My face, my problem

kim makeup

I wasn’t playing with you yesterday. I am really going to talk about something so futile that it requires a Kardashian pic. I’m gonna talk about makeup, or rather, the lack thereof.

I already mentioned my body and the way I view it (yeah, remember this very tasteful ‘Heavy Boobs’ gif??). Today, the guest of honor is my face.

I have never really been into makeup. Except when I was a teenager, a little bit. When I started being allowed to wear some light makeup, I got really excited. My mom bought me mascara, and this cool eye shadow jumbo pencil -give me a break, it was the early 2000s- that made my eyelids soooo shimmery and gold. I wore the same makeup every day, and I loved the way it made me feel like a grownup.

Then, I got tired of it and started wearing less and less. By the end of high school, it was only mascara. I wasn’t wearing as much makeup as most of my friends, who actually coated their faces with foundation every morning, but I still felt like my tiny little drop of mascara protected me from my real face. When I had to go to gym class, or worse, the SWIMMING POOL, it made me slightly anxious. Everybody, including my crush, would see my real face. I knew that rationally, I didn’t put on much, so removing it did not make me look any different. In fact, I was probably the only one who noticed the change. But it still made me anxious, and my relationship with my (tiny) makeup bag became very dependent.

However, one thing that always scared me is foundation. I had a friend in high school who would not get out of the house without a full face of makeup, including a few coats of foundation and a shitton of liquid eyeliner. Not only did it make me scared for her every time it rained -and we lived in Normandy, so it rained pretty much all the time-, but it actually made me feel borderline claustrophobic for her.

phoebe scaredMe when I try to wear foundation.

I mean, it was basically like coating your face in cement, because the products she used were incredibly cheap and bad quality. I think it made me scared of face coverage for life, because I don’t think I’ve ever actually owned foundation.

It would have been an easy solution though, because as a teenager, I had quite a lot of acne. Not a drastic amount, but it was still noticeable enough that people would comment if my skin was suddenly clearer than usual. It was really unfair -like all acne- because I took really good care of my skin. I’ve never been much of a makeup freak, but I have always loved owning really good lotions, face masks, creams, etc. When my acne didn’t disappear by my 14th birthday (I was an early bloomer), my mom asked one of her friends, who was a beautician, to come to our home and give me a facial every month. I loved those moments when I could just relax and let myself be pampered. But one time, I had told this woman -her name was Danielle- that I was going to a friend’s birthday party that same night, and she thought it would be nice to give me kind of a makeover. I mean, it was really nice, but she proceeded to put a ton of makeup on my face, including the much dreaded foundation *insert scary movie music here*. The quality was much better than that of the products my friends used, so it didn’t feel terrible, but I still felt caked and stuck in a skin that wasn’t mine. I thanked her profusely, but as soon as she left the house, I washed my face abundantly.

To this day, my makeup routine is extremely basic. Most days, it is inexistant. I don’t think I’ve worn mascara more than 3 times this whole summer, and the most I will put on my skin is BB cream (the most coverage I can handle, but also better than nothing because I am prone to redness). The last time I wore a shitton of makeup was Halloween, 2 years ago, when my boyfriend and I went as Scott Disick and Kourtney Kardashian (R.I.P. Scourt). Obviously, I didn’t feel like myself, but it was supposed to be a disguise after all.

phyllis disguise Yup, excatly, Dwight.

A few years ago, I wouldn’t have left the house without mascara, the same way I wouldn’t have gone anywhere without doing my hair, and probably straightening it. Now, I feel like I have reached such a level of self-acceptance and self-love that I don’t feel compelled to do this every day. I like getting dolled up for special occasions, or when I just feel like it, but it is no longer a source of anxiety because I am no longer dependent on my beauty products. I completely understand women who are really into makeup, because it can be fun, and some women are just really good with it. I don’t judge anyone because they put foundation on every day. My dislike for it is purely personal, and if you love getting your makeup on, I encourage and applaud you. I simply realized that a daily makeup routine is not for me, because I would do it out of fear to look like myself, not out of passion.

Now, as a 26-year-old woman, I am proud to parade my face around without a trace of makeup on it. Most days. Because most days, I would consider it a chore. When you see me wearing mascara or, *gasp*, eye liner, it means I really wanted to make an effort and I consider this day to be special.

