The Frogmarch

"I've got to pull up my stakes and roll, man." --Jean-Jacques Libris de Kerouac

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Brief but Illuminating Anecdote from the Lives of the Lyonnais Bourgeoisie

We hired a maid. Or I suppose "housecleaner" would be the appropriate term; still, "French maid" sounds so much more exciting (if you're going to do a Google Images search for "French maid", be sure SafeSearch is turned ON).

Anyway, I've always been uneasy about the concept of hiring domestic help, both because of the troubling class distinctions that are immediately drawn and because I just plain don't like making someone have to go around cleaning up after me. My mama didn't raise me to be too uppity to clean my own damn toilet (now, being too lazy to clean my own damn toilet, that's my own fault). Still, with all of V's time commitments in taking care of both Boog and the new baby, she doesn't have time to do any housework besides the daily mountain of laundry; besides, domestic help is pretty darn cheap here. So why not?

The new cleaning lady--I'll call her Sylvie, which may or not be her name; I frankly can't remember, not having met her in person-- came this morning, when I was at work and Boog at school. I had left written instructions for her en Francais, since "Sylvie" doesn't speak English and V's French isn't very good; she did her job efficiently and thoroughly, and charged us for two hours' work even though she'd been there two and a half hours. V took a look at what she'd done, quickly surmised that she'd done a good job, and asked if she would be able to return next week.

Sylvie said something in French which V. didn't understand, even on a second and third try. So V picked up the phone, called me at the office, and handed the phone to Sylvie so I could talk to her and figure out what she was saying.

[following conversation takes place in French]
Sylvie: "Bonjour, monsieur. I have finished cleaning your apartment."
Me: Thank you much. I am sorry we are having so much of the crap in all places. I hope it is not being too much trouble for you making the cleanage.
Sylvie: "When you return home, please be sure ithe job I did meets with your approval. If it does, give me a call and I'll be glad to come back again."
Me: But of course. OK. I do this. Good day having.

She had to get my approval, see. Not V's. Because I am the master of the house. For I am a man. And decisions such as these should not be left to a mere woman.

[cue James Brown: "It's a Man's Man's Man's World"]
France is like this. The most shocking example is when I had to give permission for V. to have her own bank account at Credit Lyonnais--probably because V. doesn't have a French source of income, but still...

Those of you who know V. should have some idea of how well this sits.

Ah well, I'm on my way home now; she'd better have her biscuits in the oven and her buns in the bed.


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