February 21, 2008

Bits and pieces from Baugé

Conversation about popcorn. Xavier’s mother comments that I must increasingly be able to discern middle class things – me: “No actually, we were sitting in a movie theater the other night and Xavier told me that popcorn is extremely middle class.” She exclaims: “Oh yes! Absolutely. Entirely middle class. Même plouc! (Even low class!) Eating anything in a theater is middle class.” Vincent (Xavier’s dad) agrees with a solemn nod of his head and adds that there are categories of middle class: low middle, middle middle and high middle.

The middle class discussion has been an ongoing thing since I first met Xavier. Class distinctions are almost non-existent in the US in comparison to how deep they run and are made in France. We are not talking about money here. Not at all. In fact, according to Xavier and his mother, sometimes the most middle class people are those with money. So, I thought I got it – you know, manners or being well-educated or something to that effect. But when you examine the list of middle-class things (appointed by Xavier and his family), I am at a total loss. This is just a sampling of the random (to me, at least) assortment of things deemed middle class…


- le 14 juillet (to be fair, a historically just categorization)
- le Tour de France
- saying “quelque part” instead of saying "d'une certaine façon"
- le mec (the guy) who drives in the left lane but never really overtakes anyone
- engraving a name on a silver drinking cup (first of all, who drinks from silver cups?)
- in the same vein - a gourmette (a bracelet with a name engraved - usually for men)
- M&M’s (X: “What are you eating? Remind me never to eat those again”)
- cutting a clementine without a knife. Xavier’s sister: “…I suppose there are some people in France who don’t use a knife..”
- les brasseries
- white socks (apart from sports)
- the smell of certain people
- “christmas tree earrings” (dangly earrings)
- further, wearing glasses and earrings at the same time
- camping cars
- to rent a house in the south of France
- certain types of dogs, including huskies
- a station wagon without kids
- a matching leather chair and couch
- blonde highlights
- commencing the tour of your house with the garage
- bread
- watching tv and eating dinner at 8pm every night with the news
- french people trying to imitate americans (naming your french children american names and still, of course, pronouncing the names with a french accent: jennifer (jenyfair), kevin (keveen)

*This list will assuredly be updated from time to time.


Julie said...

So would the fact that John and I relocated to another laundromat for the twenty cent popcorn you can buy there even though we have to drive further, be considered middle class? Are laundromats themselves considered middle class? I'm pretty sure we qualify as fully lower middl class.

Emilie said...

jules - there is no sense to any of their classifications, but i am pretty sure his mother has long ago classified me and all things american as middle class. for the record, i would definitley switch laundromats for popcorn; i'd do a lot of things for popcorn.

Aralena said...

This is hysterical - in both senses of the term. And I LOVE it. (I totally agree that bread is middle class, bordering on plouc.)

Emilie said...

exactly. i knew you would understand entirely aralena.

Rebekah V. said...

oh no! we are renting a house in the south of france. now i can never look xavier in the eye. plus, the children and i have eaten about four dozen clementines this very morning with no knife. hhmmmmm. i will never be as good as french people but at least it will make them feel good.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't help but to wonder when I read this; In which version of the Bourgeoisie do Xavier's family see themselves? And, if "french people trying to imitate americans" is one of the distinctions, how does this square with the Xavier's dad doing so with the expressions that he uses when humoring you? Not to label here, I just want to understand.

So many reasons to define. Having a background in psychology, I can't help but wonder: what is the motivation for people to define themselves in terms of their behavioral antecedents? I revel in some of the characteristics of what I (was taught and) consider to be less than dignified (in my Brother-in-law and cousins, for example). They have a laissez-faire quality as they sillily grin when, for example, letting their family dog lick the plates clean.

They just don't care what others think, and therefore, have a lightness about them that seems to allow them to just live an easier existence free of the weight of judgments. Does this make sense?

I think of Dostoyevsky's Myshkin. I don't mean to liken them to idiots, but rather to the plain truth in human relationships. They simply are.

However, in spite of my appreciation of their simplicity (I mean that as a compliment, not an insult), I can't help but to have an emotional reaction when they smoke right in front of me or yell at the television. I don't know.

Francisco M. M. Arantes (Quito Arantes) said...

Nice and lovely family, great place from france.
It,s been along time when a was on road from yuor country.

regards for all of you

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