Patronyms and other derivatives of the word Pater

In Local projects, New story, notes, Revision on October 23, 2013 at 5:18 am

The woman almost flew into me, in her eagerness to share. This was Sunday morning at the outdoor market. “Did you see that? They think they have every right! Shoved me aside! They think they…” – “Who are you calling They, Madame?” – “You know.” A wink. A head movement toward the women in scarves.

At that moment, had I carried a scarf in my pocket, I’d have plopped it down on my head. Instead, I told the lady she was talking to the wrong  We/Us about the Them/Theys. As if on cue, one of the circus crowd showed up to say Hi. We laughed and joked. The woman fell into line behind me, seething with resentment.

She’ll be back. With me or with someone else. She’ll join forces with the guy who felt empowered to rant against foreigners at the bakery, the other day. I’m a foreigner myself. I pay taxes, I choose to put up with the various levels of bureaucratic hurdles inherent to the French system. I’m a foreigner, but I don’t look foreign. I don’t wear a head scarf. I keep my regional accent to myself, and only trot it out on demand.

The experience: reminiscent of meetings in Toronto where smart-ass lawyers from the music industry liked to make smart-ass jokes about the frogs (French-Canadians, in Canadian parlance). I’m a frog, except you don’t know it unless you happen to know the patronym I received at birth. I happened to be presiding those meetings. Yes, I enjoyed the tiny moment when one of them ran a finger inside his tight shirt collar. You take whatever small victory you find.

Reminded me of another amusing incident when members of one religious community figured they could discuss me in their vernacular, assuming I wouldn’t understand a word. At one point, one of the gentlemen leaned into his neighbor and said: “I think she understands what we’re saying.” To which I smiled and responded: “Yes, she does.”

I’m a coward in too many ways to count. Riddled with anxiety, and subject to panic attacks. The one thing that knocks me forward instead of back in a cowering position: people making assumptions about me or others, based on physical appearance or speech patterns. I can’t stand others assuming I share their opinions, without even bothering to know me.

Not to mention the woman in Austria who didn’t want her daughter to play with mine, because of the patronym my daughter received at birth.

Or the internal memo circulated to a group of Americans in a foreign land.  From the intended expatriates, two small spelling mistakes turned them  into ex-patriots. Considering the nature of their business, the foreigner in their midst  who noticed the glitch  still tends to smile when she thinks about it.


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