Friday, May 28, 2010

French Mothers

I'm not in agreement with how French mothers operate. And yet, their children seem to have a devotion not seen in the US. American moms seem to be more lenient, wanting to be their child's friend...and it doesn't seem like there is the same loyalty for all that "friendship." I guess the lesson is that children want and need to be parented. Perhaps that means discipline, which has gotten softer in the US.

However: I saw this poor little girl walking on the sidewalk with her mother the other day. The little girl tripped and fell on her hands and knees. The mother dragged her up and said, "mais, qu'est-ce que t'arrives?" which basically means, "now, what did you do that for?" I felt so sad for the little girl. It wasn't her fault she tripped and fell. So instead of helping her up, brushing her off and saying, "are you okay?" her mother blamed and yelled at her. :((( BIG FROWNY!

Another time I saw a mother grab her young son (10-years old?) by the ear and drag him along down the sidewalk. :((( BIG FROWNY!!!

Thursday, May 27, 2010


I find the gypsies in Paris fascinating. Before I moved here I would have looked away, if I saw them, in the past because I felt sad about their situation. Now, it just fascinates me. In college I heard the definition of "grotesque" as "that which fascinates and repels." Here, on "The Victorian" it is defined as that which is outside our reality. "We are strongly affected and terrified because it is our world which ceases to be reliable, and we feel that we would be unable to live in this changed world. The grotesque instills fear of life rather than death."

To me, the gypsies represent this definition of grotesque--especially the "mothers" with their "children" and the young teenage girls.  I would not assume that it is the actual mother and birth child together. It could be their sister's or friend's.

One woman is usually stationed by the ritzy hotels the Prince de Gaulles and George V on Ave George V. (pronounced George Sank because the "V" is a "5") A few days ago I saw her in her usual spot but she was leaning on her arm and it was shaking violently. I wondered if this was an actual medical development, or if this was a new dramatic show, one of her "tricks," if you will. I didn't ask.

There also are the girls who dress up as Egyptian Mummies and stand or sit still for hours and hours, even in the hottest part of the summer. How can they do that? I couldn't suffer it.

One time I saw a boy of about eight years old, in the lap of his "mother." Obviously, going to school wasn't a big priority.

Of course, there are also the young teenage girls. These make me the saddest. They roam the metros in groups of two or three. They wait for crowds in the train and jump in at the last moment to grab what they can before escaping the closing doors. What really breaks my heart though is that I've heard if these poor girls go home empty-handed, they are raped. This, and just submitting a child to endless days of petty thievery, never knowing innocence and joy and laughter and warm embracing love and nurturing, is so tragic.

Sometimes girls, or boys, will just grab something (like a cellphone or purse) from a person at the door just as it is closing--forever leaving any possibility of capture.

Speaking of capture. If any one (or several) of these street urchins are caught, they are let go at the end of the day because French law prohibits holding minors. They're back out on the street again the next day.

Perhaps they go "home" to the grassy knolls on the A14 highway heading out of Paris. Sometimes I've seen them as we head out to the airport. Usually situated near the underpass of a bridge, there are sizable camps for these nomadic thieves.

What is also fascinating is that I know these tribes are an historical part of Parisian history. We see them in almost all theatrical works, like Les Miserables and across the Channel in Dickens' works. We don't see types like these in New York or American cities. The history and generational centuries of their existence and their role here is timeless. And I don't mean that in a romantic sense.

I am sure there are professional studies and writings on the case of these gypsies, which apparently are usually Romanian. The French, in fact, refer to them as "romani," but that is pejorative. Perhaps this post seems pejorative, but well, these are just my observations.

Tonight (May 27, 2010) I saw a gypsy family on the subway. They looked like they were heading home after their day of "work." The mother had a cane but was walking normally. The little girl had big round dangly earrings, just like you would imagine a stereotypical old-style gypsy to have. They all looked worn out and beaten from the day, and life.

Then, on another train (same night: 5/27/2010), I saw about five young girls on the platform of the metro. They looked to be less than 13-years old with the youngest looking about eight. They waited for the rush-hour train to pull in, they tried to board the last car and then at the last minute stepped out. I wonder--is someone less a watch? a wallet? a phone? They looked like they didn't get anything though, because they stayed on the platform looking forlorn. They looked like they knew they had to get "one more score" before they could go back and present their findings and receive either their reward (dinner?) or punishment (I shudder to think of it). It's really so sad.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

French Dog Walking

Today I saw an older woman walking her poodle. She had him on a short leash. (typical of the French. He stopped to try and pee, but she wasn't paying attention to him so he got dragged on 3 legs as he was trying to mark his spot. It annoys me that the French don't pay attention to their dogs when walking, dragging them on short leashes, never minding the dog and the fact that this is "their" walk--their change to pee, to get exercise, to be in the world. It's so typical...
Last year we saw a woman saying "lâche!, lâche! lâche!, lâche!, lâche!, lâche!" (let go!) as she yanked her dog by the leash, pulling him up off the ground with each forceful yank. The poor little dog just had a little something (leaf? stick?) in his mouth. But instead of bending down to try and get it out of his mouth with her hand, she pulled him up by his neck, which also made it impossible for the poor little bugger to actually release the object!

Perhaps it's a good figurative comment on the French character as well -- keeping dogs on a short leash.  Actually they are either on a short leash, or off leash, which is yet another good analogy for the French.