Lessons in Frenglish

Let me explain my relationship with the French language. In 7th grade, I was in a class called International Foreign Language, where we were basically given a smorgasbord of different languages and cultures to learn about. French, Spanish, German. Needless to say, I quickly fell in love with French. Can’t really explain it; maybe it was how it sounded, the chateaus, the croissants. By the time I reached 9th grade, where I could finally choose which language to study, there was no doubt: français all the way.

Sigh. My high school French teacher had this on the wall. Gazed at it way more than the stuff on the board.
Sigh. My high school French teacher had a poster of this chateau on the wall. Gazed at it way more than the stuff on the board.

However. There’s a difference between hearing that lilting language and learning it. I came to despise verb conjugations and masculine vs. feminine. All I wanted was to move to Paris and communicate with the proprietors of various boulangeries. I didn’t sign up for passé composé and conditionnel. (If you speak French, congratulations for knowing what I’m referring to, and you feel my pain, don’t you? Or do you, le traitor?) But guess what? The love was too strong. I couldn’t leave. Deep down, I didn’t want to. Year and after year, I sat in the next-level French class (somehow passing, might I add), convinced that the same remedial part of my brain that couldn’t get Math was stopping me from comprehending the mechanics of this language. Yet I was still hopeful that I’d join the ranks of the kids who were now practically fluent.By the time sophomore year in college came and it was time to take a language course, the Stockholm Syndrome returned. I signed up for French like an automaton, forgetting that those conjugations and verbs weren’t going anywhere.

Enter Professor Oliver Morgan.

Prof. Morgan's twin.
Prof. Morgan’s twin.

He looked like Tim Matheson. I suppose that’s what stopped me from dropping the class. (This Square Peg freely admits moments of superficiality.) He was also charming, had a wry and cool sense of humor, and was a great teacher. I couldn’t stand him. Read on. I could see it his eyes: he was going to teach me French whether I liked it or not. He wasn’t going to throw his hands up in defeat like my French teachers in the past who couldn’t get me to speak in anything other than present tense and short phrases, which therefore allowed me to rest on my laurels and gaze at posters of chateaus. He was going to woo me with stories of his French wife and their bilingual children who spent 6 months of the year in France. He was going to call on me and force me to speak to him only in French. And because I saw that determination in his eyes, how he ignored my scowls and sarcasm, I found him highly irritating. In the end, I supposed that determination and his handsome face worked. I started paying attention in class. My comprehension improved somewhat. I passed tests with more than my ability to remember vocabulary words. Because essentially, that was it, the problem I had from the beginning: I could remember all the words. I just struggled to put them all together and in the correct tenses. Finally, in Senior Year, I took my last French class. Guess who the professor was? We had a much better time together.

Last year, I met some new French-speaking friends who, to my everlasting shock, marveled at my “perfect” French accent. I almost collapsed. I told them of my past struggles. They waved it off and continued complimenting me and said to stick with it. Whaaat? Following that, some friends and I went on a trip to Montreal, where I stunned myself by conversing with people in my usual Frenglish, but–wait for it–more French than English! Again, whaaat?

One day, my dream of living in France will come true. I, too, will walk to the local bakery and order mountains of baguettes like Professor Morgan’s children. I figure that living there and being immersed in the language and culture will cause a miraculous loosening of my brain and tongue, releasing all the French hiding in the medulla since was I was 14 years old. Until then, Frenglish it is.

Oh, other lessons I learned: 1) try, try again; 2) don’t give up; 3) eat lots of sweet bread.

 

Advertisements

Thank you, Afrikan Butterfly!

I was nominated for two blog awards!!

*That’s me in the corner, attempting a cartwheel. Note that I was distracted in tumbling class*

Woo hoo!
Woo hoo!

Thanks to Ms. Afrikan Butterfly, This Square Peg was nominated for the Sunshine and Shine awards, for bloggers “who positively and creatively inspire others in the blogsphere.” The coolness of that knows no bounds, if only because being positive and being creative are two things I consider pretty important. Both in blogging and in life. Thanks again, Afrikan Butterfly!

Oscar.

