Hair Trends (c) Kristin Espinasse
"Ruff Ruff Rasta" A couple of curly-haired characters encountered over the weekend. Never miss a word or a photo - click here to receive the free word-a-day newsletter

s'amuser (saah moo zay)

    : to have fun

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce these French words:
(Download MP3 file or Wav)

On s'amuse bien avec les amis. We have a lot of fun with friends.

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

The Comparison Trap

Around eleven or twelve years ago, a group of childhood friends began to meet yearly, for a four-day retreat, so as never to lose touch with each other - or with reality. It didn't matter if the flurry of the everyday threatened ("You are too busy - this year you cannot get away!") and distance might try--but could not succeed--in keeping the longtime friends from meeting.

The wives of these French friends were, for the most part, enthusiastic complices, game to hike, swim, and shimmy alongside their men, to go where the sun, the sea, and the sheer thrill might take them. All the wives, that is, but one....

"But this year will be different!" I listened to the voice of reason cheering in my mind. "You are no longer that complexed, still-trying-to-fit-in non-citizen. You can now cook, speak, and even manage to run a family..."  Yes, but I still cannot get into one of their French bikinis!

And so it was that I joined my husband's friends and spent the weekend trying to keep up with their fit and fun-loving women. The lieu: a family-friendly, all-inclusive, seaside club, just a four-hours' drive from our farm.

"Tu nous rejoins pour l'aquagym?" or "Allez! On va danser la Zumba!" The wives encouraged, and I stared back, doubtfully, at the athletic-looking ladies.  I wondered about things like swimsuits and sportsbriefs - did we really have to wear these tightish things? Why couldn't we just go to the movies? 

"Allez! On va s'amuser!" The women assured me. We needed not follow the dancers in step - the goal was to unwind! In the end, I set aside any complexes... in time to shimmy with the best of them. I tried to ignore the curious bystanders (mostly our husbands, who were piled up at the door to the dance class), and I told myself that it didn't matter that I'd forgotten my glasses -- just follow the woman ahead of me (who followed the one ahead of her, and so on... each moving in the opposite direction). 

In the evening, I tried not to be too envious when, at dinner, the women arrived the best dressed. I wore the same pair of cargo pants each evening, having recently grown out of my slacks, my jeans, and other things.  And when another bout of doubt threatened to steal the moment, I quietly reminded myself of the privilege that was mine -- to be here listening to these French voices after all this time. Tuning in to the foreign hum.... I could quiet the inner critic in time to join the fun-loving ones.


Le Coin Commentaires
How about you? Do you ever find yourself comparing yourself with others--after all these years? And in what areas?: intelligence or career or physique or speaking or cooking abilities? Do you compare yourself to other parents? to other spouses? to colleagues? Or simply to others in your same age group (wondering whether you or they look their age)? What ways have you found in which to overcome "the comparison trap"? Is it selfish or dim-witted or useless to compare -- or is it "only human"? Click here to comment.

And what if dogs self-compared? What if they compared their hair?

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French Vocab & Expressions

la/le complice = accomplice

l'aquagym (f) = aquaerobics

Tu nous rejoins pour l'aquagym? = Meet us for aquagym?

Allez! On va danser la Zumba! = Come on! We're going to dance the Zumba!

Allez! On va s'amuser! = Come on! We're going to have fun!

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"A breath of bougainvillea" in Costa Brava, Spain. All photos (c) Kristin Espinasse

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety