By the time you read this column, The Wife and I are about to land in France. Soon, she will be enjoying our once in a lifetime vacation.
I should be, too, if they let me through customs and into the country. Seems those nice folks over there have some rather high standards.
Two weeks ago, I did a quick computer check on what French men wear, and what I found was disturbing. I wasn’t sure this Georgia Boy was gonna fit in. My well-worn blue jeans with the holes in the right knee might not measure up. If I wanted to be allowed into France, there was a lot of work to do.
When it comes to knowing what to wear or not to wear over there, I’ll admit, I was clueless. So off to the fashion experts I went. Walking through the front door of the warehouse for men, smells of expensive leather shoes, belts, and gloves drifted in the air. Walls were filled with suits and sport coats for winter, spring, and summer.
There were so many aisles of folded dress shirts, sweaters, and pants, you could get lost in them. (I know. I got lost trying to find my way back from the dressing rooms.) The clothing store was so fancy, I just knew I was in the right place. The sales person thought otherwise.
Dressed in a crisp three-piece suit, he walked over, took one look at the holes in the right knee of my blue jeans and, after a moment to regain his composure stated, “My name is Frank. May I help you?”
I explained my dilemma of needing to dress like a French man due to our upcoming trip because we couldn’t find enough friends to come to my surprise birthday party. With a befuddled look, he assured me that he could help with the clothes. “Follow me.”
Leading me to a small table in the center of the store, he said over his shoulder, “Please wait here, I’ll be right back.” That’s when the fashions show, “How to Look Like a Frenchman” began.
In a seamless fashion, Frank wove his way through the maze of aisles and racks of clothing and accessories. As he walked, he selected shirts, sport coats, pants, sweaters, and even scarfs. (French folks always wear scarfs.)
After making multiple trips, he finally assembled three different outfits, with matching scarfs and socks, and placed them on the table in front of me with the artistic skill of a music conductor. After I tried on an outfit, I was escorted to a raised platform with mirrors on three sides.
Appearing out of nowhere each time, a nice young lady pulled on the jacket, pants, and shirt marking the length of each with chalk and pins. Sensing my concern, Frank stepped in with reassurance, “All Frenchmen have their clothes tailored.” I felt better. That is until we made our way to the checkout line.
There I asked when could I pickup my tailored French clothes. Frank said it would be about three weeks. Not good, we leave in two. He smiled at the total and replied, “You’ll have it all before you leave.” From start to finish, our time in the fancy clothing store was three hours.
But I wasn’t finished with my preparations for our trip. The Wife said I needed a haircut before we left. Seems not only do all the men in France wear tailored clothes, but they also all have nicely trimmed hair.
Walking into the hair salon, I announced to the attendant, “I don’t have enough friends to invite to a surprise 60th birthday party so we’re going to France instead. Because we’re going to France, I just spent three hours in a fancy clothing store buying clothing Frenchmen wear. Now The Wife says I need a haircut, but she said it can’t look like I just got a haircut.”
The attendant smiled and led me to a chair where another nice lady was waiting. As I sat down, she threw a robe around me, pinning it behind my neck in a flurry that would make Frank jealous. Twenty minutes later, I was out of the chair with the perfect haircut ready to go to France. Or so I thought.
With a suitcase full of clothes that Frenchmen wear and a French-looking haircut, all that was left was to surprise The Wife by learning how to speak the French language. With less than two weeks before our trip, just how hard could it be?
Quickly I learned it wasn’t hard. It was really hard. Those folks don’t sound anything like us. Still, I practiced hard and thought I had gotten rather fluent by the time we got to the airport. Or so I thought.
Finally we arrived! Not in France, but at the Atlanta airport. While standing in line to board the airplane, I surprised the wife by speaking French to the attendant. The Wife was indeed surprised. She smiled at me, fixed my collar on my new French wool sport coat and whispered, “Just stand there and look handsome. Let me do the talking.”
She elegantly spoke to the flight attendant in French, they both laughed and we were allowed to board the plane. Seems The Wife’s four years of studying the French language in high school and another year in college is much better than my two weeks of studying.
No matter how I’m dressed, this Georgia Boy trying to speak French with a Southern accent may start an international incident. Best to keep quiet and let The Wife do all the talking. If I do, perhaps they’ll let me get through customs and we can start our vacation.
I’ll be wandering around France for a week with The Wife. No telling what’s gonna happen! Should be worth a story or two.
[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001. To read more of Rick’s stories, visit his blog: storiesbyrick.wordpress.com.]