Frehel Diaries: Beach Blanket Bunni

After his parents house, we go to yet another house. The Sauvage doesn't explain. He tells me and Nana to wait in the car. When the Sauvage talks to me in English it's the way one would talk to a dog-one word commands "Wait" "Come" "Stop." I know it has more to do with his ability in English than anything else, but still it grates on my nerves and I wish I could give him a bit of a taste of my rapier wit. As soon as he is inside, Nana slips out of the car. I stay for about ten minutes in the car reading. Finally, I follow Nana's lead. She walked around the side of the house. I can hear two girls giggling and laughing. I find Nana on a swing with a chubby little blonde girl, Chunk.** The Sauvage is talking to a handsome man who stands up to greet me as soon as he sees me coming around the corner.

Peter Mayle described the problem of kissing in France. While 2 kisses seems to be the standard in Paris, your problem whenever you greet anyone in France is somewhere between 2-4 kisses. The dark man gets up and kisses me twice, and there is an awkward silence as I try to figure out if the Sauvage has explained who I am. Finally the dark man, Jean, introduces himself, and I stumble out an introduction. And yet again the Sauvage has to explain not only who I am, but my utter inability to communicate.

Jean invites me inside, and his blonde blue-eyed wife who looks like she should be a professional tennis player, Teresa comes down stairs and greets the Sauvage by calling him the "Parisian" jokingly. I understand this exchange very well. Much like how my relatives regard NY, these people were born in this town and have never lived anywhere else. They can't understand how anyone can choose to live in a city-the stress, the cost, the crime. Another common point between us revealed. Teresa kisses me twice just as two more friends drop by. Again the kisses, this time four times each with a bit of a laugh at my expense when I stopped after only two. The friends are here only briefly to pick up Jean and Teresa's teenage daughter. More kisses before they leave with the beautiful long haired teenage girl.

We sit at their kitchen table and smoke. I take out my notebook. They chat brightly amongst themselves, while I jot down notes about lunch with his parents and await some kind of sense of what we are going to do next. Finally, the Sauvage gets up, and we say good-bye. Chunk and Nana get into the car with us, and I realize that we are taking both girls at least for a while.

The two girls sit in the backseat and talk. "Who is this girl?" whispers Chunk. Nana responds quickly. I only pick up one word "mother" or at least it sounds like mother, but the rest is too fast for me to follow. Her friend begins to whisper another question but Nana hisses at her to stop. At first I think it's because she has noticed that I am paying attention, but my failure to understand the language is pretty clear and certainly has not escaped her attention. I realize it's that her father is also suddenly paying attention to the conversation. It's fear of how he might respond to her characterization of me. This is how helpless I am here, at the mercy of a nine year old girl whisper.

At this point, I give up on the phrase books and portable dictionaries I have been lugging around with me. They don't have any of the words that I want. I try to simplify my word choices, but even then no luck. Nouns and phrases I can translate "toutes les hommes" and "dix heures", but they pile up too quickly When strung together and are compounded by the many words, mainly verbs, that I don't recognize.

The Sauvage stops the car, and we walk to the beach. I hadn't known we were coming here, because he didn't bother to tell me. Or maybe he did and I didn't understand, but I know the words for beach and ocean in French and have a hard time believing I would have missed something like that. I have discovered in my seven month affair with the Sauvage that he often expected me to read his mind. I'm not sure how he expected me to pull that off since on top of being psychic I would also need a much better grasp of French to translate whatever muddle of thoughts were in his butter-addled brain. I'm a little bitter than I won't be able to go in the water, but I walk, as I always do, silent and uncomplaining. The run ahead of me and walk far in the sand.

Sand presents me with a unique challenge. The way it alternatively shifts and clings exponentially increases my difficulty walking. It wasn't long before I was left in this distance cursing in the sun wondering why we had to walk that far anyway. The beach wasn't that crowded. Finally, I saw them set up camp. The two girls quickly shed their clothes and ran for the water. The Sauvage asked me about my bathing suit. I explained I hadn't brought it. He told me about his parents and not the beach. He asked me where they were. I told him exactly where in the bureau at the hotel. He told me to wait with the girls, and he would be right back. So I sat on the blanket and hoped the two girls didn't do anything that would require me to communicate. Fifteen minutes later, the Sauvage returned with two of my bathing suits and 3 of my beach wraps. He told me that I could change on the beach if I wanted. I told him no way, and he said "Oh yes, you Americans are such Puritans."

It's not often I get to be called a Puritan. I do actually come from Puritan country, although I have shed many puritanical ways. 1 Instead, I proudly march off across the beach all the way to the bathrooms. I change into a bikini and a wrap.

I had not been confident about the bikini, but in France it is apparently the right of every female land mammal to wear a bikini in the same way that every male wears a speedo. This was definitely the place to have my first test run in a bikini.

As I walk back to the blanket, I look around. There are adults playing boules. This seemed to make about as much sense to me as playing croquet at the beach, but we shall deal with the subject of French logic in another post.

Furthermore, I notice that the majority of French children don't build sand castles or bury each other, they delight in....ditch digging. No explanation, no reason, they just like to dig. The beach is pockmarked with holes of a variety of widths and depths.

I am informed upon returning to the blanket that we are moving to an even more remote part of the beach where the wind isn't as strong. Once resettled, I notice two women are topless. The two girls go to pick wildflower, and I contemplate topless sunbathing. These women are flat and I far from that, but still. I decide to test the waters by lying on my stomach and unclasping my bikini top. I immediately decide that I am uncomfortable with being this naked in public. Unfortunately, I discover that reclasping my bathing suit is significantly more difficult than unclasping it (clearly the work of male designers male designers). The Sauvage sees me struggling to reclasp my top. "It's OK" he says and so I lie face down. I feel the breeze on my naked skin. It feels lovely. I wonder about turning over and feeling the sun and the wind on my naked breasts. I decide to test this idea by turning over, but leaving my unfastened bikini draped over my breasts.

Once on my back I notice yet another topless sunbather, but then I also notice a family complete with children has spread themselves out next to me. I decide against it even though if they were really against nudity they would settle someplace without so much of it. Just as I come to this conclusion a naked 7 year old girl walks by. The Sauvage notices the look on my face and re-affirms that I am a Puritan. I'm not sure why I am so shocked by her nudity, but it seems odd to me.

I lie in the sun next to my boyfriend. I want to go in the water, but for today I am happy to lie in the sun. He periodically reaches out to touch my arm or leg. I'm surprised how happy I am just to lie here. The sun and the wind are the perfect mix. I am both warm and cool at the same time, the two temperatures playing with each other on my skin.

** Although this name may not seem affectionate, it is a reference to the character in the film the Goonies. As you will read, Chunk was one of the best people I encountered on this trip, and one of the people I still miss. So her name should in no way be taken as an insult, but rather an attempt to capture her garrulously endearing nature.

1 Those who doubt that I was ever a Puritan should remember that at the age of 16 I freaked out because I kissed a guy with whom I did not have a "significant emotional connection with." Furthermore, I didn't have sex on top until I was 23 because I was so inexperienced I was convinced the guy would immediately know that I had no idea what I was doing.

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