 

 

Motherland

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Fair warning: today’s post is not gonna be hilarious, folks.

When I first started this blog, I wasn’t sure I was going to make it clear where I was from. And then, by the 2nd post, I had already come out as French. Why? Because it was almost impossible for me to open up about my life as an expat without saying where I was from. But also because whether I like it or not, my home country is a part of me.

When I first started this blog, I knew I wasn’t going to write anything super deep. My professional life is already brainy enough, thank you very much. I also never wanted to make this a politically inclined space. I am not an extremely political person to begin with. I have values, I have beliefs, sure, but I don’t go out of my way trying to have political conversations with people. I certainly don’t feel qualified to discuss this type of serious matters on my blog. That is why today’s post will remain as personal as possible, and I will avoid going into debates that could potentially be upsetting, or too political. I just want to talk about my country, and write about how I’ve been feeling recently.

Because I’ve been silent for a while. Because it’s time for me to speak up, in a way.

You probably know about everything that has happened to France, and the world in general, in the past couple of years. Since the Charlie Hebdo attacks a year and a half ago, the horror has not really stopped. When those attacks occurred, I was in France with my family and my boyfriend. We were about to head to Paris the next day to catch our flight back. I couldn’t believe what had happened. I just thought it was crazy and horrifying. It didn’t stop us from taking the plane and leaving. But as soon as we landed, we realized that, while we were in the air, new attacks had occurred. It was getting more and more terrifying.

I read up on everything and it made my heart break. Not that I wasn’t aware of the horror that was happening thoughout the world. But you can’t deny that it gets more personal when it hits close to home.

I talked to my students about it. I did my job as an educator and told them what had happened; we even took some time to discuss it as a class.

Fast forward to last November, and the Bataclan events. Again, I was in the middle of a trip when it all happened; I was driving back to my boyfriend’s for the weekend. As soon as I arrived, I noticed that my Facebook feed was swarming with posts, so once again, I had to read up to fully grasp what was going on. The horrifying part is that it still wasn’t over; the terror lasted all night. Every time I refreshed the page, the death toll had gone up. I felt so heartbroken, and at the same time I was disconnected. The people over there, my friends, my family, they were in the eye of the storm, while I was reading about it in the comfort of my own little life. And I know they weren’t thinking about me that way. I know they were happy to hear from me, they liked that I was asking how they were doing. They didn’t think of me as a traitor just because I had left. But it’s kind of how it made me feel.

I was far from some of the most important people in my life, and I was scared for them. But we weren’t part of it together, and I knew I could never understand how they felt. I’m not saying I envy them, not at all. I’m not saying I wanted to be there to be a part of the spotlight. Far from it. I didn’t want to go back. And it made me feel guilty. Was I abandoning my country?

The guilt grew as people at work were offering their condolences. I get why they said those things. Something traumatic had happened to my country, my motherland had been attacked in its core and in its symbol, and people were just showing their support. But I didn’t feel like I deserved their support. After all, I hadn’t lived in France for almost 5 full years, so was I still entitled to the sense of community that came with it? I was certainly affected; I cried in my car the whole way back to school that next Monday. But for some reason, I was somewhat ashamed of my emotions; as if I didn’t deserve to feel them.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, Nice happened. Another attack, another symbol. More condolences, but this time, for some reason, I didn’t read up on it at all. I was just too scared to find out too much. I also did not discuss it with my parents. I don’t know why; but I’m assuming that I don’t want to see them scared.

And this morning, I found out that more people were attacked in Normandy. My actual motherland. Sure, the death toll was not as large as in Nice, but it shocked me. Because it happened close to home, literally. I always reassured myself by thinking that my parents were safe, because they lived in a rural area. This event proved me wrong.

I still haven’t talked to them about it. Instead, I talked to one of my friends, who is also an expat and also a Norman (Norwoman?). Our conversation reassured me, because I realized that I wasn’t the only one who felt guilty about being  a « deserter ». I mean, I certainly didn’t think I would be safer here when I left France. My family was actually worried about all those crazy school  shooters, for instance. I never thought I would feel safer in the US than in France, but I do.

Maybe that’s what makes me feel guilty. I love my home country, but it is not my home anymore. Not technically. However, my heart breaks at each terrible event, and I greatly appreciate everybody’s kind words.

