Today I’m celebrating my ever-so-slight progression in French: I just negotiated what I’d consider a complicated prescription refill (even in the States) entirely in French. Granted, I had to look up a few words, and I practiced the entire dialogue for about 10 minutes before even walking out of my flat, but I did it. The pharmacist looked extremely bored by my routine request and stopped me halfway through because he didn’t need to hear anymore. He plopped down my meds in less than 2 minutes; all that worrying I’d done about whether I’d be able to communicate, and then even more worrisome to me, would I be able to understand him when he spoke back, it was all pointless. Thinking about it, it seems like that’s the case with most of the worrying most of us do in life, isn’t it? We wear ourselves out with anxiety over stupid things, only to realize later that everything is fine; maybe not perfect, but just fine.
I was telling a couple of new friends recently that it seems like half the battle with speaking a new language is just being willing to look like a complete idiot a-hole and not care if you’re a grown woman who sounds like a toddler. I have to confess: as a person who has devoted most of her career to words, who used to be in charge of an entire online magazine, who edited people’s words and thoughts, I’m not someone who feels comfortable looking stupid when it comes to language. Not that I think I’m some genius editor or writer, but I like to think I have a good handle on the English language, so it’s super humbling to struggle just to string together basic, cave woman-like sentences without much depth.
Which reminded me of this amazing scene (click here to see the clip) from Love Actually, where Colin Firth is attempting to propose in Portugese. Even his mistakes seem charming because he’s trying. In the category of cheesy romantic movie scenes, it’s one of my all-time favorites, now more than ever living here in a foreign country. And (cheeseball alert) it always, always makes me cry. There’s a really nice French gentleman I’ve been seeing (and because I’ve said that out loud on the Internet, I’ll probably never hear from him again) who speaks English when he’s with me. He always apologizes for his English (which is actually pretty good), but he always speaks it, and when his friends are around they speak English too. How big of an asshole am I? It’s time to speak French. Today I owe him an email to firm up some plans and I’m vowing here and now to write it in French and at least try to meet him halfway (which he’s never even asked me to do) in speaking French when we’re together.
In my head, I’m like Colin Firth in the proposal scene – to be clear, I’m not proposing and I’m not professing my love. I’m just confirming that yes, I would like to go to the Helmut Newton exhibit with him and that yes, I’m looking forward to seeing him too. Seems easy enough, right? We’ll see. Enjoy the clip … and wish me luck. As Jeremy Piven told John Cusack (or was it the other way around?) in yet another cheeseball movie, Serendipity, you have to be willing to look like a jackass for love, or in my case, just like.
Here’s to my jackass-ness, everyone. May you all look like jackasses, too. Just in cases.
(Click here to cry. Sorry, I was too lazy to bring this video over to WordPress from Tumblr, but you have to watch it. Promise me you will! Go on – allez! Watch!)