I’ve been faithfully and giddily watching the Oscars since I was fifteen years old. Through a million dresses, intriguing speeches and weird hosts (Anne Hathaway and James Franco?), you’ll find me right in front of the television and in for the 4-hour long haul every year. (Really, with a genetic love for old-time Hollywood–I think I knew who Sid Caesar was before I was 10 years old, thanks to my parents–all the pomp and circumstance and sentiment just adds to my love of film. Oh, and I love you, Sid Caesar.)

This year’s Oscars were particularly good. Great host–Ellen DeGeneres–and wins by actors that I was actually interested in and rooting for. Let’s discuss the latter a bit more, shall we?

20140304-132058.jpg
The Winners, from left to right: Matthew McConaughey, Cate Blanchett, Lupita Nyong’o, Jared Leto

Matthew McConaughey, Best Actor, Dallas Buyers Club – who isn’t a fan of Mr. j.k.livin’? Mr. Alright, Alright, Mr. Alright? I’ve been following his career since the beginning. As a fan, kudos to him.

Cate Blanchett, Best Actress, Blue Jasmine – I will profess, again and again, my love and admiration for one of the most talented actresses breathing right now. She is everything. This is her second Oscar. I think it should be her fifth or 100th, based on the number of her films, but whatevs. Well-deserved. To me, she is this generation’s Meryl.

Lupita Nyong’o, Best Supporting Actress, 12 Years a Slave – this is Lupita’s first movie and she snagged an Oscar for it. Add to the fact that I am completely obssessed with everything about her, from her poise to her clothes to the fact that she hails from my continent (don’t forget), and I screamed with abandon when she won. Watch her amazing speech here and love her like I do, if you don’t already.

Jared Leto, Best Supporting Actor, Dallas Buyers Club – ok. If you grew up on Earth and were a teenager in 1994, then you know Jared Leto. He is Jordan Catalano. You know that name. You’ve followed his career since he was leaning on lockers and trying not to stare at Angela Chase on My So-Called Life. So the fact that Jordan–I mean Jared–has an Oscar just feels right and good, doesn’t it? (Look, I even wrote about my still simmering Catalano fever and it was published by Hello Giggles. Still squealing over that one.)

All in all, a good Oscars telecast was had by all. Well, except for the non-winners. Which brings me to Project Leo DiCaprio Needs an Oscar. We’ll talk about that later.

About a Boy.

As I stood in line at the café at work and watched one of the employees step over to the espresso machine to whip up a latte for a customer, I thought of him. It was such an interesting time in my life, really, all of it, and he was, by far, the most significant part.

I was 19 years old when I met him. He and I started at Borders Books (I still miss it, sniff, sniff) on the same day, in the same orientation group. I noticed him immediately. Having long been a lover of cute faces, the combination of said cute face, those blue eyes, and that brownish-blonde hair got the heart racing. But, believe it or not, I told my prone-to-endless crushes heart to stop itself. I was tired of silly crushes. I was journeying into adulthood, wasn’t I? So I valiantly ignored R., not even allowing myself to swoon at his Texas drawl and those eyes.

Didn’t work, though.

When we began our first task of shelving books, he called my name. Ever hear your name being uttered by a boy you’re trying to ignore because you understand the inevitability of your soon-to-be deep feelings for him? Yeah, it was like that. I nearly collapsed, threw up, and smiled all at the same time. I heard you’re a writer, he said. I said yes. I write poetry, he then said. Maybe we can talk about books sometime.

A poet? A poet? I knew, then, that I was toast.

We discussed a little about writing, my then in-progress major in English at my college, his former college in Texas. It was a nice conversation. Soon, we were directed from the books to training on the cash register, where we stood next to each other, our shoulders slightly touching. I knew it then. I was in like.

For a year and a half, I went through the usual infatuation journey with R. I alternated between wanting to gaze at him 24 hours a day and wanting to push him down a flight of stairs for one silly reason or another. One distinct memory: as he tied my apron for me in the café, where we were frequently assigned together (which is why I thought of him yesterday), he asked me to be his creative inspiration. Dizzy from our proximity, I merely smiled and went into the back of the café, where I stuck my head into into the freezer.

