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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Regrets, I’ve had two

I don’t believe in regret. It’s not an efficient feeling and I am all about efficiency. (I should have been born German or Swiss.)

Before my enlightenment, one thing happened which would qualify as a regret, but I don’t think about it too often. It’s also personal, so I won’t be sharing it. Since I’ve developed my own tenets and started to live a life less encumbered by stuff that’s annoying, stupid and wasteful, I’ve done one thing which I would like to do over: getting rid of these shorts.

They really were glorious.

They really were glorious.

Now, they don’t look like much, but these shorts were Made in the USA by Champion. They were a magical sweatshirt material with a drawstring waist and they had pockets. (I can not impress upon you enough how key pockets are.) They were a gift from an old boyfriend in 1993. I wore them all the damn time. They were the perfect thing to pull on to run to the corner for milk or cigarettes. They were also ideal for biking, wearing over bikini bottoms and as house cleaning clothes. Before I became a grownup and started hiring movers, I also regularly wore these while hauling my own boxes.

When I changed apartments in February of 2012, I decided to get rid of them on a whim. They were old (though they still looked pretty good, considering) and it seemed a bit weird to hold on to something given to me by a person I hadn’t spoken to in over a decade. I try not to be sentimental about too many objects because they will weigh you down and wear you down. I don’t think it’s healthy to have reminders of lives long left behind around to haunt you all the time.

So I washed them, took a picture for posterity and threw them in a charity bin. It was the right choice, but I gotta admit: I wish I had a pair just like them all the time. I’d wear them for another 20 years.

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Word Mystery: tool / herramienta / outil

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

301 pieces of SUPER FUN TIMES

301 pieces of SUPER FUN TIMES

Tools are among my favorite things. I think this is because tools have a specific, defined, useful and practical purpose. Tools are either good, or they’re not. They work as advertised, or they don’t. Sure, you can get fancy tools, but just ’cause they’re expensive doesn’t mean they’ll work any better. You’ve gotta respect tools for being that straightforward.

You’ve also gotta respect ’em ’cause they make you learn a new word for them in every language, the sly devils.

EN → tool — a device or implement, esp. one held in the hand, used to carry out a particular function. ORIGIN Old English tōl, from a Germanic base meaning “prepare”.

ES → herramientaInstrumento, por lo común de hierro o acero, con que trabajan los artesanos. [Instrument, typically iron or steel, with which artisans/craftsmen work.] ORIGIN Latin ferramenta [iron trader].

FR → outilObjet fabriqué, utilisé manuellement ou sur une machine pour réaliser une opération déterminée. [Fabricated object used manually or by a machine to perform a given task.] ORIGIN Latin ŭsitīlium [necessary objet, furniture, utensil] derived from ūti [make use of, be used].

As usual, Spanish disappoints, this time by coming from a fairly straightforward Latin word. French surprises with the information that the Romans classed all practical items used on a regular basis together. I like this idea, as well as its further root, since that also speaks to practicality (one of the tenets of my religion).

But today’s winner is English because “tool” does not come from Latin and because when Germans prepare for stuff, they mean business, which is another of the foundational principles of my way of living.


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The Purge

Packing may be my first love, but getting rid of stuff is a close second. The feeling of calm and accomplishment I get from tightly fitting things into a box is different from the slightly weightless tipsy sensation of seeing a pile of things I will no longer be burdened by, but both are very pleasant.

Mid-purge. It ended up taller than me and several feet wide.

Mid-purge. It ended up taller than me and several feet wide.

Inspired by my slightly sad looking towel hanging in the bathroom, I decided to do a mini-purge the other day. Because I am a sinvengüenza, here is a partial list of the things I got rid of in my first pass:

8 pairs of shoes
7 pairs of jeans
6 pairs of pants
5 pairs of gloves
4 scarves
3 dresses
3 jackets
3 belts
2 yoga mats
2 purses
assorted fitted sheets
assorted towels (bath, hand and kitchen)

You might think that it’s excessive that I had all of these things to spare and you would be right, but I do have a legitimate excuse. Being an itinerant expat means that every time I go to a new country or city, I take only the luggage that I’m allowed, usually just one medium suitcase. This means that I’ve had to re-buy most of the things I use every day at least four times in the past decade.

For instance, when I land in a new city, I have a high absorbency towel with me, but I don’t want to use that for the rest of my life, so then I have to go out and buy two new proper towels. (One must always have a spare.) Once all my boxed stuff catches up with me (usually months later), I suddenly have a lot more towels. Ditto yoga mats and big spa bath robes of which I apparently owned THREE. And I’m a person who gets cold easily and I like to bundle so I had SIX full size fleece blankets and three throws. I now have two of each. Add in that US, Spanish and French mattresses are ALL DIFFERENT sizes and the result is that I also owned lots of sheets that likely won’t fit any bed I’ll ever sleep on again.

Purging isn’t for everyone (like my mother who will be pissed that I’m outing her as a hoarder on the Internet) but I do think it’s a good practice and is generally good for society. If you’re daunted by the task, start small, like in the closet and see how it goes.

Le cul’s clothes purging tips

If it’s over 10 years old, OUT
If it’s faded, worn thin in patches or has required repeated button-sewing-on, OUT
If it’s suited to a situation you no longer find yourself in, OUT
If you can only remember one time you wore it, OUT
If you bought it for a specific occasion, OUT
If it was a never-worn gift, OUT
If you have a newer item that serves the same purpose, OUT
If you haven’t worn that size in four years, OUT
If it’s dry clean only, OUT

Following these pretty basic and reasonable guidelines, I think anyone could make a significant dent in the amount of crap they have. Happy sorting!

[Ed.: I haven’t seen THE PURGE because I don’t like scary movies but I know it’s a thing that exists.]