My desire to be more assertive was further increased last Saturday evening when we went to a Birthday dinner celebration at friends.
I’d met their other friends a year ago for the same occasion, so it wasn’t as if I was meeting new people (I am quite shy) so I was looking forward to the evening.
Quickly after arriving however, I realized that I was going to be in for a long, long evening as I remembered my evening of English bashing from the year before. “oh no”, I groaned, “what have I done?”. I longed to go home and to enjoy a nice glass of chilled Rose by the pool, but I thought of my friends who I simply adore, and I wasn’t going to abandon them as they’d moved the party date especially so that we could be there.
As the other guests arrived, they each took it in turn to remark that I am the English girl and that they hoped I spoke French. For goodness sake, they had met me a year ago and whilst I was greeting them couldn’t they tell from what I was saying to them I spoke French? It wasn’t promising that they couldn’t even understand their own bloody language was French and not English as they replied to me!
They hardly spoke to me all evening and any time I did try to speak to them they took the piss out of my accent and launched into private jokes amongst themselves. My friends were dismayed and kept apologizing, they were so embarrassed by their friends but I told them to leave it, it didn’t matter. I didn’t want to ruin their celebrations.
So, I attempted humoring the English insulting, ignorant French friends (thankfully not all French are like this, like not all English are mousy like me!) realizing the evening would be extremely long if I didn’t, after all, sometimes you have to make an effort to fit in as people can be uncomfortable with difference. It wasn’t worth the effort. Whilst trying to make conversation with them, my inner assertive voice was dying to scream out “Do not label me, you, you…French PERSON!” but my exterior mouse kept my assertive voice at bay and was more of an ally to them than to me.
As I served up the salad I’d made (Courgette Summer Salad – see recipe here), everyone looked at it suspiciously, muttering that they didn’t like English food, saying it was gross, would give them tummy ache, would make them retch, would be tasteless… So rude! Seething, I would have had steam coming from my nose and ears, but thankfully they were blocked with pollen allergies, I wanted to shout at them. I had not stood grating courgettes and making salad for an hour (I had made enough for 20 people) for them to instantly turn their noses up, like spoiled children, and declare they weren’t going to eat it without even having a taste first! Had I mistaken the evening for La Maternelle school?
So I betrayed myself and told them it was my Belle-Mere’s recipe. As soon as they were satisfied it was French they all tucked in and the compliments flowed. Instantly I regretted what I had said, this wasn’t her recipe, I didn’t know it and had only been inspired by it. I should not have been a traitor and I should have stood my ground and been assertive.
I was dreading dessert. I already knew that under normal circumstances that I was going to be the laughing stock, as I had made a ridiculous attempt at a Victoria Sponge birthday cake and had spotted that I was the only person who had brought something homemade with them.
I had encountered every disaster in the kitchen; my cake wouldn’t rise, it then stuck to the tin and crumbled when I managed to release it and I’d not been able to buy double cream to go inside. I had covered the cake with choccy icing sugar and M&M’s to try and add some height and to cover the monstrosity but I was not kidding anyone.
As the birthday cake was served up, I had an instant pang of pride and the belittling comments of others had no further effect. This was my vengeance. Dry, crumbly cake with lots of chocolate – I hoped they choked on it.
4 Useful Suggestions to Frenchies who meet me from now on:
1. Do not assume that I don’t speak French, just because you don’t speak any other languages don’t automatically think that everyone else is as ignorant.
2. Do not make jokes about me in French. Because you are convinced I don’t speak French you don’t think I’ll understand you. But I do!
3. Do not take the p**s out of my foreign accent: this stems from points 1 & 2 but deserves it’s own point. By this time you’ve understood perfectly well what I’m saying but you still take the p**s because for you it’s amusing. Stop and think: I get this EVERY day!
4. Do not label: okay, I wasn’t born in France but I live here now. Aside from my foreignness I am a real human being, with hobbies, interests etc just like you. I am not an alien from another planet. You can communicate with me.
My tolerance bowl is full, so I strongly, strongly recommend that any Frenchies read the above and pay attention before they meet me. The next person to be so belittling will experience the full wrath of my inner voice. Even mousy me is determined to let it out!!