away.

I know I have a big mouth, but I never thought that a 45 year-old rotund French woman would be the one to call me out on it. Firstly, because we're made to believe that fat French woman don't exist and, secondly, I never imagined anyone would ever be able to understand one of my insults in French.

And, yes, I know I probably deserved it.