I love you and big cheek kisses to you all
Valentine's Day is coming up and I need to make a plan, fast. We won't be going out to eat because apparently eating out on February 14th in France means paying twice as much for the same food you could get on February 13th or 15th, and we're both too cheap to enjoy a meal knowing it's a rip-off. I'll try to motivate myself enough to fix a nice dessert because the husband likes the sweet stuff. I'm sure I can handle a shower and getting dressed long enough to buy ingredients for a cake, especially if I get to eat part of it. I'm still in love with the same old chocolate ice cream, although now I'm eating it from a smaller bowl since the doctor expressed mild surprise at how much weight I've gained in a month. I don't really want to go there, but I think I may have overdone the "Thank God the diabetes test came back negative" celebration. My husband laughed at me with my new 'cup of ice cream' instead of 'bowl of ice cream' theory, but I don't mind being ridiculed as long as I don't have to go cold turkey.
Oh, yeah...back to my point: one difference in how Valentine's Day works here is that it seems to be strictly reserved for lovers -- kids don't do the sucker-with-a-card thing at school, family members don't give each other gifts, friends don't send cards -- it's strictly for someone you have romantic designs on. Although I have fond memories of Valentine's Day parties and card exchanges as a kid, I have to say that I quite like the fact this holiday is reserved for special relationships here. I think that perfume and lingerie stores make a decent profit as well as the local chocolaterie, but that's about it. I'm not even sure if the pre-made Valentine's Day "lovah" cards are all that popular...I don't remember seeing any, but I haven't been trying to track them down, either.
So, what sounds better to you: a chocolate/cherry pie that I know my husband likes, or a newfangled molten chocolate cake baked as individual servings? Old favorite versus new-but-possibly-doomed-to-fail recipe?
I got distracted with the idea of chocolate again and failed to write about another semi-Valentine's Day-related difference between home and here, at least in my case. Anyway, something that I found strange at first was the difference in "I love you"s. My state motto is "Virginia is for lovers" and we certainly live up to it, 'cause we love everybody. We love our spouse, our parents, our children, our pets, our close friends, our neighbors (sometimes), high-quality circus performers as well as anyone who happens to be in our way on a good day. Perhaps it's also the religious thing; preachers also talked a lot about love. So the result is that I feel I definitely come from a culture where people really do love one another and actually tell them about it. One could argue it's overused...I'm not going to make a judgment about good or bad; that's just how it is and I personally like it in this context.
I'm not saying that French people don't love like Virginians...given the apparent high birth rate there's no arguing that the entirety of France is definitely for lovers. It's just that in English, or at least in Virginian/American English, we use this word love all the time, and I love you is said to a much wider range of people. My parents tell that to my husband and they mean it, whereas I don't think I've ever heard my husband say it to his parents (and I certainly haven't). Je t'aime is something said in a romantic way, and not to anyone else. I would probably even have a jealous reaction if I heard it come out of my husband's mouth to another person. On the other hand, though, I also find it nice to have these words reserved especially for my husband...something I don't tell other people. There's no denying it's romantic. Family and close friends are told "gros bisous," which means "big cheek kisses," more or less. And this is also sincere on my part, because while I have gotten to appreciate giving bisous to people I like and care about, I still can't stand them regarding strange people I don't know well. It serves the same function as an I love you but is more specialized, even if it does deal with an action and the emotion behind is just implied.
Sometimes I think there need to be more emotion words in both languages to deal with all these differences. There are many kinds of love, but they all get thrown under I love you and so that's one reason (besides clever marketing) that people are stuck buying a billion Valentine's Day cards for people they love. Trying to explain that you like someone in French is not as easy, either...there's Je l'aime bien or you just say nice things about the person and people will inherently understand you like him or her. And while gros bisous is nice, it still doesn't seem accurate enough to handle the family-type of love. Aimer means both to like and to love, and it obviously works out fine for the French even though at first it seemed weird. I know that the like/love difference is also seen as weird by people who are learning English...I've had students this year who asked about it and were concerned that they knew how to use it in the "correct" way.
Yeah. I just distracted myself with thoughts of chocolate and so I'm going to go eat now. Enjoy your day, whether you are in the state of lovers or the country of lovers.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
I love you and big cheek kisses to you all
Posted by Pardon My French at 7:57 AM