Friday, May 31, 2013

Why French Men can Dance.

           Guys! I’ve made this incredible discovery, and I need to share it with you. Everything makes so much sense now! I should really start at the beginning though, instead of jumping in at the middle.
            Part of doing a long-term stay or study abroad (like I’m doing now) is figuring out how to adjust your mentality to the cultural logic of wherever you’re staying. I’ve run into this in many ways here in France, my favourite example being closed-door etiquette. In Canada, if you’re hanging out in your room with the door closed it implies that you’re busy, you’re doing other stuff and you don’t want to be interrupted. As a result, it’s pretty normal to leave the door open a crack, or wide open depending on what you’re doing. If I’m just reading on my bed and the house isn’t too noisy, my door is hardly ever closed. That’s not how it works in France though. Here, houses and apartments are smaller, the walls are quite thin, and space is just more limited. I’m pretty sure that’s what’s helped in creating this closed-door norm that I experience regularly. The door to my room is to be closed, basically always. If I’m in the room, if I’m not in the room, whatever; the door is to be closed. I’m told this is a privacy thing. Space is limited and therefore it’s easier to respect everyone else’s space and privacy if doors are closed.

Grisette is definitely the first cat in this situation, Grisette is a door ninja...
            Awesome, but do you have any idea how hard it is to predict when Catherine is going to call me for dinner if my door is closed? I’m not supposed to peek out of my room at 8:00pm to see what stage things are at, because that’s when the family gets to sit down and chat (just them). Ok, rude to interrupt that. It’s also rude for me to wait quietly in my room until someone knocks though, because then they’re being rude by interrupting whatever I’m doing behind my closed door. (… o.0!) The compromise I’ve arrived at is cracking my door just a bit so I can hear when she yells from the kitchen that dinner is ready. This works so long as Grisette isn’t feeling adventurous, and pushes my door open properly to come and visit. Then the door is open, and that’s not supposed to happen.
            So that’s the door example of a shift in cultural logic. Here’s the logical impasse I’d been trying to figure out; European men tend to be able to dance, and North American men tend not to be able to dance. These are pretty broad stereotypes, so stick with me. It’s not considered negative in Canada if you’re male and can’t dance. In fact, if you show up at a club and all you do is stand around and drink in a corner, or stand in the middle of the dance floor and bob your head a bit, no one bats an eyelash at that. That’s pretty normal. In France, I have encountered very few men who don’t have rhythm. Herein lies my confusion, why is there such a difference between the two? What do we do differently that has led to this dichotomy of dancing men?
            The French men can dance because they’re all in my Body Attack class at the gym on Tuesdays.
            Twice a week I am at the Piscine Olympique doing some of the hardest cardio I have ever done. On Fridays it’s something called Body Combat, which is a class that resembles some sort of cross between kickboxing and Zumba. (Yes, please feel free to giggle, I did too when I realized what I’d signed up for.) That being said, I actually contemplated not finishing the class it was so difficult. Three cheers for blackbelt grit on that one, and one point to Zumba-like exercise. By contrast, Tuesdays I’m in Body Attack, which is by all rights much more girly (and somewhat easier) than Body Combat. Body Attack is very similar to Zumba, only… possibly more like a rave, with fewer drugs, no glow sticks and more arm-waving/running in circles/hip gyration. I was honestly expecting a very female crowd to show up for Body Attack given that the more masculine class by far in the series is Body Combat. Nope, it was actually an even 50/50 split, and only a few were clearly gay.
            This blew my mind.
            That link below the image takes you to a video example of this class. Yes, she does say 'and Superman!' then do a dance move, multiple times, at about 1:50min. 
            I’ve been back twice now to verify my findings, Body Attack is full of French men who dance better than I do, and because of this are really fit. It all makes so much sense now! Gentlemen, are you taking notes on this yet? Not only is Body Attack fun because it’s so ridiculous, but you could be learning to dance, in a studio full of enough men that you’re not emasculated, and women who are outrageously happy because they’re dancing instead of running on treadmills. Why do we not have this in Canada?!
            Ahem… anyway… in other news I’ve been moved up to B1 (yay!) and yesterday it was my turn to take home the class diary and write a bit about my week. Our instructor Elise then corrects it, and passes it on to the next person. The result is actually a really useful learning tool, but the entries are all remarkably similar… There are definitely people who spice up their entries with little sketches, pictures or maps of the places they’ve been on excursions, etc. every once in awhile, it’s all very slice-of-life though. It’s alright to go back and review the other entries, but they’re not exactly exciting. Don’t worry, I have a solution.

Class Diary, complete with tiny cartoon me!

            Next week, when I am the person with the diary, I am going to write an entry about how a dragon appeared as I was walking to the tram station. Not only will there be a dragon to slay, I’m thinking the tram it sits on should be full of innocent nuns. Possibly I will bribe it off of the tram with my newfound vocabulary of fine french food, like truffles, champagne, beaujolais nouveau and macarons. Or pacify it with roquefort cheese. I’ll be sure to keep you posted on exactly how well this is all received. 

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