It is a weird feeling, and I’ve read many articles about expat guilt, which is heightened in the event of an attack or a national tragedy.

To make a questionable analogy, my godfather passed away in 2015. I loved him very dearly and I miss him every day. When he died -after a long battle against brain cancer-, I was extremely sad, and I felt extremely guilty. I was not able to go to the funeral, and I felt like I was abandoning my family. My aunt, who is, to this day, devastated by the loss of her husband, never blamed me for it. She understood. But I felt like I was abandoning her, and when my friends gave me their condolences, I felt even more guilty, as if not going back for the funeral meant I was mourning any less.

Anyways, this is not the perfect metaphor. This is not the perfect post. It is very self-centered and unfocused. I still don’t know how I feel, and why I feel that way. But I just wanted to talk about it a little bit, because I feel like silence makes things worse.

I promise that for my next post, I will go extra superficial. I don’t know how I will top the Carrie Bradshaw rant, but I might go for something like nail polish, or my love for stationery.

Carrie Bradshaw is the worst

shoes

Like a lot of young women, I used to think Carrie Bradshaw was the cat’s pajamas. I annoyingly claimed that I was ‘a Carrie’, while I should have aspired to be a Miranda -Miranda is an unsung hero. The truth is, I was really into shoes when I was 18-19-20 years old, and I thought that Carrie and I were twinsies. What I failed to comprehend is that EVERYONE is into shoes. Shoes are literally the best purchase ever: they make you feel good without ever making you feel chubby, and they are super easy to buy online because shoe sizes are somewhat consistent across the board. Sorry this post is getting boring, I guess I’m  getting old, I’m talking about shoe sizes, please help me. So, to recap, I loved shoes and thought it made me similar to Carrie.

And maybe it did. When I was 18, I was stupid enough to think that buying a new purse would help me get over heartbreak, so I guess I was pretty similar to Carrie after all. But really, I was 18, so I was allowed to be stupid. I wasn’t pretending to be anyone’s role model, while Carrie Bradshaw did a really shitty job at inspiring the masses. Let’s talk about the title of the episode in which the silver shoes above appear: A Woman’s right to shoes. OK, SATC, you’re telling me that you’re making a pun about one of the most important rights that women had to EARN with their blood, sweat and tears? Are we comparing shoes -I mean, I love shoes, but come on- to the right to choose what to do with one’s own body? I know I can’t really blame the Carrie character for this one pun, but again, COME ON.

So I’m gonna try to regain control of my anger emotions and tell you why Carrie is the most annoying ever.

  • First of all, she says stuff like that:
where does the love goCarrie, you’re in your thirties, get your head out of your ass.

She manages to say things so cheesy that her friends don’t even dare tell her that she’s a weirdo. She’s just too far gone.

