petite anglaise

February 9, 2005


Filed under: city of light — petiteanglaiseparis @ 12:28 pm

Cutting through the Buttes Chaumont with the Tadpole – disguised as a leopard – I was surprised at how little reaction I got from passers by. You’d think that the sight of a toddler in full furry costume (you didn’t think I was in disguise, I hope?) complete with ears and tail would elicit some sort of positive response: a smile, a wave, a wink or a nod perhaps?


A couple of small children pointed. A gaggle of grumpy old folk did double takes, but without the merest glimmer of a smile. What a miserable lot. Instead of feeling rather proud of how cute my child looked and amused about the surreal quality of my walk home, I began to feel a little embarrassed that she had not been changed out of her costume.

“Vous avez l’heure s’il vous plaît?” called out a man loitering alongside the path, probably waiting for someone he was meant to meet.

“Oui, il est dix-huit heures moins cinq,” I replied politely after looking at my watch, which requires a manoeuvre of the wrist as it is kind of sideways on. Continental European that I am, naturally I use the 24 hour clock.

I realised that the man was also looking at my watch. In fact, all of a sudden he was uncomfortably close. And wearing a watch himself.

I’d fallen for the oldest opening chat-up line in the book. Now I’d have to tread the fine line between adopting a tone chilly enough to repel my suitor but not so rude as to rile a potentially barking mad and volatile stranger.

“C’est votre enfant?” he enquired, falling into step with the pushchair and I. I nodded, without making eye contact and accelerating my pace slightly, hoping that the fact of being a mother would prove to be enough of a deterrent.

“Vous habitez dans le coin?” he persisted, undeterred.

[Where on earth did he think this was leading? Do people ever actually say “yes, I do, why don’t you come back for coffee and some steamy extra-non-marital action while my daughter – disguised as a leopard – plays with her toys in the next room?]

“Ca ne vous regarde pas,” I replied firmly.

“Mais je ne vous dérange pas là ? Je veux juste discuter un peu,” he insisted. And there was me thinking I had made it perfectly clear that he was bothering me and I didn’t want to talk.

“Et moi, je veux rentrer chez moi, retrouver mon mari. Je ne veux discuter avec personne,” I lied through my teeth. About the husband bit anyway. Mr Frog is not my husband and wouldn’t be home for hours yet.

“Ah bon. Je vous laisse alors.”

Not. Before. Time.

I’m still amazed that he didn’t ask me why Tadpole was disguised as a leopard.


  1. He probably thought you were an au pair.
    Mr Frog, could you do something in order that Petite doesn’t have to lie to strangers?

    Comment by Chninkel — February 9, 2005 @ 1:33 pm

  2. Petite – you managed to escape a dodgy situation so smoothly and in control.

    My “favourite” was being asked by a very bourgois type, as I descended from an RER train, if he could bother me by asking if I was wearing stockings or tights. At that time my vocab didn’t extend past “fichez moi la paix” so I just went bright red and ran away.

    Comment by l'oiseau — February 9, 2005 @ 1:39 pm

  3. Have you tried taking an american accent, backing away slowly and explaining that were you come from, persistent strangers get maced?

    It would deter ME, anyway…

    Comment by Mathieu — February 9, 2005 @ 2:06 pm

  4. Taking an american accent… sheesh.

    If there was any doubts as to my being french, that gallicism has now blown them to kingdom come.

    Comment by Mathieu — February 9, 2005 @ 2:08 pm

  5. l’Oiseau – my best chat up line to date was a few years ago. A man who offered to pay for my pants at the checkout in C&A*.

    I shudder to think what he would have expected in return.

    *I was an impoverished student. They were cheap. What else can I say in my defence?

    Comment by petite — February 9, 2005 @ 2:23 pm

  6. Now that’s class :D

    Comment by l'oiseau — February 9, 2005 @ 2:25 pm

  7. C&A obviously attracts perverts – when I was 16 a guy flashed me from behind a row of cheap shirts in C&A on Oxford Street. I didn’t know where to put myself.

    And by the way – why was Tadpole dressed as a leopard?

