A couple of readers are curious as to how Bonaparte and I came to be a couple and I thought it would make for a fun post so here goes! I hope you enjoy….
Seriously Josephine. Get outta my way. The Frenchman is mine!
The story of little loud-mouthed girl from New York and baguette loving little French Parisian boy….
My divorce wreaked some havoc—especially havoc in the form of a horrific financial downfall. My oldest son was away in Austin at University of Texas. My middle son, my daughter and I were now housed in a small apartment. I may have lost our home, but at least there was a roof overhead.
It wasn’t easy. The water and electricity were constantly being shut off—so much so that the staff at Trenton Water Authority knew me by my first name. But—they were always pleasant and I always managed to scrape up enough cash to have the water put back on. Ditto the electricity.
I’ll skip some other bad stuff that I don’t want to get into. But—after a while, it was time to get back on the social train. I was signed up for a “trial” of 30 days on “Match.com”. I had two meetings over coffee, but just figured I was better off alone. Anyway, a couple of days before my “trial” ended, I figured I would peruse through the pickin’s.
I stopped at a picture of a man in a light blue crew-neck sweater. I could tell it was wool and not polyester—that grabbed my shallow attention. Then I noticed this gentleman’s eyes were as blue as the color of the sweater. This gentleman appeared to be very distinguished. Something I was not. In fact I was sitting at the computer in granny pants and an old, holey T-Shirt.
I then went on to read his profile. He liked art (check); New York City (check, check, check); fine food (sorta check—I was cooking for teens but I love me a great and fancy meal!) and tennis (uncheck). OK –so three out of four wasn’t bad.
I love art..especially Renoir, so it was a good thing Bonaparte had a good appreciation–I mean, he’s French afterall…..
Given the fact he loved my home town, was also a plus!
Then I noticed where he was born and raised. Paris, France.
I had heard that Parisians were the rather “difficult” of all the Frenchmen–and women!
Now, you need to understand something—I fed into that whole “Oh-the-French-hate-Americans” thing. Yes. After 9/11 I had a propensity to refer to “French Fries” as “Freedom” fries.
Yup! I don’t necessarily like fried potatoes, but I did refer to them as “freedom” fries. These days I just call them “Frites”!
I learned every single stereotypical image about the French from cartoons and TV shows.
Yes. My educational on French stereotypes were from “great” sources…
…although sometimes Pepe Le Pew is easier to understand.
However, something inside me, perhaps it was the contrarian or the curiosity, made me write a little blurb to him. It went something like this:
“So, you like art. Impressionism? It’s my fave. I love Renoir. You like NYC? I lived there for many years!” “You got an accent?” (THAT was a dopey question)
He wrote back. We spent a bit of time writing back and forth. I finally wrote to him that my “trial” was about to expire and I gave him my email address and told him to just shoot me an email.
We emailed back and forth and he asked me for my phone number. I gave it to him. He called. He had a very heavy accent that was somewhat hard to understand. But, we kept talking.
He asked me out—that last weekend of November 2004. Actually, Thanksgiving weekend. I explained to him that I could not make it because my daughter had a regional Irish Dance competition in Philadelphia and would be busy from Thanksgiving evening through that Sunday. (Yay! Party time at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Oireachtas!) Anyone involved in Irish Dance is fully-aware that you never make plans that conflict with those Thanksgiving weekend regionals!
Irish Dance competitions, especially the Oireachtas, takes top priority. Over EVERYTHING!!! (spoken like a true dance mom)!
He asked if I wanted to meet him the following Friday. Friday, December 3rd, 2004. I nervously agreed. It was just easier talking on the phone and emailing than having to get all dressed up, and trying to look “pretty” and worrying how I looked, and did I look too fat…yada yada yada.
We both wanted to keep things casual so we met on somewhat safe and common ground. We met at The Marketplace in Princeton. The Marketplace was a smaller mall, and in that mall were many stores I frequented! (I spent many a rainy summer day there when the kids were young). In addition, I felt comfortable there. I figured if things turned sour, I could always use some retail therapy—and spend money I didn’t have.
I spent a lot of time, and money I didn’t have at this Princeton Mall. It was a safe place for our first meeting!
It was easy to spot Monsieur Bonaparte because, luckily, he looked just like his photo. In fact, he looked very nice. Until I noticed what he was wearing on his feet. A FRENCHMAN wearing TENNIS SHOES???? Yes! I was shocked. As much as I fed into the “anti-French” propaganda, the one thing I did have in common with the French was the disgust of white tennis shoes and/or sneakers. In my most humble opinion, tennis shoes belong on the tennis court and only on the tennis court. The sneaker thing—only a few types of sneakers get my stamp of approval. Chuck Taylors and old-school Keds. End of story.
Was Bonaparte REALLY French–or was he faux-French. What self-respecting Frenchman would wear these on a DATE????
I become physically upset when I see tourists wearing white tennis shoes/sneakers, heavy ankle sport socks and ill-fitting shorts with t-shirts—especially when I see this kind of attire in a large city. It was bad enough for me to be seen off the courts with someone wearing these hideous shoes!
Those tennis shoes had my red flag at half-mast.
My red flag was at half-mast. Uh Oh!