  • She’s also so needy that I have started rooting for Big. What pains me the most when I re-watch episodes of SATC is that my former favorite character is annoyingly immature and naive. I used to tear up when Big refuses to tell her she’s the one in the first season, but now I’m tempted to cry angry tears. Why does she have to be so needy? Why can’t she just respect him and give him the time to fall in love with her? Did she really need to spy on him at church with his mom? Let’s not forget that she also threw rocks at Aidan’s window -how rude is that!- when she was begging him to take her back.
carrie annoyingRun, Big, run!
  • That brings me to the big no-no of the show: she thinks her relationship with Big is soooo f***ing special that it’s totally worth cheating on good ol’ Aidan for. Aidan is the sweetest man alive, he is literally redoing her floors for her and all she does is complain and run to the hotel to bang Big. And then, when she sees Aidan again, months later, when he lost the little tummy and the greasy hair, she *miraculously* wants him back and chases after him like a teenager…just to refuse to marry him in the end. Was it worth it, Carrie? Was it worth it??
  • She dislikes dogs and is mean to Pete. She also screams bloody murder when she sees a cute little squirrel.
squirrelcarrieMy old little neighbor might agree with her on that one.
  • She actually screams bloody murder all the time. She once squealed like a maniac because she got caught in the rain. Who does that?
  • (This is a big one) She is a BAD friend. She never listens to Miranda when she needs her help, while Miranda is a SAINT and always listens to her bullshit -well, sometimes she yells at her because she’s too annoying about Big, but friends ought to do that sometimes. Carrie also thinks that because she is terrible at managing her own money, she is somehow entitled to Charlotte’s old engagement ring to pay her bills. AND she gets mad at Charlotte for not offering her the ring on her own. WHAT? I could go on forever about how and why she is a bad friend, but here’s another one: Samantha was in a relationship with a woman for a hot minute, and needed to talk about it because well, it was a pretty big, life-changing thing that had happened to her. Did Carrie patiently listen? Nope. She somehow made it all about herself and how she had an amazing orgasm (??) (you’re in your thirties, a great orgasm should NOT be huge news). And later on, when Samantha calls her to tell her she was hurt by her attitude, does she listen? Nope, she lets Ray go down on her DURING THE PHONE CALL. Ugh. Oh, and she sent her boyfriend to pick up an injured Miranda when she threw out her neck, and Aidan had to carry her out of her bathroom NAKED. When Miranda was pissed and humiliated that her friend didn’t come to her rescue herself, Carrie doesn’t understand why, and as if she couldn’t be any more annoying, she brings bagels but forgets the cream cheese.
  • She makes puns about every freaking thing, and says annoying things like this:
single and fabulous.jpgNo.
  • She never calls her boyfriends by their real names. So sure, ‘Big’ sounds really flattering -and we all know it doesn’t *only* refer to the fact that he’s a big shot- but do you really think Jack wanted to be reminded every day that his last name is Berger? (For the longest time, I thought it was spelled Burger, thanks a lot, Carrie.) Does Aleksandr Petrovsky really want to be called ‘The Russian’? I know I wouldn’t like it if my boyfriend referred to me as ‘The French’. I would hate it, actually. The only guy that Carrie called by his real name is Aidan, but on the other hand, she cheated on him, so she owed him that much. (Yes I am really hung up on the fact that she cheated on him.

There’s a lot more that I could say about Carrie being the worst. But mostly, what annoys me is that she had me fooled for a long time. I thought she was the coolest bitch in town, and I am embarrassed that I once related to this character. I mean, sure, I was young and ridiculously naive, thinking that dysfunctional relationships were viable because look at Carrie and Big! I guess the moral of the story is: Carrie and I don’t have a lot in common. We both like shoes -although I am not in debt because of shoes- and we are both pretty annoying.

Sad truth

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(WARNING: this post may contain nuts stereotypical views about French men.)

You may have picked up on the media conveying a romanticized idea of France: the Eiffel Tower (although I never understood the romantic appeal here), accordion players on the street, wine sipping at every hour, and of course, the French Lovers. In every movie or TV show, the French woman has the reputation of a ho, while the French man has the reputation of a ho-but a slightly more romantic one.

Years ago, after viewing a French movie with my students, I asked them what cultural aspects they noticed in the film. One guy raised his hand and said, very matter-of-factly: ‘All male characters have mistresses. Because all French men have mistresses.’ Oh boy. This guy started a small riot in my class; young women turned towards me with shattered innocence and started asking me frantically ‘Is it true?? Do French men all cheat??’. Of course I said no. Of course I said it was a stereotype, but I also admitted that the topic of adultery is definitely handled in a light-hearted way in French movies. (And French politics -one of our former presidents had a whole second family going on, and another one was a known philanderer, without having any ‘-gate’ attached to his mistresses’ names.)

Some French movies are, in fact, built around the whole concept of adultery.

infidelesBehold this piece of garbage, which keeps popping up in my Netflix suggestions in a very annoying way.

So yeah, one might say that French men are not portrayed to be *romantic* in a Ryan-Gosling-in-The-Notebook kind of way. And I have to admit, in my humble opinion, the portrayal is somewhat faithful. No Frenchman will buy you a house and turn himself into a hermit until you resurface and break your engagement with James Marsden. A Frenchman will claim he loves you, write you poems (I assume -no one has ever written me any poems), but bang everyone else in your back. Because you see, he’s a *guy*, and that’s just what guys *do*.

patriarchalYes, patriarchal bullshit indeed.

