Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Lately my posts have been focused on bellies, bumps and babies. At this point it only seems fair to throw in a post about balls. This particular entry has been on my mind ever since I moved here, my delay in writing it has to do with my lack of photographic evidence but I will just have to use my words (and possibly a stolen image or two) as a substitute.

The French love testicles. They don't hide them under grape leaves, they don't  shelter them with baggy swim-wear, they rarely remove them from their pet dogs and occasionally they savor them sautéd with cream sauce. NOTE Rongons Blancs is the seemingly innocent name given ram testicles often listed on fancy French menus. 

Growing up I was more of a cat person than a dog person and to be honest with you, I have never taken a great interest in feline or canine anatomy. Based on the fact that I never noticed any dog testicles in the States, I innocently concluded that dog genitalia was tucked up under their bellies and only protruded when their was work/play to be done. I was satisfied with this answer and left the topic alone.  However when I arrived in Paris, a city who loves their dogs and firmly disagrees with Bob Barker, I was honestly caught off guard by the sheer size and visibility of dog testicles and was forced to reevaluate my previous conclusion. I was shocked to discover that A. Neutering your dog actually involves removing their testicles (I assumed it was more like a human vasectomy... more on that in a moment) and B. That dog balls are so... well... eye catching.

image stolen from the internet 

While I have not found the right time or place to ask a Parisian dog owner if I may photograph their dog's testis for my blog (lack of balls on my part you might say?!) I have had the pleasure of speaking to a few dog owners about this topic. My favorite conversation was with a manly boat captain who was the master of a giant bulldog, whose bulging testicles made him waddle instead of walk. When I inquired about why he chose not to neuter his pup, he looked at me strangely, like I had just asked him why he had elected to not cut of his dog's ears? After seeing that my question was a serious one, he took a moment to think about it then grinned and said, "Why should I have all the fun?". 

Now not all French people feel this way. The Original Madame was in town last week and was gushing with pride when she described her new West Highland Terrier, Ebo, to us. Ebo is the cream of the crop with pedigreed parents, a shiny white coat, perfect proportions, evenly spaced eyes and so on and so on. As part of her elaborate description of just how fabulous this dog is, she noted that even a small sample of his sperm is worth hundreds of Euros and that there are countless female dog owners who would happily pay top dollar to roll around in the sac with a handsome fellow like Ebo. My ears perked up when I heard this and Grégoire's eyes briefly unglazed because he and I have been looking for ways for Madame to entertain herself as she enters her golden years of retirement and earn a little pocket money. This seemed perfect! For the rest of her stay we encouraged her not to castrate Ebo and instead to start a little Westie stud service in Southern Brittany. She seemed somewhat onboard with the idea but upon her return to Quiberon she found Edo humping her newly embroidered couch cushions and lost it. Ebo consequently lost his balls this weekend and will be sharing his prize winning sperm with no one.  
well designed government issued brochure

Moving on to the topic of human males and their balls, I would like to tell you about birthing class last week. We discussed post-partem issues including contraception. Sylvie, our mid-wife and class leader, passed out stylish brochures from the government listing the various creams and contraptions one can use to prevent a second pregnancy too close to first. She then said, staring at me, "Class, you will note that vasectomies are not listed here because they are illegal* in France... unlike in SOME counties... isn't that right Mary?". I was honestly surprised and said, louder than I planned, "What! Why?". Eva, the Danish chick in my class was right there with me pointing out that vasectomies were permitted in Denmark. Sylvie then explained to the group that the French government considered vasectomies to be a form of self mutilation and that in any case men are incapable of making that kind of permanent decision, "I mean, can you imagine Mary if that poor man changes his mind?".

This kind of logic is a classic example of Negative Freedom vs Positive Freedom, a concept that I would like to delve into soon in another post. Essentially Negative Freedom limits your choices so you are free from having to make mistakes like neutering yourself and Positive Freedom puts it all on the table and lets you decide what is and isn't a good choice for you. France has a long history with Negative Freedom while America prefers Positive Freedom.

Irregardless, my class's (and my husband's) verdict was clear, they all looked at me with eyes that said "Torturing terrorists and capital punishment isn't enough for you people? You also have to dabble in genital mutilation? What's next?". 

