As a continuation on my last post, the exception to the moderation rule seems to be McDonald’s. Lovingly called Mack Dough by the Froggies, these establishments are more like three star restaurants than greasy fast-food joints. Glistening tables and well-groomed employees give way to a stellar food menu that forms a solid first impression on foreigners entering a French McDonald’s. The chevre (goat cheese) wrap is particularly tempting, as it is glazed in a honey sauce and topped with toasted dill flakes. I don’t eat McDonald’s regardless of which country I’m in, but I guess if I didn’t grow up in a culture that raised me to be afraid of meat, I, too, would visit this magnificent mecca of American commercial culture to sup with Ronald by my side on the reg.
The portions at Mack Dough are significantly smaller than in the United States, and the ‘super size’ option has never existed here. Moderation is in effect–not in the frequency of McDonald’s visits, but rather in the amount of food the establishment designates for one person. http://www.france24.com/en/20110203-fat-patients-force-british-ambulances-supersize
Paris is the fashion capital of the world, but the women’s wear is decidedly more conservative than the places I’ve been in America, save for Amish country. That being said, I have yet to visit Salt Lake City, so I can’t make any generalizations. Skirts and shorts are most often fingers’ length and are worn with tights. When worn without tights, they’re met with scorn and shock from other women who feel bad for the naïve little girl who dares to enter the metro with bare legs– doesn’t she know the unspoken code ? When I visited the biggest mosque in Paris with a guy friend of mine in October, I was wearing shorts without tights (I don’t care) and was forced by the proverbial “bouncer” to put on a long wraparound skirt in order to cover my lascivious legs before entering the premises. It seems that bare legs should be saved for night clubs, but even that is a rarity. Apparently tights just give your outfit that little extra flair, and that’s definitely what Parisians have got going on. The girls have mastered the just-rolled-out-of-bed look replete with bomber jacket, messy hair, combat boots, and cigarette in hand. The men are more or less metrosexual, which has given my already-faulty gaydar a run for its money. A scarf, matching clothes–usually consisting of tweed, corduroy, and/or skinny jeans–and oversized headphones can hip-ify even the homeliest of males.
I brought my Lacoste shower bag with me thinking it was BCBG (bon chic bon genre,) but it turns out that Lacoste is the thug brand of Europe. Lacoste is to Europe what Rocawear is to the United States. This uninformed mistake has done nothing but boost my street cred, so I’m not too upset about it.
But after reading Crime by Irvine Welsh, I realized that criminals identify more with the little alligator than with the inflated prestige of the brand itself. Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister & Co. are huge here–flashback to the 1990s ! I tried explaining to multiple French people who were the same age as me that these brands are no longer that popular in the States. This statement was met with a confused stare, and I followed up by explaining that many people try and dress as the Europeans do. This is the biggest conundrum I’ve found so far : America is like Europe’s annoying younger sibling. America is profoundly influenced by Europe’s rich history, but Europe is undoubtedly influenced by America’s creativity and innovation in all things, but especially music and cinema.
The American music is a couple of decades behind the times, but that’s okay. I don’t really mind hearing R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion” in a bar, but when it’s followed up with “Build Me Up Buttercup” by The Foundations, I start feeling like maybe the Parisian metro is really a time machine.
Sidenote : Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris is an allegory for the ways in which Paris has retained so many historical qualities, as well as for how French culture preserves old ways of doing things that are stereotypical to what is considered by many as the Old World mentality. He wasn’t actually going back in time, he just felt like he was. I feel like that too sometimes, especially when they play old music and young French people swing dance to it. Yes, this behavior is totally normal at soirees and house parties, and it’s called Le Rock.
One example of the vagueness and disorganization characteristic of French bureaucracy is the lack of courteous people when waiting to be served. The lines here are non-existent. A queue forms inadvertently and resembles a swarm of fleas; there is no linear formation. Rather, people stand in a triangular crowd and elbow each other to get to the tip of the triangle before everyone else does. The movie theaters are a great manifestation of this phenomenon–I remember the first time I walked in to a movie theater. It was a bank holiday, and I was at the back of the triangle. I looked around at the old wall paneling, the grimy carpets, and the paper posters of the features that were playing, and felt as though I had been teleported back to the 1980s. It turned out that Les Intouchables was sold out– I could not have been happier to leave the scene of déjà vu / pre-cell-phone era. I finally saw the movie not long ago, and it probably deserves a blog post of its own at some point. All I will say for now is that I can’t understand how it blew up so big in France but not in the United States. Aren’t affirmative action and lesbian secretaries what make up a progressive young person’s dreams ? …..