How many times did I hear horror stories from my friends back home, about Frenchies ripping their hearts/confidence apart? Too many to count. I usually put a stop to any kind of French stereotype (I will go as far as showing you my armpits to prove that French women do shave), but I have to say, the French Douche one really sticks. Maybe because it has a lot of truth to it? In order to show my good faith, I will share a personal story. I know, I know, ONE story is not enough to turn an urban myth into the truth, but we only have so much time on our hands.

So, years and years and years ago -I cannot emphasize the temporal distance enough here-, I dated a horribly douchey French guy. Not only was he douchey, but he was also a huge loser, who phagocyted my confidence. We dated on and off, he slept with other women while we were dating, but was still stringing me along, telling me that ‘that’s just what guys do, but I like you a lot, you’re special, blahblahblah’ *barf*. After we broke up for good, he was still lurking around, hoping for a second chance -he was dating someone new, mind you. Until I moved to the US and severed all ties.

One day, I received a sickening email from him. It had been a year since I had left France and had not given him any news for much longer. He was asking me if we could meet up the next time I was in France, because he was missing me and would like to rekindle -something vomit-inducing like that. I decided to ignore, because frankly, I couldn’t care less. Fast-forward to a few days later, when the biggest coincidence happened. One of my friends, who lived in the same city as Douchey McDouchers, emailed me a picture of a wedding announcement she saw at City Hall, with the caption ‘Isn’t that McDouchers’ name??’. Well, it was. And I checked the date. 2 days before he sent me this desperate, sickening email, Douchey GOT MARRIED. And then he decided that he would like to see me again. Barf, right??

Well, I confronted him. I was so annoyed by his attitude, I even thought of contacting his now-wife. But I refrained from it; it wasn’t any of my business after all. When I told him I knew he was married, I expected it to be a huge ‘Gotcha!’ moment. I was essentially hoping to slut-shame him. But he emailed me back in a very underwhelming way; the email equivalent of a shrug. Like ‘whatcha gonna do? Boys will be boys.’ *re-barf*

I know what you will tell me. It’s not just French men. Okay, but in my personal experience (dating, but most importantly, being a friend listening to other people’s dating stories, male and female),  French men have this no-shame kind of thing where they cheat on their significant other and don’t bother feeling bad about it. But if a woman cheats, OMG, she’s a slut. *DOUBLE STANDARD ALERT*

I know what you will tell me. It’s not all French men. I sure hope so -my dad is French, and he is still married to my mom. Of course there are exceptions. But I’ve seen too much evidence, and now I am forced to spread the word. When my American friends finally go abroad and get ready to spend a year in France, I warn them about several things. Slow administration is one, and shameless cheaters is another.

 

BFFs

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(I’m going to try to figure out how to talk about my relationship without being too cheesy. Please bear with me.)

I have been with my boyfriend for a little over 3 years now. When we met, we were all about romance and cute dates, we saw each other every week and did something special every time. It was all about the courtship and getting to know each other. Then, as they tend to do, things got in the way, spending time together required some effort, because of both our schedules, but we wanted to make it work, and always managed to see each other quite often. Constant romance gave way to more down-to-earth moments, and soon enough, we were part of each other’s daily life.

You always hear about guys who have trouble with commitment, especially in movies and TV shows. Think about ‘poor’ Carrie Bradshaw (I am being sarcastic, Carrie Bradshaw is whiny and annoying, but more on that another day) who had to beg Big for some space in his apartment and was never given an extra key so she could come and go as she pleased. Well, I never had this problem. When I started spending more and more time at his apartment, I carried an extra bag with me so I could have the essentials: toothbrush, deodorant, all glamorous things. I was petrified to leave anything behind, because I was no fool, I had watched Sex & the City. But once my boyfriend noticed my extra bag, he simply told me ‘Why don’t you leave some of your stuff here?’, and that was it. No drama, just the practicality of life. Of course, I’m pretty sure he bitterly regrets these words today, because I left approximately a million things at his place, but that’s completely his fault.

Being part of each other’s daily life, without any Carrie/Big drama, brought up a different kind of drama: the bickering. When you spend a lot of time with somebody, ESPECIALLY somebody you love, you notice things. Things that you hadn’t noticed before, and that end up annoying the crap out of you.

janDaily life turns all of us into Jan Levinson.

