My parents haven’t met Simone yet and Mom really wants to. She says she wants to try out her high school French. I hope she isn’t serious. Simone says she finds it funny when people try to converse with her in their bad French. She make a waving motion in front of her face indicating their French stinks. It took me a bit to catch on to her sense of humor. She doesn’t make outright jokes, instead she makes these little play on words. She tells me, “My English “trips and falls down before the joke can run its way.”
When we met up at the mall for the movies I had no problem spotting Simone. It’s not that she is tall, it’s how she manages to stand out in crowd of people. She is in this bubble of style. She is so European. There is something about how she wears her clothes. She drapes her scarf, while I wrap mine around my neck. Her earrings dance off her ear lobes, and my earlobes are naked and embarrassed to be found undressed. Her colors complement boldly, and mine are blah, blah, blah. She has an ensemble. I have something on dug out of my laundry hamper. You would think hanging out with her I would feel intimidated. I actually feel inspired.
With her long brown hair, the bluest of eyes, and winning smile I still wouldn’t say she is pretty. I first thought she was gorgeous, yet now I think she isn’t pretty at all, instead she is alluring. Strange word to use, I know. She has a mystery about her that makes me want to discover more about who she is. I’ve not been around many European people, so I don’t know if it’s because she is from France or if it’s because she is who she is. There is something about her that comes out and completes her, yet she is not totally finished. That sounds weird, I know. How can someone seem complete, but still have a bit hidden? I don’t know how to explain it. Maybe it’s because she is not gorgeous or even that pretty. Her looks go deeper.
Pretty girls, in my opinion, are already done. One look and their story is read, already known. I know that sounds shallow, like I’m just saying this because I’m not pretty–au contraire–I’m picking up on Simone’s expressions already. Pretty girls have this “My-face-gets-me-where-I-need-to-go-in-life look.” They have the votes, the guys, the clothes, everything. Except personality. Did I really mean that? Did I really lump them into the stereotypical Barbie mold? Yup, I sure did.
Our school has a bunch of pretty girls. I call them the “cookie cutter girls.“ They wear the same kind of hairstyle, same type of clothes, they sound the same, and act the same. Nice they usually are not. I have known a total of two pretty girls who were nice. They were better than nice–they were sweet. They were cheerleaders, best friends, sisters even, and really, really nice. They volunteered for clubs, tutored other students, and weren’t any bit stuck up. Teachers liked them, most everyone liked them. They weren’t in the loud popular senior crowd, that group of twelfth graders who are known by everybody, who seem to be getting in the school newspaper, or are getting awards, or are mentioned in conversations. Instead they were they “you know, the blonde senior twins,“ and people would nod and say, “oh yeah, they are so sweet.“ They didn’t say, “right, those two gorgeous twin sisters with the flawless complexion and naturally blonde hair, who get good grades, stay out of trouble, and are incredibly nice.“ Maybe people thought they were too good to be true. How can anyone be pretty and nice? Maybe because they were seniors when I was a freshmen I lived in a delusional void. I thought they would be the most popular girls on the campus, if not the world. Surprisingly, I don’t think they got voted as prom queen or anything big like that. Maybe because they were twins it was hard to tell who was who, and people didn’t want to favor one over the other. So, two pretty girls over a thousand I’ve seen or been around. I rest my case.
Pretty. What is pretty? There is the fashion magazine definition, the Hollywood style, the popular girl version. I prefer the Jane Austen style. Her heroines seem to win the male characters over with their sass more than the bat of their eyelash. Maybe Jane was plain. She would know what it was all about then.
At the mall Simone and I eat and discuss whether to see the newest apocalypse film or one of the new animation flicks. I don’t understand the trend of films. In the last couple of years we either have gloom-and-doom-the-world-is-ending movies or the here-is-yet-another-superhero movie. We need to figure out whether to spend ninety or so minutes watching how the world might end, or if we should relax and let our minds coast and simply watch one of the new Pixar films. Cartoon laughs or CGI tragedy? We decide tragedy would have less kids. Simone comments, “I like little kids, if I am relative to them.” I know what she means. I can’t stand to be in a store and hear some kid screaming and the parent is totally oblivious. Maybe being an only has something to do with it. I have low kid tolerance. I like Timmy because he isn’t a whiner.
