So today I had a very enlightening conversation with a random French man about how I am such an obvious American.
In other words, it is Monday.
Before today, I thought the easiest way to identify someone’s nationality was by their choice in footwear. Like everything else European, European shoes are generally sleeker and skinnier, more angular and polished than their American equivalents.
And, a lot pointier—even (or especially) for men’s dress shoes. I’ve seen ones that are more triangular at the top than any woman’s heel, or even any female Barbie’s heel. It’s certainly something to look at when you’re in a crowded Metro car and can’t look up or stare ahead without invading the personal space of someone’s armpit.
Even their sneakers are somehow more polished. They’re not as wide, I guess, is the easiest way to describe it. And no running shoes—all fashionable sneakers, which is more of a thing in France than in America.
Somehow this also relates to Converse sneakers (which are actually a Big Deal in France and are sold everywhere), and they seem not at all like the sloppy, Ramones rock ‘n’ roll Converse we have in the States.
So this is another game I like to play on crowded Metro days: guess the nationality by their shoes. Surprise, surprise, most of the contestants are Europeans, but when you hit the clunky running shoes, Tevas, or Toms, then ding ding ding! We have an American.
The one thing I keep getting thrown on is French Crocs. I finally found something that isn’t automatically cuter because it is French. SCORE!
And while I still think this nationality theory is true, I was given another method of guessing while shopping at the Fran Prix (like the closest thing the French have to a supermarket). I was in the cheese aisle (of course) trying to pick something out and there was a twenty-something guy who was kind of close to me, not in a creepy way but in a hey, we’re in the same aisle, I won’t look at you but I will move to give you room if you continue this way. And we both turned to walk down the aisle our own ways and ended up doing the whole awkward dance to get around each other thing—that happens in France too, or at least I make it happen in France.
Of course I smiled awkwardly, as I always do, and he said, in Frenchy English, “You are American?”
Ok. Not to get all Gossip Girl on you, but I was wearing jeans (rolled up at the cuff à la Katie Holmes), a black shirt, and a long black sweater—accesorized with plain nude ballet flats and a blue bandana in my hair, Rosie the Riveter style (I did not mean to dress like a cross between Tom Cruise’s ex and a feminist icon, I assure you). So my outfit wasn’t crazy American, right?
French girls wear nude flats all the time. I know this because they are generally cleaner and less scruffy than mine and I am insanely jealous.
“Oui. How did you know?” I asked (in French, of course, but it was still a dead giveaway).
“I knew it as soon as I saw your smile.”
I mean, it’s no “you had me at hello,” but….. just kidding.
“Really?” I asked skeptically, smirking because I didn’t want to show teeth again.
“You Americans have such straight, white teeth. Good work,” he said, before wishing me good day and successfully walking past me.
Um. Well. Okay then. Thanks for complimenting the people (and their dentists and orthodontists) of my home country, I guess?
Nothing happened with him, obviously, and I didn’t get a creepy vibe from him. In the end, he didn’t give me his number and we didn’t go on a date but he did give me some food for thought.
They’re just my teeth. Yes, I had braces, so they’re nice and straight—as they should be, after four years of wearing the teeth train tracks. And I’m a good little girl so I brush my teeth twice a day. But are they really that American?
Come on. I wasn’t even wearing my American flag grillz … because that douche bag Ryan Lochte hasn’t returned them to me yet.
But seriously. I learned an important cultural lesson today and it happened in the cheese aisle in a little French grocery store, of all places: apparently I can wear all the red lipstick and pointy black flats and little black dresses and Longchamp bags I want but it doesn’t even matter one bit because I will still be an obvious MURRICAN.
I mean, at that point, why not just bring a fanny pack and a L.L. Bean fleece jacket with me everywhere I go?
Seems like my best bet is to just not smile anymore. And honestly I think that would be harder than wearing a fanny pack in public.