You end up bickering, the bickering turns into fighting, all of this because one of you forgot to buy more milk. You say things you KNOW you’re going to regret instantly, things that you KNOW are hurtful, but your overall rage over the empty carton of milk (or the open toothpaste, or the wine stain that should have been cleaned up) gets the better of you, and you say it anyway. You learn that you should, in fact, go to bed angry, because late-night conversations after a fight tend to be resentful and full of words you will regret in the morning. You learn how to apologize sincerely. You might ask yourself, once in a while, if it’s the beginning of the end. You two didn’t use to be like this; you used to be all lovey-dovey, not able to take your eyes off of your significant other. What happened?

But it’s not the beginning of the end at all. It’s simply the beginning.

The romance period was necessary, but it was also artificial, because both of you were on your best behavior. You tried not to say anything stupid, or make any inappropriate jokes until you tested the waters. But now, what you have is real intimacy. Sure, you bicker, you fight. Who doesn’t? Because you’re no longer under the impression that your significant other is perfect. You now know that they are a human being, with flaws. Of course you love them for who they are. Of course you wouldn’t change them in a million years. But it doesn’t mean that you don’t get annoyed by their flaws.

He annoys me sometimes. And I know I annoy him. But it doesn’t mean we don’t love each other. He knows I have his back, and I know he has mine. He’s not just ‘the guy I’m dating’ anymore; he’s my best friend. He used to be the dreamy guy I would tell my friends about. Now, he’s the one I say everything to. He’s the one who knows all the stories, all the funny things that happened to me during the day. He knows all of my coworkers’ names and I know his. The complicity we share is greater than the romance phase we used to be in.

Still, once in a while, I am reminded of the butterflies that roamed in my stomach every time he entered a room. Sure, now I’m used to him entering rooms, and I might take his presence for granted once in a while -and he might take mine for granted as well. But this morning, as he was leaving for work, I looked through the window to see his car drive away, and it reminded me of all the times he came to visit me in Delaware, and how I always dreaded the moment when he would have to leave. And I felt a tug in my stomach. The butterflies never leave, they just come out when you least expect them.

 

My shameful secret

8ff11fbd-5f36-4e87-9ef4-cf08a0136e05

OK, so this title is probably overselling the whole thing. But I do have a shameful habit, that would make me obnoxious to most people. And in the past few months, karma got me and I got way more than I bargained for.

Like most people, I get bored on public transportation. On buses, trains, planes, I just don’t know what to do with myself. On international flights, you get a little TV and that is usually enough to entertain me (I essentially binge-watch everything there is to watch, and always click on ‘This Means War’, a movie that I consider the perfect in-flight entertainment). But put me on a domestic flight and I will become a needy child who needs you to amuse her.

rogelio bored

So what do I do? I do something shameful. I look at people’s phones over their shoulder. Yep, I know, completely immoral, and a total violation of privacy, but I’m working on it. And, like I said, I have recently gotten punished for it, so I think this awful habit of mine is now gone.

It all started before I bought a car, and had to take Megabus for my weekly commute. I got tired of listening to music, and I get carsick, so I wasn’t able to just read a book. So, I started people-watching, and one thing led to another, I quickly found myself looking at people’s phones over their shoulder. I didn’t make it a habit, but when people opened their phones and looked at something that caught my eye, I didn’t stop myself from looking. This little habit persisted even after I purchased a car, because I still take campus buses to get to work.

Fast forward to last April, when I had to go to Kentucky for a conference. On my flight back, I was sitting behind a very classy looking woman in her late 40s or early 50s. She was perusing through her phone, at first she was looking at pictures of homes on her photo roll, that seemed to have been taken from a real estate website. I absent-mindedly looked, but my attention was completely grabbed when the living room and kitchen island pictures turned into full-on dickpics. When I saw the first penis picture, I averted my eyes very quickly. I felt terrible for looking at such a private picture, but I was also intrigued by the fact that she was blatantly looking at this picture on a crowded plane, when she knew that her phone was actually in plain sight of those behind her -the woman next to me had even noticed and we shared a knowing glance. The penis lady didn’t stop at one pic either. She scrolled and scrolled to unveil more and more penises. It had officially become fascinating, especially that they were not all the same guy. Once in a while, she deleted one, probably because she didn’t deem it worthy of iPhone space. The young woman next to me started giggling along with me -it’s funny how the sight of penises will turn any grown-ass woman or man into a childish mess. I wonder if this very classy lady was running a penis beauty pageant, or was sorting through her Tinder dates. All I know is, it quickly made me feel like a perv and I stopped looking. But I became plane buddies with the woman next to me and we ended up getting to know each other for the remainder of the flight.

penis glassesApparently it’s also plane living.

