My father is terrified of a skinny-mustached, baguette-clutching beret-wearing man named Pierre. Well Pierre…or Jacques…and Henri, and maybe even a Guillaume too. Does he know any of these suave-sounding gentlemen? No, and neither do I – yet. Here’s the problem: I am an only daughter, and my dad being, well, a dad, suffers many nightmares. The specific fears vary, but at the root of all is one thing: Men. More specifically, men coming to take his daughter away.
These fears have only been compounded since I applied to study at the Paris Institute of Political Science (l’Institute d’études politiques de Paris, or more affectionately, Sciences Po) for all of next year. Men are indeed scary, but French men? Even scarier. As my departure date approaches at the end of August, he will increasingly often get a faux distressed look on his face and say,
“Please don’t get married next year! I want to meet my grandchildren!” He jokes about Pierre and Jacques to mask the fact that, being a dad, he really is terrified about the possibility. Sorry dad, after knowing you my whole entire life, I’m on to your tricks. And I would like to remind you that I am only 20 years old. I am definitely not in the market for a husband, no matter how beau Henri turns out to be.
In addition to the paternal pleas, there has been a befuddling deluge of advice since I received my Sciences Po acceptance letter. A friend of mine from school, convinced that all Europeans hate Americans, told me I’d be better off just sewing a Canadian flag to my backpack and introducing myself as “Halley de Vancouver, B.C.” After watching news footage of students rioting in France, my mom said she’d prefer that I avoid being killed in an angry mob. My grandparents told me to “stay out of the dangerous areas.” Kay, the mother of a boy I babysit, kind of agrees with my dad.
“Forget French men!” She reminds me every time I come over to babysit, “What you need is a fling with an Italian!” According to her, they’re more attractive, richer, and could probably buy me a Vespa. A moped would be cool…but I’m pretty sure my dad would have a heart attack.
Not content with merely sharing their generally unsolicited advice, family and friends have also been taking their own measures to “prepare” me for my year abroad through the medium of film. Kay had me sit down a few weekends ago for a marathon of classic French movies. Around the same time, a (male) friend made me watch the (highly disturbing) movie Hostel to prepare me for living in one when I first arrive. Watching Gerard Depardieu movies, I appreciated – but watching Americans be slaughtered in a hostel in Europe? Not so much. From the renter of Hostel did come one good movie – “Breathless,” about a young American girl who falls in love with a French criminal while studying in Paris. I am pretty sure I will not be showing that one to my dad.