As Bonaparte was not familiar with the Princeton area, so we took my car and we drove down Route 1 just a bit to grab a bite to eat at The Princetonian Diner.
Best diner in the Princeton area! The burgers and “freedom” fries are delicious!
Bonaparte had his red flag at half-mast upon entering my car—which, by the way he later deemed as the messiest car he had ever been in. I don’t even it being a mess except for a few pieces of sports equipment that belonged to the kids. The car wasn’t that bad. I mean really; he actually thinks he saw papers strewn on the floor!
My oh my. Bonaparte had HIS red flag at half mast after seeing the inside of my little green Cavalier. Now we were even!
Wait. It gets better. After having a quick bite at the diner, Bonaparte asked me if I wanted to drive across the road to check out furniture at Ethan Allen and Domain. (I thought he was moving a bit fast!). It turned out his daughter was moving into a new place and he wanted to check out furniture for her.
Imagine that! This helicopter mom met her helicopter dad!
Get rid of those red flags. Helicopter Mom has met her true match..
The French version of the Helicopter Dad!!!!
We actually had a pretty good time checking out all that furniture—it seemed that we both had pretty much similar tastes!
Surprisingly, all the sofas and loveseats in our home are white and slipcovered! Who knew?
A stop at Starbucks ended our first “date” *giggle* *giggle*
A delightful end to our first date was a stop at Starbucks!
We have been together since that first date–but there’s more so read on…
Shortly thereafter, Bonaparte administered a “test”, unbeknownst to me. The test was disguised as a movie and dinner date. He was to cook dinner for me after seeing a “surprise” movie.
When I arrived at Bonaparte’s home, he was ready to leave. (*NOTE: Bonaparte is ALWAYS on time. Worse yet, he’s early. I am always late with the exception of doctor’s appointments, air and train travel. That’s it.) I think I may have been a couple of minutes late because he was not smiling. Oh wait. He’s French!
To lighten things up, I asked him “Why do you always wear those white tennis shoes? You’re supposed to be French! I thought the French had better taste in footwear?” “They really are not attractive!” (He didn’t realize I had a “thing” about footwear).
Embarrassed, he took the fugly tennis shoes off and changed into the classy, chic, European loafers, that he should have been wearing in the first place.
He also explained “Ah em so embarrahrrrazzz.” “Ah soughs zhat Americanzzz loved zuh tennis shuz.” “Ah em zoo ‘eppy ow don’ lek zhem.” “Ow ahr lek zuh Fra’shhh. Ow spek ur meen”.
(Translation: “I thought that Americans loved the tennis shoes. I am so happy you don’t like them. You are like the French. You speak your mind.”)
Score one for me!
While on the way to see the movie, he wouldn’t budge when I asked him whatmovie we were seeing. Instead, I hounded him about dinner. He was making roast chicken, French style. He then started talking about the various courses. He explained that we were having , in his words
“Pate and Cornish hen to start” He explained in his heavy accent.
I asked him why we were having Cornish hen before having chicken.
He knew I love a good meal, but Cornish Hen as a starter? Whoa–I’m not that much of a little piggy!
He was becoming frustrated “Cornish hen..wizz mutar!!!”
Sensing his frustration, I started to laugh and asked why he was getting so upset.
Bonaparte: “Ow no zouz gren zings zhewish pip-ul et?” From zuh bar’rel?”
(Translation: “You know those green things jewish people eat? From the barrel?”)
Me: “Yeah. You mean pickles??”
Bonaparte: “Oui.” Cornish hen ahr leedul peekuhls”.
Thus, I found out what “cornichon” were! Years later, I still cannot understand everything he says!
This is what the “Cornish hen” was! Oops!
The movie turned out to be “A Very Long Engagement”. A World War I epic of love and the search for a loved one. It starred Audrey Tatou and Gaspar Uliel as the doomed but engaged lovers, Mathilde and Manech. I loved this film. In fact, to this day it remains one of my faves!
I outsmarted Bonaparte! He had no idea I was a fan of French cinema!
This film turned out to be the “test”. Apparently, Bonaparte was unsure of a long-term relationship if I didn’t like French film. What he didn’t realize that I had been a fan of French cinema since my early twenties. Living in Manhattan gave me the opportunity to enjoy many French films. I was especially fond of Francois Truffaut, Louis Malle, Jean Renoir and Eric Rohmer. (Also..Bonaparte’s uncle, Yves Robert! Bonus!!!)
After expressing my disgust at this ridiculous test, I scored another one for me!
I guess the French are just more pragmatic in their relationship thinking! They judge compatibility by film and food!
We’ve had ups and downs, but mostly ups. We have fun and enjoy each other and balance each other very well. It’s nice!
I even introduced Bonaparte to selfies!
Bonaparte wasn’t used to divey bars in NYC until he met me! Here we are waiting for my son Roman’s band “Bad Man Yells” to begin playing. My oldest son Jake is with us. This is from 2010!
In Long Island. November 2011 at a family wedding (my side)!
So that’s it. Here’s a link to an article I wrote in “FrenchEntree” about my first attempt at making a nice French dinner for Bonaparte. It started out as a complete disaster but it really is a fun read:
To keep you in the mood..Le Temps De L’Amour from Francois Hardy! Oh lala! XOXOXOXO