Saturday, 14 April 2007

Ugly American?

We finally went to apply for Suzanne's French passport this morning. And as we waited in line, I tried to entertain my daughter with her beloved books. As I began to read to her, Jérôme shot me a warning look. I asked what and he said we'd discuss it later.

It began to boil inside of me and 10 minutes later as we were leaving the city hall, he explained to me that I need to be careful of the people around me when I speak to my daughter in English. Jumping to conculsions as always and my pride hurt at the idea that my husband is questioning my mothering skills, I asked why I should be ashamed of speaking English to my daughter, especially since no one would be able to know where I was from anyway. I could be Canadian or Irish or Australian. Is he suggesting I speak only French to her in public? Should I be ashamed of being American?

After I calmed down, I finally understood his point: many many people don't like the US and to be honest, I wasn't exactly quiet when I started reading a poem to Suze. Jérôme is one of those hyper-sensitive people who can easily (and too often) put himself in other people's shoes, which is good and bad. So I see what he was getting at - here is a loud American in a very North African neighborhood so let's not call attention to ourselves.

So, it's making me wonder : should I be more discrete? Am I too loud with her? Should I be scared to be an American? And what kind of message will this send to Suzanne?


Deb said...

My husband has done the exact same thing. And while I understand his reasoning, I can't comply with him. I don't "hide" the fact that I am American.

I have yet to hear of an American being beaten up in France just because they were American. Let alone happening at a préfecture.

It may sound corny (especially to French people), but I am very patriotic. Even though I live in France, I still love my country. I have been known to wear shirts that say "I love the USA" on occasion. Why? Because I do. I am American and damn proud of it!

I have already begun to instill that in my daughter. Although she is very young, I want her to know the lyrics to "La Marseillaise" and "The Star Spangled Banner". She should be proud to be French and American. I never want her to have to hide or be ashamed of who she is.

Deb said...

I also wanted to add that while I don't hide my being an American, I don't really flaunt it either.

And if my daughter was to go back to the US for a visit, I certainly wouldn't want her to act any less French.

You really hit a nerve in me with this topic. Well done! =o)

Cheryl said...

I have a friend (American married to a Frenchman) who was spat upon for speaking English in a predominantly Arab area here in Lyon.

I guess it's a matter of realizing who's around you at any given moment, ya know? I seriously doubt anything like that would happen at the prefecture, though!

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