So vive les testicules I suppose! At the very least this phenomenon explains why Paris is teaming with dogs and babies.

* I wanted to do a little further research on the legality of vasectomies in France and found this interesting article about a Frenchman's struggle to get around the current law: 

Sunday, July 18, 2010

I HEART Pregnant Ladies

The whole I heart trend swept though Paris this year in the form of stickers, sweatshirts, graffiti and more. While everyone strives to put an original spin on it, the only I HEART _____ that really caught my eye was this sticker stuck to a scooter parked infront of the agency...

Translation: I HEART nothing. I am Parisian. (Note: this rhymes in French making it all the funnier in my opinion)

I love this sticker on so many levels. Parisians really do appear to love nothing and even the few things they secretly do love they happily criticize from time to time just to keep things consistent. The one enormous exception to this rule is pregnant ladies. Never have I experienced so much love, affection and attention from my fellow city dwellers then I have over the past few months.

Not only does everyone I meet (aunt, baker, banker, boss, co-worker, cleaning lady, delivery guy, doorman...) want to talk to me about out my pregnancy, they all want to compliment me and cheer me on! Wishing me bon courage! And telling me what a great job I am doing!

The first set of comments and compliments rolled in at around five months when my belly started to show. The Parisian women in my life peeped up first, commenting on the size and shape of my expanding midsection. "Oh la la Mary, the shape of your belly is so perfectly round! How lucky you are!" or "Mary, pregnancy suites you so well! Look at the curves of this bump it is perfect!". They discussed and drooled over my tummy as if it were the new must have accessory for the summer that my ultra rich husband bought for me as a gift.

Adoration of the bump soon expanded from my private circle of acquaintances to the sphere of public art. It was both part of me and not part of me, it was as if I had sculpted something lovely for the whole world to look at, admire and comment on. Parisians who are known to stomp the streets wearing their funeral faces would briefly remove their stoney masks and smile at my belly or make a kind remark. Note: Never did a Parisian run up and touch my belly, something people from the States warned me about and something I was preparing for mentally. Must be too close to hugging for their comfort.

I should tell you that it is not just the women; as I was walking down the street I overheard two young men sitting in a café say, "Ahhh look at her! Some guys are just lucky as I guess.". I also had a charming old man stop me as he exited the bakery one morning to say to me with admiring eyes, "Félicitations madame! Go make us a beautiful baby!". Who the 'us' is in this sentence is open-ended. I am assuming he means us as in Team France as in go forth young lady and make a beautiful French baby who we can add to the ranks of tax-paying-French-speaking-citizens-of-the-world... I can't help but wonder if I were not a young, fair skinned brunette if he would have said the same thing?

In addition to the kind words that swirl around pregnant Parisians there are all kinds of kind gestures that are offered to make sure we are as comfortable as possible. This is most notable when riding the public transit system in Paris. People practically leap out of their seats when they see you insisting that you take their spot. At times more than one person will offer and then a small debate amongst the travelers will ensue, "Take my seat in the corner madame, you will be more protected here" followed by "Non non madame take my seat by the window you will be more comfortable here!".
Last week I hopped on the bus. Buses in Paris are a lovely airy luminous alternative to the underground  metro and have the added benefit of not having to hike up and down stairs with a giant belly, a stroller or a walking cane. Because of this, buses in Paris are stuffed full of the old, the pregnant and the leagues of parents burdened with strollers and toddlers. In this kind of environment I believe almost everyone deserves a seat, but again, fair or unfair, pregnant ladies trump all! When I got on the bus last week I saw that all the seats were filled with young mothers and the elderly. No one offered me their spot which seems logical to me, plus I was feeling fine standing up so I grabbed the bar and was ready to depart. Just then, the bus driver looked in the mirror, opened the door to his little cabin, stepped out and announced to the bus that he was not leaving until someone offered me a seat! I assured him that I was fine and this wasn't necessary and he simply wouldn't not hear it.

So while in a few weeks form now when this little bébé is born I will certainly not miss my swollen ankles and killer heart burn, I will almost certainly miss the rare affection and attention of my fellow urban dwellers reserved for pregnant ladies. Although who knows how much they heart babies?