Eventually, the crush dissipated and we became good friends. We shared poetry and book recommendations, laughed, talked, joked. When he decided to leave Borders and go back to Texas and back to college, I was sad, but not heartbroken. Before leaving, he gave me a sweet letter about enjoying our friendship and the “inspiration” I provided, although I think he was just happy to be around someone who loved writing as much as he did.

I last heard from him in 2000. He sent me a letter and a bunch of his poems to review, for which I never received a reply. I was angry about that.

A few years ago, while perusing the Internet and suddenly wondering what became of him, I googled him. That’s when I learned that he died in May 2002.

The death was unexplained. I merely saw his obituary, and cried, and reached out to the university he went back to, in order to learn something about the situation. Of course, the cause of his abrupt death was his family’s to own and to know, but the shock of it all–the untimely death of this young man that I once knew and treasured…it was unbearable. I was able to communicate my condolences to his family through the university contact that I found. (A memorial scholarship/award, for poetry, was established in his name.)

The triggers can be anything–coffee shops, bookstores, someone bearing his resemblance–and I am instantly transported to that time in my life, when a wide-eyed nerdy girl swooned over and ultimately found friendship with a sweet poet from the South. What a time it was.

Fabu Fashion…Monday.

You’ll recall that the Fabu Fashion feature started on a Thursday…then next occurred on a Friday. Ah, well. I run this, right?

So, sharing what I wore a few weeks ago to a dance party in Connecticut. Don’t want to brag, but This Square Peg was all gussied up and she liked it. What whaaat?

20140217-184116.jpg

Dress – very 70s Good Times, huh? Something Willona Woods would wear? Found it at Ross and fell in love with it immediately.

Earrings – Target.

Belt – snazzy, no? Borrowed from my friend’s closet. I’ll be purchasing one that looks just like it.

Make-up – Studio Fix Powder Plus Foundation and my precious Ruby Woo lipstick from MAC, Maybelline Falsies Volume Express mascara, and an assortment of eye shadows from Sally Beauty Supply.

And can I wax poetic about my hair? I have a hair crush on my own natural mane, and I was so digging the frohawk style my pal created for me. Yay.

Good times, indeed.

This Square Peg…Loves to Travel.

So, yours truly is a travel bug. I love everything about traveling, from airport eating (i.e., all diets are quickly hurled to the ground and abandoned once your feet touch the terminal floor), to the tons of people-watching I participate in, both at the terminal and wherever I travel. Having just returned from a relaxing trip to visit my cuzzo and her hubby in Puerto Rico (I’m actually sitting here at JFK airport, waiting to board the plane back home), I thought I’d delight you with This Square Peg’s personal do’s and don’ts for traveling. (I remain a square peg even while traveling, in case you were wondering.)

20140216-141826.jpg

This Square Peg’s Travel Do’s

1. Do find a Cinnabon at the terminal. Just do it.
2. Do pay attention to your surroundings. Not merely to ensure that you’re not in the vicinity of possible weirdos, but because people-watching grows exponentially at the airport and on the plane. As a writer, I can’t emphasize the creative boon that comes from all these walks of life converging in this one place.
3. Do bring your patience. I just saw a pigeon walking around the terminal. Screaming babies, people randomly staring at you, flight delays–bring your patience and hold on to it for dear life.
4. Do abandon your high-brow reading choices and take advantage of the glossy, fluffy magazines around you. Come on, do it. Replace the New Yorker with Us Weekly. At least for now.
5. Do expect to pay $1,000 for bottled water and snacks/food. Your budget is out the window, friend.
6. Do remember that you’re traveling! It’s fun, even if a TSA agent pulls you aside to do a random security check on your palms, ostensibly to double-check that you haven’t been handling incendiary devices. True story. See #3.