    Comment by rachie — February 9, 2005 @ 2:40 pm

  8. I want to know why Tadpole was dressed as a leopard too. hehe.
    What is it with these crazy men in parks?

    Comment by Katia — February 9, 2005 @ 2:44 pm

  9. is C&A like, shameful shopping? Because I didn’t realize this, and it happens to be my favorite stores in our local mall.

    Comment by kim — February 9, 2005 @ 2:58 pm

  10. Tops! I imagine Tadpole looked ever so cute. If not quite lifelike enough to deter the weirdo. Mr Frog better get his act together and propose. The next guy to chat you up might not be so weird.

    Comment by Claypot — February 9, 2005 @ 2:59 pm

  11. I’m presuming the leopard costume was a Mardi Gras thing, but I could be wrong.

    Comment by Iain — February 9, 2005 @ 3:23 pm

  12. Bloody lech!

    I had to put up with a fair bit of that nonsense when I was in France. Some guys are so persistent!

    And it wasn’t really a lie, he *is* your husband in essence, if not in law.

    I’m intrigued as to why the marriage thing is such an issue, p’tite. Surely, what’s important is that you have eachother and tadpole?

    As I’ve got older, I’ve become almost bored with the idea of getting married – I find other people’s weddings rather tedious, and almost feel like I wouldn’t want to inflict that on my friends… I’m aware that my views are probably in the minority though(!)

    Comment by witho — February 9, 2005 @ 3:55 pm

  13. Tadpole was indeed disguised as a leopard for mardi gras – the childminders have some sort of carnival thing at the town hall.

    The marriage thing has become a sort of in joke in our household and my harping on about it should not to be taken too seriously.

    However I do wonder what to refer to Mr Frog as. ‘The father of my child’ sounds like we are separated, boyfriend sounds like I’m 16 again, and partner sounds a bit pompous. I hate the way that language hasn’t caught up with social reality yet. So I just use his first name and expect people to understand from the context.

    Comment by petite — February 9, 2005 @ 4:25 pm

  14. Getting married can sometimes be an administrative expedient, particularly when kids are involved. This was the case when I got married in the Netherlands – all those headaches of legally recognized paternity, inheritance, tax, dependency benefits, were resolved at one go. Not very romantic but something to think about.

    Happy Chinese New Year to everyone! :lol:

    Comment by Ria — February 9, 2005 @ 4:56 pm

  15. ahh the parisian pervs. that’s one thing you don’t come across too often here in boston. “i just want to talk … i am not bothering you ….”


    Comment by maryse — February 9, 2005 @ 5:01 pm

  16. *clapping hands* CLASSIC! Where on earth DO they ever think it’s leading? No really, I want to know.

    I love that your daughter was diguised as a leapord :)

    Comment by Coquette — February 9, 2005 @ 5:08 pm

  17. I did suspect that it was a bit of a running joke about the marriage thing…

    I know what you mean about “partner” – it does sound a bit crap
    “other half” is a bit jokey (not sure what the French equivalent would be)
    “co-habitee” is one of the more clinical descriptions I’ve seen on official forms…!

    As you say, you end up just saying their name and hoping that people will work it out.

    I guess it does solve certain administrative issues (notably, your ability to vote in France, I remember you saying) but that somewhat detracts from what it should be all about. Or maybe that’s what it is all about…

    I’m confusing myself now.

    Comment by witho — February 9, 2005 @ 5:09 pm

  18. Why, Mr Frog is “yo baby daddy,” of course! ;)

    Comment by ViVi — February 9, 2005 @ 6:23 pm

  19. Oh I hate it when they fall into step beside you.

    Comment by Mrs Lemon — February 9, 2005 @ 6:39 pm

  20. i was in paris this past september (a married woman sans mari) and found that the men were especially forward and despite my best efforts at flashing my rings and mentioning a husband waiting someplace else…they barely took notice. eventually, a forceful goodbye did the trick.

    it was a bit scary then, but i can laugh about it now and consider it a part of paris’ charm.

    Comment by mélanie — February 9, 2005 @ 6:54 pm

  21. So, Petite is cute ? :wink:

    Une blague tirée par les cheveux ! :grin:

    Comment by wiLLoØ — February 9, 2005 @ 6:58 pm

  22. in belgium, women tend to refer to their ‘partners’ as ‘mon homme’ or ‘mon mari’ so there wasn’t much lying going on there, petite. getting married would probably lower the Frog’s wages – and yours’ too, i expect. one very good reason NOT to get married. fair enough, i can vote – but only because i was stupid enough to marry a belgian twice.

    i’m so glad my kids are out of the ‘carnaval’ age as those face paints are a bugger to get off.

