Monday, September 27, 2004

African friends and francophone mating rituals

Kaci's African friends are pretty cool. She's a friend of mine from the program and started dating Geoffroy, the president of the Gabonese in Lyon club, so we suddenly have this instant circle of Gabonese friends. I think it's so cool to have friends from Africa; it's exactly what I was hoping for, actually. 


At first, I was a little weirded out because — brace yourself here for some brutal honesty — I've never hung out with black people before. I know that sounds so 1950s to say, but seriously, Oregon is that white. It's not like I thought they were bad, they just have a different culture that I've never seen up-close. Growing up in western Oregon, just about the only cultural diversity we have is some Mexican immigrants who are usually fluent in English and more or less integrated.

I've also been a little worried about what they think of me. Every time another group shows up, I wonder if these people are going to be like: what's with the white American chicks? But they've all been really nice and we've had a lot of fun. Last night I went out to an African club that didn't get started until 2 am. I left around 3:30 though because I'm still trying to get well. I keep almost getting there and then I'll go out and ruin it. But now the weekend's over so it'll be easier to avoid going out... hopefully.
It's been great, too, to learn a new accent. Africans generally speak slower, but I'd never really heard the accent before so it was hard for me to understand. I still can't understand sometimes, but I'm getting a lot better. Having them to speak French to is also really good because I usually can't cheat with them like with my other friends because they don't know as much English. So I'm forced to come up with a way to say what I mean in French.





Mating rituals here are starting to take my head (a french expression meaning to piss off). Male-female relationships back home, with their large measure of ambiguity, were seriously getting on my nerves, too. So, I thought it wouldn't be so bad to go where men were more direct. And it was nice. For about two days. 

I live in a rather safe neighborhood. There are big, well-lit streets, high-priced shops and lots of bars and nightclubs so there are always people on the street. All the same, I get at least three "Bonne soir mademoiselle"s or worse as I walk to and from the bars or to friends' houses. 


I've gotten so used to ignoring men who say things to me on the street to get my attention, I completely ignored my host dad when he passed me on the street saying "Bonne soir." About a block later, I realized who it was.

At bars, parties or any other social situation, it's much worse. Not counting catcalls on the street, I've gotten seven serious offers to date from people I know. That's almost two per week. Back home I was lucky if I got one per year. Some of the men have been a little smoother than others, but in my social context being so direct is a turn-off. Yeah, it's a cultural difference, but we just met two hours ago, could you wait until I know you to find out if I'm interested? Yikes! One of Geoffroy's friends in from Paris this week will not leave me alone and it's really pissing me off. If he weren't so insistent I'd probably be his friend and show him around Lyon a bit but he keeps insisting on getting my number and asks me what he did to make me not like him. Arg, it just drives me up the wall when people are manipulative like that. He keeps forcing me to make a choice between sleeping with him or telling him to fuck off. There's no in-between for this guy, so it's elevated to the fuck off point a couple times. Thank God he's leaving tomorrow. But there'll be others...

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