This summer my employers are hosting their niece who is 16. She is textbook teenager and for the first few hours of our time spent together she said about 4 words to me- all one word responses to my questions, until she confessed to me that after 3 hours in Paris she was having withdrawal symptoms from her cell phone... Ben oui... Her aunt and uncle admitted to me that she was comatose most of the time around them and they decided to talk to her about how she spends her time here since this month in Paris was their 16th birthday present for her. No more sleeping until 11, clean up after yourself (I am not her nanny after all) and get out and do something, at minimum step up her interaction with her two young cousins.
Two weeks later, she's starting to come out of her shell, a little (she has yet to ask me a single personal question- am I just hired help for her? probably). But, she is painstakingly American in her... let's say perspective... She has already raised concerns over the French penchant for eating raw meat (hello! are we not over cooking our meat until it's well done? I mean sushi has been around long enough by now hasn't it?) she is concerned about the European tradition of not refrigerating milk or eggs at the grocery store, the smoking, or course... But today, it hit a fever pitch, we went to the local pool. This pool is located in Neuilly, it's not your typical YMCA affair, there are 4 pools, two water slides, bubbling areas, outside areas, picnic areas and it's all really, really... nice. We met my girls' best friends and their mother there but this girl stood outside the pool not sullen, but as if a brooding teenager for a good 30 minutes before resigning to join us inside the pool. I thought at first this might be because everyone in Paris is...tight, perk, lean, and she is sort of rocking the overweight teenager look. But no, that wouldn't explain her general disengagement, besides I didn't notice any boys her age and mostly the pool was full of older woman, mothers or young children.
Then the reveal. When her aunt came home from work tonight she asked how she liked the pool. I DIDN'T, IT WAS TERRIBLE!!! In my head, is a big question mark ? does she just not like sun and swimming? Some people don't I get that, but then why not say so, I mean, she didn't actually have to join us- it's not a requirement to spend a 91 degree day at the pool. THERE WERE NAKED PEOPLE! Here my brain starts scanning through the people I saw poolside- it's true French woman take their bikini tops (why would you wear a one piece if you have a perfect body after all? and tie the part that goes around their necks, around their backs thus making a sort of haphazard bandeau top- but I had not noticed anyone topless and although you could very occasionally see the hint of a nipple slipping out, it was hardly shocking considering, well, if you take the children under 10 out of the equation, 99% of the people at the pool were female, and second most French woman have boobs the size of most 12 year old girl boobs. Can the hint of a boob that doesn't fill out a training bra, nipple or not really color your experience to such an extent?
Much like I am writing this, I am certain that this will be the highlight of her Paris experience thus far and that tonight her emails home will reinforce the "naked beach" stereotype about the French.