Pardonnez-moi. My Domestic Goddess Disguise Does Not Work

There’s nothing like hosting an extremely intelligent French teenager to discover how one’s spoken French is truly bad. It’s been 37 years since I wandered into French 101 at LSU, and honey, it shows.

Never mind that I usually skipped language lab due to an undiagnosed ADD inability to sit anywhere for an extended period of time without food or company. Never mind it was a requirement that we spend at least “x” number of hours with headphones on in said lab, repeating over and over what was being poured into our ears. Never mind you may be repeating the sounds imperfectly, thus cementing bad pronunciation firmly into your memory.

If I ever went to the French language lab, it was out of fear of the emaciated and angry young female language instructor assigned to my class. We were a small group of 1970’s kids, Star Trek/Star Wars nerds, dazed and frightened of this French woman who started yelling the lesson in frustration. She scared me even more than Professor Sidney Cohen, my favorite history professor, which is saying something.

Back to Pierre. Luckily for my family, his English is very good, including his pronunciation. No need to dredge the barrel of my memory for words like “butter”, “car”, etc. French grammar? Forget it. When I discovered that French grammar was just as difficult to understand as English, my foray into that language was doomed.

Pierre came to us at almost the last minute, courtesy of a French organization that organizes the exchange of American and French teens. Our youngest had stayed with a family in the Auvergne a few years ago, and this would be our last chance to host. Not enough American families had signed on, or emergencies had come up. M. Claude called me, as well as other past families who’d sent their children to France before, asking me in his beautiful and charming accent if we had room for a young boy. I’m a fool for a grey-haired man with a French accent. Of course, I said yes!

I blush to think that Pierre will go back to France with the illusion that our family is typically American. To a man and dog, we’re insane. I have the hosting ability of a Neanderthal man, and am about to have a nervous breakdown trying to appear as a competent domestic goddess. There’s nothing domestic or normal about me, so keeping up the pretense for three weeks is bringing me to my knees.

That Pierre has exquisite manners is not exaggerating, so when my family slips and there’s a brief glimpse of the chaos we call family life, he laughs. Bless him.

Our hosting ends next week, while I’m attending the Romance Writers of America convention in San Antonio. My husband and youngest will be entertaining him those last few days, so I’ll miss sending him off on Air France. Hopefully, he’s seen past the smokescreen of our semi-civilized facades and still likes us, despite our crazy little dog, disorganized household, and my attempts to keep him company while youngest is working.

Because I’m semi-feral, socializing skills are all but beyond me, but Pierre has reminded me of the niceties of polite company. Something that one of my kids has a partial grasp on (and you know who you are, kiddo.). I hope our French son will forgive us for our roughness, and come visit again one day. Maybe by then we’ll know how to act like civilized denizens of the world.



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