    Comment by zed — February 9, 2005 @ 7:17 pm

  23. Petite, I am a freak magnet too. There is a fine line between being firm and being rude (so as to not upset their delicate psychological balance). It sounds like you handled it splendidly.

    Re: your comment. I had the same marriage issue as you for almost 5 years. Sans enfant, though. I mostly wanted to get married because of the semantic thing too. It is ridiculous in hindsight.
    “Boyfriend” sounds too much like high school.
    If I called him my “partner”, people thought I was a lesbian (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
    “Husband” often brought up questions like “where did you get married?” or some such query.
    “Fiance” was worse, because everyone wanted to know when the date is and we didn’t have one. Blah blah blah.
    So, sometimes I’d say “this is the man I am currently sleeping with” just to watch their reaction. It was fun.

    Now, we are married. Nothing has changed. Except we owe more taxes. The only benefit was I got to take his name (which I like) and we saved money on our car insurance. That’s it. If I had to do again, I would just continue living in sin. It’s better that way. And Tadpole is lucky to have parents who Love each other. That’s the only thing that matters.

    Comment by ms.quilty — February 9, 2005 @ 7:25 pm

  24. I can’t help wondering why you expected him to ask about Tadpole’s disguise, since it was Mardi Gras, and he was obviously a pervert you didn’t want to discuss with…
    A very french, doubtful marmotte

    Comment by Marmotte — February 9, 2005 @ 9:58 pm

  25. Crash course in Deterring Pervs from my Crazy Friend Orah, who used to survive bussing through ‘the Projects’ in San Francisco late at night:

    1. Pick your nose. Mashers have their pride.

    2. Say that men are not your preference. No, you don’t need to tell them what exactly you DO prefer.

    3. Slap on a battered straw horsehat and begin singing ‘Jesus Loves Me’ with gusto and a high-pitched voice. Pervs hate religion.

    4. In the same vein, offer to convert them to (any) organized religion, preferably with a thick accent. If they hesitate, produce pamphlets.

    5. Tell them you have Ebola, and are just en route to the clinic.

    Of course, carrying a teeny tiny flamethrower works well, too.

    i hope this has been of some service to you.

    Comment by anan — February 9, 2005 @ 10:05 pm

  26. I’m sure Tadpole was dang cute! Those people are crazy. Last fall a much younger guy tried to pick me up by first asking for directions, and then telling me I look like “a young Katherine Hepburn,” and then asking me if I wanted to have coffee with him. Very funny! First of all I do not now nor have I ever looked like Katherine Hepburn. Second, he had some kids sleeping in the back seat, big ones–8 or 10 yr size. Kinda odd to be picking up girls with the kids along. All my friends suggested that the kids were probably dead and just propped up to look asleep.

    Comment by Annika — February 9, 2005 @ 11:46 pm

  27. Too bad the leopard didn’t attack.

    I was asked by an older Englishman once if I wanted to go back to his apartment, enjoy the artwork on his walls, and then sleep with him. “But,” he added, “we wouldn’t have sex. Just sleeping side-by-side. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a woman next to me in bed.” Um, I don’t think so FREAK!

    Comment by pismire — February 10, 2005 @ 1:09 am

  28. I was quite fond of “the other half” before we were married, as somehow it sounded better than boyfriend, and we were never in the states during the five months between our decision to get married and the marriage itself, so somehow I never really said fiancé in english (although I did use it quite a bit in french, but somehow, it seems like a snootier title in english than in french to my confused brain).

    And while I have introduced David to people as my husband, it always seems so weird, too “grown up” for me to pull off. I dunno. I still like other half.

    Although, I hated referring to him as “my boyfriend” in french, because to my anglophone ear, “mon petit ami” just sounds horrible. I feel like it is something you would say to a four year old about their preschool crush or something. Ick.

