Le cul entre les deux chaises

An American Spaniard in France or: How I Learned to Make an Ass of Myself in Three Cultures


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Monet’s garden, Part II

They were ready for me in Giverny since all the flowers were on the purple end of the color spectrum. Also, they were trying to kill me since my allergies had a party all over my face with so much pollen around. Still, totally worth the trip. Next time, I’ll pack antihistamines.

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Surprise flower: one that looks like the Catalan flag!

Monet Catalan flag flower

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Word Mystery: handkerchief / pañuelo / mouchoir

Every Wednesday, I explore the linguistic origins of one word in different languages.

“My grandpa had one of those” is a phrase that’s been said to me more than a few times in my life. This is because, since the day I found a pile of handkerchiefs that my grandmother had gifted to my father on the shelf of mate-less socks in our laundry room, I have carried a handkerchief.

I grabbed that first one because I blow or wipe my nose dozens of times a day and Kleenex fall apart and get trapped in pockets and make a mess of things. Imagine how many times you touch your face when you’re really sick; I’m pretty sure I double that on a normal day. I have wicked allergy problems the likes of which most people can not begin to comprehend.

"Never, at any crisis of your life, have I known you to have a handkerchief."

Me ≠ Scarlett:  “Never, at any crisis of your life, have I known you to have a handkerchief.”

On the plus side, as so many of my friends and boyfriends and coworkers have pointed out over the years, I am one step closer to being an old man (which is kind of my dream*), so I totally don’t mind.

EN → handkerchief — a square of cotton or other finely woven material, typically carried in one’s pocket and intended for blowing or wiping one’s nose. ORIGIN Hand + kerchief [a piece of fabric], from Old French cuevrechief [couvrir ‘to cover’ + chief ‘head’].

ES → pañueloPedazo de tela pequeño, generalmente cuadrado, que sirve para limpiarse la nariz o el sudor y para otras cosas. [Small piece of cloth, generally square, which serves to wipe one’s nose or sweat and for other things.] ORIGIN diminutive of paño from Latin pannus [cloth].

FR → mouchoirPetite pièce de tissu fin ou de papier, généralement carrée, dont on se sert pour se moucher ou s’essuyer. [Small piece of cloth or paper, generally square, which is used to blow one’s nose into or wipe.] ORIGIN Latin muccare [mucus].

Tough to pick a winner today as all three are weird in their own ways. As has happened before, two languages have different Latin roots and the third takes a word from one of the previous two. Interesting too that all three specify a square shape when I wouldn’t have cited that as a necessary characteristic. Maybe I’ll give it to English since I’d never actually thought of the connection between “chief” and “chef.” In retrospect, it’s obvious that they’re derived from the same word but I would have guessed that “chief” was some kind of anglicization of a Native American word.

* The only thing standing in my way is being a girl, but I grew up in America where we were told we could be anything we wanted when we grew up so I’m still holding out hope.


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Pharmaceutical phull circle

If you know what this is, you have an old person in your life.

This is exactly the model I had. A whole month of drugs fit in here.

If you don’t know, it’s like an advent calendar for sick people. You put all of your pills in the corresponding window to make sure that you know when you have or haven’t taken your medicine.

I had one for almost ten years, during my twenties, to get a handle on the FIVE pills I had to take daily just to be able to walk around. This excessive dosing was to cope with the insane allergies I suffered while living in DC. Honestly, the place was built on a goddamn swamp which is a sure sign that it wasn’t supposed to be populated, but that’s where my job was, so multiple doses of antihistamines it was.

When I moved to Spain, one of the things I was really looking forward to was getting off my meds, but that proved to be a poor decision. The climate there almost exacerbated my condition even more, but the drugs were stronger so I only had to take three a day.
Through all of this, I held on to the dream of a drug-free life. My arrival in France meant another attempt at not being so doped up all the time and I succeeded. For months, I only took a regular pill to control what my dictionary says I can legitimately call “the curse” and that was it.

A less-bad day

Until The Knee Incident happened. Now, I’m taking prednisone (steroid), an industrial antacid (to protect my tummy from the steroid), an anti-inflammatory and a pain control thing (as needed) in addition to my daily pill. Were you counting in your head? I didn’t need to because I can visualize them in my hand every morning: there are four if it’s a good day, five if it’s not.

So, I’ve come full circle and relearned a lesson that I really should have gotten through my thick head long ago: the universe hates me and/or it wants to keep me heavily medicated so that I can’t anticipate what it’s going to do to me next. Well played, universe.