This Square Peg’s Travel Don’ts

1. Don’t walk on the moving terminal thing. Oh. Just me? Cool. I don’t walk on the moving terminal thing. I just mastered escalators. I’ll walk to my gate, thank you very much. And I find that I’m moving at the same pace as the elitists on the moving thing who cast uppity looks in my I’d-rather-walk direction.
2. Don’t use your headphones in the terminal. I mean, unless you’re blasting Streisand on a low volume (impossible, if you ask me), you need to listen out for gate changes, flight delays, opportunities to upgrade to first class. And you want first class. You do.
3. Don’t forget to marvel at these airport employees. They answer the same question 100 times in a row. Some are crabby, yes, but most seem calm and collected in dealing with all these people.
4. Don’t forget your phone charger!
5. Don’t diss long layovers. In fact, seek them out. I’d rather wait two hours for a connecting flight than nearly fall to my death running on that slippery terminal ground to get to my flight in minutes before it leaves. (True story. Sigh. See #3 in the Do’s.)
6. Don’t forget to travel as much as you can, as much as you can afford, as much, as much, as much.

real talk (gratitude).

Something a bit different this Gratitude Friday.

I’ll start by telling you that I wasn’t the kind of girl that the boys ran after. Those kind of girls were a different set; far removed from my small group of funny, wisecracking nerds who liked to correct your grammar and spout critiques about books and independent films. We were silly, goofy, at times obnoxious and snobby, in love with British movies and the Academy Awards, lovers of Barbra Streisand and musical theater. We were gangly and chubby and average and mostly unsure of ourselves, but somehow this was ok. Yet, although I was largely content with my little group of like-minded friends, admittedly, I sometimes looked at those other girls with longing. Gorgeous, popular, constantly on homecoming court, and always attached to a boy. Wouldn’t that life be far more interesting than teenaged Oscar parties with a little contraband champagne to celebrate the winners?

Adolescent longings go away. I am now a grown woman and 90% content with who I am inside and outside, with the 10% being the welcomed merry-go-round of constant change and improvement to the woman inside. But you know what? There remain vestiges of that little girl inside who longed to have a beau on her arm, although cute and cuter (the only requirements back then) have been replaced with spiritual, kind, mature, generous, faithful, and…cute. Let’s say handsome. Anyway. It would be nice to be the kind of woman who walks into a room and shuts it down. It would be nice to stop traffic, to turn heads, to so and so forth. Don’t get me wrong, please: I appreciate my beauty. It’s ethnic and different and unique and comes from Mom and Dad, and I love that, especially the latter, more than I can say. But those longings sometimes pop up here and there, you know? They do. Nevertheless, I’ll venture to say that those little girls and teenagers we left behind don’t vanish completely. They’re just quieter and far too impressed with the women we’ve become to complain. But once in a while, they just won’t pipe down.

Therefore, on this Gratitude Friday, I present 10 things I truly and wholly love about my physical self. Note that these were aspects of myself that, in the past, I despised, felt embarassed by, hid, and/or never noticed and appreciated.

  1. My eyes, which have a curious almond shape that remind me of my mother and my grandmother.
  2. My lips, which are big and shapely and come from my father.
  3. My legs, which–hello, Dolly–are shapely and loved to be shown off, when possible, by yours truly.
  4. My round face.
  5. The gap in two front teeth.
  6. My hands.
  7. The dimple in my right cheek.
  8. My smile.
  9. My ears.
  10. The way I am shaped. It’s not an hourglass, but it’s feminine and it’s mine.

 

What are you grateful for, loves?

PSH.

Really sad, the loss of Philip Seymour Hoffman. If you read the tributes about him, the theme is clear: his talent was incredible.

There are two films in which PSH did nothing short of take my breath away: Doubt, and–believe it or not, his performance was chilling and compelling–Mission Impossible: 3. Watch them if you can.

20140203-130122.jpg

Herculean.

Oh, hi there. It’s been a while, huh? In short, I loathe winter and with all the polar vortexes and all that, my writing has been suspended by a lack of desire, inspiration, and general movement in my hands. But here we are. Hi, again.

This will be brief. I’m here to post a song that I find hard to not play 100 times in a row, something that pretty much exemplifies my absolute and near manic love of music. (I’ll write another post about music and writing and how, for me, the two go hand in hand.) It’s a song entitled Hercules by Sara Bareilles (if you’re not a fan of hers, I very much want to pinch you for this error in judgment) and I just think it sums up the struggle and the subsequent rallying that exists in the writing life, the female life, the daughter life, the sister life–essentially, everything it takes to be a woman and an artist living on this earth right now today. All encapsulated within an inescapable melody, lovely vocals, and a thumping beat. Listen, won’t you?