Lazy days at a beach in Cavalière, along the Blue Coast.



noun, feminine

laziness, idleness ; sloth


By the time my aunt and uncle from San Francisco arrived for a three-day visit, my home, my yard, my kids, my spouse, my dog and I, all in our Sunday best, were as put together as a family of paper dolls. All I needed to do for the next 72 hours was keep our cut-out cover-ups from blowing off: keep the kids from wiping their mouths with the backs of their hands, keep my husband from leaving the bathroom door open (while he occupied it!), keep the puppy from having indigestion and keep myself from feeling the need to explain the greasy fingerprints on the wall and the still-needs-fixin' front gate. It isn't often that I see my American family, so when they come to France I can't help but want them to believe that I've finally "arrived"... when the truth is I'm still zigzagging along Le Grand Chemin de la Vie.

Not 24 hours into last week's masquerade, my paper-thin façade was literally falling off. It began with that monster spot in the back of my car....

A little while back, one of our kids knocked over a bottle of water, soaking the back seat of our Citroën. When a large water stain appeared, I saturated the tache with spot cleaner, only, when I went to remove the powder, the vacuum cleaner's motor went kaput. The spot, now larger and darker than before, remained. A few more weeks passed... and the tea-colored powder hardened!

The growing and darkening spot represented one great weakness: la paresse. That's right, SLOTH, or "the disinclination to work or exert oneself", a label I've been trying to tear off my person since whiling away many a childhood day in front of I Love Lucy or The Bionic Woman or Pippi Longstocking (while my funny, strong, and adventurous sister, Heidi, did the dishes).

But back to that monstrous tache. On the very first day of my family's visit, the spot was spotted! It happened when my uncle volunteered to take the back seat after I proposed a scenic drive. Noticing the blanket that covered the siège arrière, my curious uncle instinctively tugged at it, instantly revealing The Mutant Monster Tacheand all of my flaws along with it!

"You weren't supposed to see that!" I cried, blowing my own cover. "Everything was supposed to be perfect!"

My uncle was taken aback, either by the spot... or by my confession. After a moment, and in his best French and softest voice, he offered, "Personne n'est parfaite."

After our excursion, by the time I had returned the car keys to the armoire à clés, my uncle had unbolted the back seat, pulled the entire siège unit out of the car, and hosed down its surface. After ten minutes and a little liquid laundry detergent and a scrub brush, the spot was completely gone! "Ce n'était rien." It was nothing, my uncle said.

Two days later I said goodbye to my aunt and uncle. It was while polishing the bathroom mirror that I noticed the apple spice lipstick stain on my cheek. "Stay the way you are," my aunt had said, planting the kiss. "Don't ever change."

True to character, I was a bit slack about removing that lipstick stain, and my aunt's apple spice kiss stayed on my cheek until it eventually wore itself off.

French Vocabulary

Le Grand Chemin de la Vie = Life's Great Path

la tache = stain, spot

Personne n'est parfaite = Nobody's perfect

une armoire à clés = key box

le siège = seat

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Related Stories

The Sugar Snatchers: my law-abiding aunt and I become partners in crime. Read the story.


Apparently a lot of artists and writers shun la paresse:

  Le travail pense, la paresse songe.
Work thinks, sloth dreams. --Jules Renard

  La bêtise, c'est de la paresse.
Stupidity is laziness. --Jacques Brel

  Pas de chef-d'oeuvre dans la paresse!
No masterpiece was ever created by a lazy artist! --Salvador Dali

French Pronunciation:
Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce this French quote:
  Seule la paresse fatigue le cerveau.
  Only laziness tires the brain. --Louis Pauwels Download paresse.wav

Related Terms & Expressions:
  paresser (verb) = to laze about
  par pur paresse = out of sheer laziness
  paresse d'esprit = sluggishness of mind

In books:
Matisse Chasing Matisse: A Year in France Living My Dream

Crossword Webster's English to French Crossword Puzzles: Level 2

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