When my then boyfriend, future husband visited me in San Francisco the first time, we went to meet a friend for a beer at Zeitgeist, a beer garden/biker bar/SF staple. It was rare a month passed without meeting whoever for whatever occasion at Zeitgeist. There are always Harley's parked out front, an old lady selling tamales in the garden out back and rockabilly types playing pool. The floor sticks under your shoes, Lord knows what goes on in the bathrooms and you probably should question the cleanliness of the glass holding your Anchorsteam. I always took for granted how really special it is until my wide-eyed Frenchman walked in and, through a dropped jaw, breathed, "J'halluciiiiiine...."
Cut to two years later when we are happy newlyweds living in a little apartment in a Parisian suburb. We can be at the Paris Opéra in thirty minutes. I walk to the Seine river in five. We have a little outdoor market every Sunday and Thursday where a nice produce lady named Henriette makes me taste the cherries while I wait my turn.
And right now, I'd sell my right arm for a pint at Zeitgeist.
Why this feeling now? This sudden onslaught of nostalgia? Yes, I miss my friends back home. Yes, there's an endless list of jokes and laughs that just don't happen in French. A while ago, I had this discussion with Becca, a British friend, and we finally got to the root of the problem:
FRENCH GIRLS DON'T DRINK ENOUGH.
What does that have to do with it? Everything! My dear, fun loving girlfriends are all back in California. In their place are French girls who are friends of my husband or his sister. Often, the group of copains splits into guys' nights and girls' nights out. Cool enough. The French girls have welcomed me with open arms. But at girls' night, I am with a group of women who all have small children the same age, all work in the same profession, and have all been friends for years. See where I fit in? OK, neither do I so we're on the same page.
This in itself would not kill a soirée. If this situation happened in San Francisco, the liquor would flow, conversation would get silly and sooner or later, someone would start getting a little too honest and the night would get interesting. But in Paris, we're just too...grown up. I'm the only one who takes less than an hour to finish a glass of wine. Conversation still stays within the range where you can relay all to your mother. And there's never any old ladies selling tamales outside!
In our analysis, Becca and I did conclude that a little responsibility in the alcohol department is welcomed. Our cultures are both enormous abusers of alcohol. The gutters of London and San Francisco have seen enough vomit to attest to that. My time served as a cocktail waitress in the Marina district let me occasionally witness the societal low point that is the beer-infused bar brawl. But somewhere, there's that fun middle ground that lies between between "prim and proper" and "face down on some one's lawn".
So, French girls: I know you have that whole sophisticated, sexy image to keep up. I can respect that. But let the guard down sooometiiiime. Let me treat you to a drink or three at Zeitgeist. It'll be swell.