French kissing. I’ve done it a lot. Its very nice and I have to say I like it. But, it can get a little awkward… Turning this way and that, bumping glasses, not knowing what is acceptable to do with your hands, wondering if I have to kiss EVERY person in the room even though it takes an awful long time to get around everyone. It gets tiring, all this kissing.
For those of you who aren’t sure what I’m talking about, here’s a little instructional video…
I think even the French get confused.
In other cultural reflection news… I’ve been thinking about how the presence of or lack of words to describe a concept in a certain language has a profound affect on a culture. The French word/concept that I’ve been thinking about is ‘love’. Another slightly awkward one for an anglophone.
So, you make a new friend of the opposite sex. You don’t fancy them, but you do greatly appreciate their friendship and would like to communicate this. Problem : the verb you would most likely use (‘aimer’) means both like and love. Awkward.
Or, you make a new friend of the opposite sex. You are attracted to them and would like to communicate this. Problem : the verb you would most likely use does not exist. Your only option is to use ‘aimer’ – I love you. Immediately you find yourself confessing to be in love with this person. Awkward?
Now, for an anglophone (at least in my culture), the phrase ‘I love you’ takes a relationship to a whoooooooole other level – think how many films/tv series include that awkward moment where one person says ‘I love you’ and the other person freaks out because they’re not ready to say it so says something silly like ‘thank you’ and so ensues a whole episode of angst until the second person plucks up the courage and decides its okay to say it but now the other person doesn’t want to hear it etc etc etc. Awkward.
But anyway. I digress.
Now imagine yourself French (no rude comments, please). This is how it works as far as I can tell… You meet someone of the opposite sex and start going out. How do you express the fact that you like that? Je t’aime. I love you. But that’s okay, because you’re French and you speak French, and that’s what you say.
It puts such an interesting spin on it all because ‘I love you’ is therefore a somewhat smaller thing to say because it is employed from a very early period in defining a relationship. It is made even smaller, then, when you break up with someone after a few weeks because you don’t feel like its working – the words ‘Je t’aime’ are therefore as easily revoked as they are employed. Do you see what I mean? The words somehow don’t have the same binding power…
But whilst it is a smaller thing to say, it can also be a majassive thing to say, you know? For example, in the French Christian world, love is, on principal, not bandied around (which is a Good Thing), but at the same time the amount of pressure that is put on a couple to Know from the beginning is huge. Like, where is that period between friendship and ‘in love’? Surely that’s an important stage to pass through before committing yourself for a lifetime to a person? Its sort of an all-or-nothing situation.
Hmmm…. Makes for a more dramatic life I guess. Perhaps Alicia was in France when she wrote this…