Friday, June 19, 2009

Just...Desserts?

Just when I think I've made great strides in integrating and learning a new language, all that, there are those little moments that remind me - I'm an alien around here.

Yes, we're all flesh and blood etc but so are we also decades of cultural references, shared experience, goddamn TV shows.

This hit me again last night - we were sitting around having dinner with a group of friends, some French, some English, me the only American.

Someone had made a cake for dessert and brought along a can of whipped cream and the can was making its way around the table, with everyone taking a turn anointing their cake. Some people did very basic squirting, some hearts and flourishes, and as everyone expressed themselves with the can we were each scrutinized by the rest of the table and judged and applauded for our creative efforts.

"It's like a Soul Train line, only with desserts," I said, thinking back fondly to the parties of yore when eventually things would disintegrate to the point where two rows would form and anyone on the dance floor would have to strut their stuff for a few seconds.

"Quoi?" I realized no one at the table had any idea what I was talking about. Not that it mattered, but all of a sudden I was trying desperately to explain, in fractured French, about how once there was this TV show, and there was dancing, oh and this guy Don Cornelius, and they'd form these lines either side, and you'd have to dance down the middle, and...and...

By now most of the table had moved on to something else. Eric stayed with me supportively and Emmanuel seemed to catch on to the very slight joke I'd made way back what felt like two months before.

And I suddenly felt very tired.

5 comments:

Ed Ward said...

Just desserts, though, is the moment you get to "quoi?" them back. Don't be afraid to, either: you both learn something when you do.

(Fave example: driving back to Berlin from Prague just after the Revolution, no streetlights, hard to see the road, a guy staggers in front of the car and then to safety. Really: his path was the only reason I didn't hit him. My German friend says, in English, "Wow, he must really be lifetired." Huh?

Well, that's how I learned there's a word -- lebensmüder -- that means that in German. Opened up a whole galaxy of understanding their culture...

Non Je Ne Regrette Rien said...

Sooooooooouuuuuuuuuuuullllllllllllllllllll Train!!!! dang, wish I would have been there for moral support. We could have risen up and demonstrated to their non-soul having asses!!! lmao.

Rosie said...

One of my singing ateliers is called Soul Train in hommage to that wonderful tv program...so you see, you would be understood in St Brieuc, at least!

conortje said...

oh I know this feeling only too well... I feel for you :-)

amy said...

Ed, I do love learning new words/phrases/whole ways of looking at things - to think a few years ago I couldn't have told you the difference between a c**t, a wanker, a twat and a tosser - now in any unpleasant situation it is clear to me precisely what kind of person I'm dealing with. And the smoke and mirrors that is French - all the elegant ways to say the most banal things. German seems a very expressive language also.

Kim I'll make sure to pick up a DVD of the Best Of, and surely one exists. Then put on a dance party in the local bar...

You'll have to organize some kind of sing-off Rosie, everyone putting there own spin on two lines of the same song?

Thanks conortje, sometimes exhaustion sets in...I'm sure a month in the US will help fire me up again.