As we waited in line for our tickets I told her while she is getting to know America pretty well, the only ideas I have about the French are what I have absorbed from watching Sabrina. I’ve watched both versions at least fifty times. Simone suggested we watch them back to back. “We stuff ourselves on the movie.” I told her it sounded like we would be eating a meal instead of watching a couple of old movies.
“We enjoy all of life. We work. We play. We love. It is all so nice. We embrace all of life. Americans enjoy life too. It is different though. For the French we take a nice, long stroll, talking and walking arm and arm. We are not in a hurry. Americans are different. They take a fast run with music in their ears.” She emphasized this with plugging her ears with buds. “America lives very fast. It’s better to take a nice, long stroll.”
I can see her point. We microwave our food, race down freeways, dash around on errands, and speed dial our phone numbers. Hurry, hurry, hurry. I like the idea of living life more slowly.
The movie turns out predictable. The family figures out how to stay together and get over their petty pre-disaster differences, and the one brave, most likable scientist figures out how to save the planet, even though more than half the world’s population is destroyed and the major architecture of the world is totally blown to bits and pieces. It rates a see again when it comes out on DVD.
Simone’s host mother picks us up since she had gone shopping and it wasn’t a problem or out of her way to take me home. “It gets dark, really dark, much too fast these days. Besides, it’s really getting cold, don’t you think so?” she throws out, as she backs the car out of the mall parking lot. She sounds like a worrier to me. I wonder what it must be like to be responsible for someone else’s kid. Who takes on the responsibility for having a teenager live with you for almost a whole year, someone who is a)foreign b)a stranger and c)a person who might make your life absolutely miserable for nine months. I think Simone must be fairly easy to live with. Simone shivers in the car and we both laugh.
“I think it too cold. It should snow soon, yes?”
We don’t always get snow, but the air has that sharp tang to it, that pinch to the air that hints of snow. We’ve lived in the area for almost three years. Most of the places we have lived in have some kind of winter. Mostly rain. Dad isn’t too keen on living where there is a lot of snow. He hates shoveling, which is another reason we live in apartments.
“Let the manager do it. If we owned a home I’d have to lift that shovel, toss that snow,” he tried in a southern accent. Fine. I like the snow. The freshly fallen type that veils the trees, frosts the ground, lightens the overall landscape. That Christmas card type of snow. I don’t like snow when it’s been around too long. It becomes a tired-looking grey, that ashy worn out snow of hanging around too long. I think it should snow after Thanksgiving and be all done by February. Spring should be all ready to go by March 1st.
Some of the places we’ve lived in are a bit like that. Sometimes it doesn’t snow at all. Last year a hint of snow came and went. I hear that this area doesn’t have too many white Christmases. That bit of information makes me want the snow all that much more. Simone says she hopes for snow as well. “I want to know what American winter is like.”
She waves good-bye at the curb and drives off with her host mother in their common-around-here Subaru. Mom drives her Alero and Dad has a Jeep. He likes to go roughing it and I’ve gone with him a few times. His Jeep is older, and has seen its days of roughing it in the woods. Dad likes to get away and camp now and then. I remember as a little kid we would go backpacking and hiking quite a bit. Now, I’ll only go if it’s warm out. Mom rarely goes at all. Her idea of roughing it these days is not having a microwave and mini-frig in the motel room. I guess the incident of finding bugs in her sleeping bag put her off on camping out.
I was about ten when we stopped going hiking and spending so much of our weekend time in the woods. It was about the time my parents got serious about their careers. Dad’s writing began to become more steady. His assignments came from bigger magazines and paid better too. Mom discovered the world of cataloging blurbing, as she calls it, and together they entered the semi-consistent life of freelance writing. Since I’ve grown up with the feast and famine lifestyle we live I don’t think much of it. It’s been this year though, as I listen more to what other kids’ families are all about that I realize my parents are a little different. We don’t have a lot of flashy stuff that measures typical success. No boats moored at the marina, the cars my parents drive are older, I doubt I will get to have my own car to drive, no enviable vacations, no i-Phones, and it’s okay. I would even say we are content. No wonder I don’t fit it in so well at school.