It is not pleasant to see an American thrusting his nationality forward obtrusively in a foreign land, but oh, it is pitiable to see him making of himself a thing that is neither male nor female, neither fish, flesh, nor fowl- a poor miserable, hermaphrodite Frenchman. - Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad.
This quote fits me like a "t." You see, when I first moved to France, I just wanted to fit in. I just wanted to sound French, look French, be French. I was scared of opening my mouth because people would know immediately that I wasn't from here. I was horrified of what to cook when friends came over because what if I didn't impress them. I put a pressure on myself to be something I wasn't because I was so scared of being something I was. And it sucked.
Seven years later and I think I've turned a corner.
Somewhere along the line, I stopped trying to yell at my kids in French in public. I'm much more effective (HA) in English so why even try letting those around me know what I'm yelling. I wear my shorts and running shoes to the grocery store and if I feel like buying strawberries in January, well I just go right on ahead and do so. Yes, my kids eat cereal for breakfast and peanut butter is considered a food group, but that's just how it goes chez nous.
What I've learned is that it really is ok to not be from here. It really is ok to be myself, this wacky American living in the sticks who has a tendency to ask, "vous êtes ca va?" I don't speak perfect French, but I appreciate that I get the chance to speak it every day, horrible accent and all.
Mark Twain died on this day 100 years ago and what is amazing to me as one of his fans, is that what he tried to learn about himself and about being an American is still so true to this day. His trip abroad, which he chronicled in The Innocents Abroad, was a turning point for his writing. A turning point for him in understanding what makes us, those zany Americans, who we are.
I'm not French. I love those around me who are and I'm ever so grateful to be amongst them, but I'm so much more comfortable in my Crocs than I am in heels. (And you know what, so is my neighbour but that's a whole 'nother post...)
God speed, toujours, Samuel. Thank you for your writing, your insights, and your wit. They've helped me embrace my Americanness well...a hundred years on.