Fifty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong

Bonjour mes chers amis!

Francophiles keep popping up in my life, the latest Roni Beth Tower with a fabulous new memoir out this month: Miracle at Midlife: A Transatlantic Romance chronicles a two-year courtship between a divorced American attorney living on a converted barge in Paris and a clinical research psychologist working from her home in Connecticut, juggling the needs of family, friends, and clients. Crossing the Atlantic is but one of the considerations that must be taken into account.

Naturally, when we Francophiles get together, we love nothing better than to talk shop. Talk about all things French. And we had a good laugh last week over a piece, 'Madame,' appearing in the online Le Figaro that had to do with a uniquely French way of throwing a bachelor party. 

The friends of the groom were celebrating on a train (champagne flowing!) when an 82-year-old woman, 'Madame', wanted to pass through the car to get to the bar. The encounter is memorable, and I promise if you watch the video (click on 'Madame' above) and stay with it to the end, you will learn the secret of Madame's élan vital and see a remarkable life-force in action. Then, too, you need to factor in Madame's desire to reach the bar.

A columnist for Psychology Today, Roni Beth was able to repost the article in its entirety last week. I hope you find it as entertaining and inspiring as we did!

Choosing Enthusiastic Participation Over Fear
Her spontaneous complicity and a surprise ending rewards them all
-Roni Beth Tower

This week, I saw a wonderful video in an online Le Figaro Madame story published October 27th.  An 82 year old woman was riding the high-speed train from Paris to Bordeaux.  In order to reach the bar at the end of the bar car, she had to walk through a large number of men on their way to a bachelor party to celebrate the upcoming marriage of a friend.

France labels the event to which they were traveling “l’enterrement de vie de garcon,” roughly translated as the burying–or funeral for–the celibate life of a man.  Spontaneously, the enthusiastic men decided to organize a “paquito”, a custom from the Southwest of the country with which they were all familiar.  When the woman entered the car, they were all lying down on their backs on the floor, holding their arms straight up. They invited the woman to join in: she was to be passed along, one to the next, on the way to her destination. 

Clearly she understood the custom.  With a grin and obvious trust, she dived onto the awaiting hands, was relayed from one pair to the next, and, when her prone body reached the end of the line, she celebrated recovery of her independence with a headstand.  All this in a moving high-speed train. The men serenaded her with cheers of, “Mamie, Mamie, Mamie”.   Translation:  “Grandma!  Grandma!  Grandma!”

Source: À 82 ans, une mamie fait le poirier dans le TGV Le Figaro Madame - Google Chrome 1112016 24540 PM.bmp_.jpg

Source: À 82 ans, une mamie fait le poirier dans le TGV Le Figaro Madame - Google Chrome 1112016 24540 PM.bmp_.jpg

Love is real.  In this instance the woman's love of life, practice of yoga (at least that’s my assumption of how she maintained such physical strength and agility, respect for the moment, and an ability to engage in opportunities), and her willingness to spontaneously join others in celebration brought a moment of joy and delight to a woman in her eighties and to the young men who supported her in every sense.  Rather than fear of a car filled with rowdy strangers, she embraced them (or, rather, allowed them to embrace her).  Rather than abandon her desire to reach the bar by turning away in fear, she jumped right in and had a happy adventure on her way to her destination.

What makes the difference between a situation of connection and one of aggression?  Animals signal one another when a tussle is playful and quickly understand when it is about dominance.  Does the same distinction apply to American humans?  Do we let each other know when we are experimenting with behaviors, collaborating, meaning no harm but rather a happy exploration?  What are the signals that some kind of violation is about to take place?  Have we lost the ability to identify each other’s intent?  What role does a shared culture play in helping us differentiate?  What outside of ourselves – and what inside of ourselves – signals whether fear or enthusiastic participation is called for?  

Roni Beth's question is a good one, worth considering. And that's it for this week, my friends. Looking at the lead photograph, can you guess where I was when I took the photo? 

Hope to see you next week, when I'll have the coffee ready. By the way, are you a Starbucks fan or is it Dunkin' Donuts coffee that brightens your morning?  

À demain dimanche. Would love to hear your comments and remember... sharing IS caring!