This little adventure calmed me down for a while. I averted my eyes every time I was on the bus for the rest of the semester. But just last week, as my boyfriend and I were on our flight home from our Florida vacay, something similar happened. The woman in front of us purchased in-flight wifi just to sext with her boyfriend. He sent her multiple nude pictures, and I quickly looked away, because now I’m almost convinced that I have a curse, and that every time I look at someone else’s phone, I will see a penis.

5 years ago

15b5286d-2c2d-4832-825a-fa4cf33ea408This picture is totally unrelated, but it’s cute and this pug is clearly enjoying his summer.

Yesterday was the anniversary of my coming to live in the US. The 5th anniversary, which is a big deal. Since yesterday, I have been thinking about my first days in this country a lot, and I feel like putting my thoughts into words would help me sort through my nostalgia.

To be fair, I am a nostalgic person. I tend to pay a lot of attention to dates, anniversaries, memories, and I like to reminisce. But this one date is especially meaningful to me, and I thought it was worth a post.

First of all, because 5 years ago yesterday, I left my home country, and it’s a big deal. Another reason why it’s a really big deal is that it made me go through a series of firsts. I left my parents at the airport, and saw my strong, silent dad cry for the first time. I hopped on a plane for the first time. I was alone in a foreign country for the first time. I was away from my family for more than a month for the first time.

When I landed in Philadelphia, with my two huge suitcases, my laptop (the same one I am typing on at this very moment) and my purse, all I could think about was arriving to my final destination: my new apartment in Delaware. The taxi driver who picked me up at the airport must have smelled my innocence from afar: the many pieces of luggage, the deer-in-headlights look on my face, the fact that I had no clue where to wait for a taxi and found myself on the highway. He obviously overcharged me, but in the end, I didn’t care. I had arrived at what would be my home for the next two years -even though at the time, I still thought I would stay for a single year. The landlord was waiting for me with the keys, and the former tenant, the previous French TA whom I was replacing, had sold me all her stuff already, so I was basically coming home to a fully furnished apartment, with cookware, dishes, silverware and an already made bed. I realize now how important that was. Upon entering the bedroom, I felt empty and alone, but can you imagine how much worse I would have felt if the room itself had been empty?

When I walked up the stairs, my surroundings smelled like…well, I don’t really know what they smelled like. Nothing in particular, maybe the  fresh coat of paint that the landlord had put on the walls, or maybe the cleaning supplies he had been using. But to me, this smell will always be the smell of America.

I contacted my parents to let them know that all was well, and proceeded to take a shower. I used the shower gel that my mom had picked out for me, it smelled like green tea and for some reason, it comforted me. Every time I went back to France after that, I would buy the same shower gel.

After my shower, I was finally relaxed and the jet lag was kicking in. I tried to get inside my room again, but couldn’t turn the knob. Those American doors were awfully confusing… In my robe, I went downstairs and started calling for my landlord, who was living next door. I just couldn’t believe that the first thing I did in the United States was to lock myself out. (It is important to note that I managed to lock myself out of the whole building again just a week later.)

I woke up at 2 or 3 AM. The jet lag was kicking my ass. It started to dawn on me that I was going to stay there until my Christmas break. The former tenant had left her wall calendar up. I counted the days.

I called my parents, visibly upset. In retrospect, this was not the most selfless thing to do. They were probably worried sick.

I talked to my friends back home, in my most dramatic voice, telling them that I had made a big mistake and had no interest in making friends, because all I wanted to do was go home.

rogelio dramaticYeah, obviously that feeling went away the next day, when I met the people who are, to this day, still my friends.

I was extremely scared of leaving the apartment, because I really had no idea where to go. But I would have to get out soon; I was getting hungry and I had no food in the house, besides some dried cranberries and almonds.

I took the campus map left behind by the former tenant, and ventured out of the apartment. I fell in love with the cute campus, the beautiful buildings, and the amazing weather. My stress began to fade away.