    Comment by kim — February 10, 2005 @ 9:35 am

  29. bonjour,
    Même si je comprends que ce soit désagréable et que je le condamne fermement “ce n’est pas méchant”, ça s’appelle draguer et c’est une mauvaise chose mais il n’a pas insisté n’est ce pas? ce qui est INADMISSIBLE c’est de devoir vous justifier, ne pas savoir comment “s’en débarasser”, demandez à vos amies ou bien si il le faut demandez lui son nom (il repondra trop content) et ensuite dites lui que s’il continue il est passible d’un an de prison et de 15000 euros d’amende en vertu de l’article 222-33 du code penal sur le harcelement sexuel; ça va le calmer.. lol
    best regards

    Comment by jf — February 10, 2005 @ 10:01 am

  30. Re. comments 13 and 14: read my current blog entry with the ironic title Harlot (if the first part is too indigestible, skip to the brief Maushart quote, which states the problem very succinctly).
    I am not opposed to marriage as such (it would certainly solve a few administrative problems such as sickness insurance, residence permit renewals and the like) and if Petite wants to have her relationship “legalised” then why not?! I say we launch a more concerted campaign to “persuade” Mr. Frog – let’s “make an honest man” out of him!

    Comment by Chameleon — February 10, 2005 @ 10:41 am

  31. I think Mr Frog suspects I want to get married, buy a flat with him and then shortly afterwards hire Léon to bump him off.

    Mwouah ha ha ha ha

    (that was supposed to be an evil laugh but I think it is misspellt)

    ps there is a cunningly concealed photo of the leopard lurking on the site today, for one day only.

    Comment by petite — February 10, 2005 @ 11:36 am

  32. I spotted the photo immediately and yes, she is gorgeous!

    Comment by Chameleon — February 10, 2005 @ 11:46 am

  33. I certainly don’t have any sympathy for these slugs in the park but you’ve got to understand that French men, not necessarily perverts, are culturally conditioned to FLIRT. Ask Mr Frog about this. French friends even first thought I wasn’t interested in women (they were so wrong) when they noticed I didn’t chat up every female in sight, like they do. French women are conditioned to either tolerate or actually encourage this kind of attention. There goes another blog subject.
    You won’t remember Edith Cresson, briefly France’s 1st ever woman PM (literally?)under womanising president Mitterand. She concluded that all Englishmen are queer because on a 2 day visit to London she didn’t once get wolf-whistled like she claims happens all the time back home in France.
    Nobody told her it was just because she’s too ‘moche’ to turn heads in UK.
    Married or not a French man can still refer to ‘ma femme’. After we got married I didn’t call my Froggette ‘mon epouse’ unless I was being facetiously formal. Unfairly, the same doesn’t apply in the opposite direction.
    Anyway, answer me this…How is it that a couple can make the massive commitment to have and rear a child together in a loving, stable relationship and then baulk at public confirmation of that commitment? I know it’s unfashionable but having been through all this it’s clear in my mind which is the hardest.

    Comment by Parkin Pig — February 10, 2005 @ 12:19 pm

  34. Look, I’m sorry to go on about this….but….. I’ve just heard an announcement that Prince Charles is to make an honest woman of that Camilla Horseperson- Bowlegs. If that twit of an HRH can do it, risking his crown and the wrath of whole swathes of future subjects, then what’s your Frog Prince waiting for? An heir to his fortune? He hasn’t got a frog’s leg to stand on. Unsubtitled message from advertiser “Just do it”.

    Comment by Parkin Pig — February 10, 2005 @ 3:39 pm

  35. Horseperson Bowlegs? *snorts*

    I like that.

    Comment by petite — February 10, 2005 @ 4:35 pm

  36. Tadpole is the cutest little leopard, hard to believe there weren’t smiles all around at the sight of her!

    Comment by kiki — February 10, 2005 @ 8:44 pm

  37. The Butte Chaumont is full of pervs, be careful

    Comment by adrian — February 10, 2005 @ 11:58 pm

  38. Now that’s a very pretty leopard you’ve got here.

    Your dragueur was not only annoying, he was stupid. A clever one would have made a show of admiring her…

    Comment by ontario frog — February 11, 2005 @ 2:50 am

  39. Very cute costume! I can’t beleieve nobody remarked on how schmick Tadpole looked.

    Comment by BHR — February 11, 2005 @ 3:55 am

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