I needed coffee. I believe it must have been around 8AM but it felt much later. I stopped at a café, now turned into a bike shop, and ordered a café au lait. The owner saw my campus map, welcomed me to Delaware and gave me a free muffin. I could already see myself liking this place.


Two years ago, when I got into my current program in Pennsylvania, I struggled to leave Delaware. It had become my home, and will always be the first place I felt comfortable in. (As I’m writing this, I have a knot in my throat and I am getting emotional.)

But, most importantly, America has become my home. A few days after I arrived, I already couldn’t see myself leave. A lot of the anxiety I had when living in France has disappeared (well, I still have anxiety, but not as much), and I know I am much more serene here. I am tremendously grateful for the opportunities that I got in this country. America has been extremely good to me.

The point of this is, I think it’s normal to be afraid of changes. 5 years ago, I went through the biggest change I’ve ever known. It scared the shit out of me, but I did it. And it made me so happy, it’s not even funny. I try to remind myself of this, whenever I’m anxious over an upcoming change. The scariest things in life can be the best decisions you’ve ever made.

I have no idea what I’m doing

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As a PhD student, I have a pretty bad case of impostor syndrome. I constantly feel like this meme-dog who is mixing liquids in a lab -a lab in a lab, get it?- while saying ‘I have no idea what I’m doing’. I know, I know, everyone is talking about impostor syndrome and there’s nothing original here. But it doesn’t only occur in my academic life.

I think I’m a pretty average-looking lady; I have talked before about body image and my chubby/curvy spectrum. But, weirdly enough, I’ve always had some success with the gentlemen -this is obviously an expression, because most of the men I have encountered in my day were, in fact, everything but gentlemen. So sure, I’m not ugly, and to be fair, I’m quite smart and funny, so I always rationalized my success that way.

phyllis' jugsOr, you know, maybe Phyllis is on to something.

But when I met my boyfriend, my impostor syndrome went through the roof. Not because of him: I know exactly why he is with me. First of all, he loves me and we get along extremely well. There’s a lot of reasons why we are together. Sure, he’s a very handsome man, and I’ve always secretly thought that he was completely out of my league, but our chemistry reassures me and never makes me feel like an impostor for too long.

My boyfriend is not the one who makes me feel like a fraud, but his family does. Don’t get me wrong, I love his family. They are very good to me and his mother seems to have completely warmed up to me. However, he and I grew up in very different backgrounds. His family is what one might describe as wealthy, while my family is more middle-class. He has two brothers, while I am, as you know, an only child. Family vacations in his family revolve around physical, athletic activities, while I am, as you know, allergic to pretty much any kind of exercise. His family is on the more conservative side, while I tend to be much more liberal (this is a HUGE understatement).

Now, when I say his family is very good to me, it is another huge understatement. His parents have been incredibly generous and welcoming. In fact, I just came back from a long 4th of July weekend in their Florida home, and his dad did not let me pay for anything. I am not used to being treated to such things by people who are not my own dad -yeah well, I may be independent, but let’s not forget that I am an only child and have been overprotected by my dad my whole life-, so this whole thing made me not only grateful, but also mildly uncomfortable. I had an amazing vacation, but the whole time I was wondering whether I was showing my gratitude enough or not, which led me to do dishes after every single meal, in the hope that they would all notice how grateful/servile I was.

Even though I feel included in his family, I still feel uncomfortable most of the time, because I am constantly afraid of doing something wrong, something that would reveal to them that I am, in fact, an impostor.

 59519b60-72b4-4a43-bfe2-a78b16e1348bAnd when I’m sitting on the couch, I try not to move at all so they can’t see I’m a human with flaws.

I know it’s stupid. I know that they -and by they, I mean his parents, because his brothers don’t really care- like me for who I am. They are aware that I’m not this perfect, dish-washing, still-sitting woman who doesn’t laugh too hard and never sneezes. They know that I’m a liberal who doesn’t agree with their political views -my boyfriend outed me a long time ago. They know I’m French, and if I commit a faux-pas (see what I did there?), I can always blame it on my origins. What matters to them is that I’m there for their son, whom I love and support no matter what. But I can’t help thinking that they will one day discover my true self and his mom will stop talking about knitting with me.