Sunday, August 28, 2016

Dreaming of France -- Feeling Safe in France

Thank you for joining this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you're in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us. We can take it.

This is a guest post that I did for a blog called "The Book Tree" and I thought I'd share it here.

In my latest novel, Paris Runaway, when a 17-year-old bolts to Paris, all the mother can picture is danger. She’s seen the movie Taken! She knows her daughter could fall into the hands of sex-slave traders. But even more, she fears the radical terrorists who make Europe their home – the suburbs of Paris or the outer arrondisements of Brussels where immigrants live in poverty. She watched the news that November night when terrorists killed young people in restaurants and at concerts in Paris, when we all posted “Je suis Paris” on our Facebook pages. So the mother chases after her daughter, hoping to find her safe and take her back to Florida. What the mother finds is a different way of life that seduces her.

The same is true for me. When I am in France, I don’t feel in danger.

Sure, when I was young and traipsed through the streets of Paris alone, I received some male attention. I was 23 when I spent three months in France. Freed from my nanny duty, I would venture into downtown Paris by train and see the sights – the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, l’Orangerie where Monet’s water lily paintings cover the walls.

As I walked through Paris, my eyes round in amazement, men would call out to me, try to engage me in conversation. My plan of action was to ignore them – no eye contact, no smile, no recognition. And for the most part it worked – until it didn’t.

I’m not sure where I had been that day, when a persistent young man decided to get my attention. He called out to me in French. Then in English. He tried Spanish and a few other languages too. I continued to walk, head up, ignoring him.

He walked backward beside me for a while, trying to get my attention. Then he simply followed me, speaking the whole time, wheedling, trying to entice me. As the minutes passed, I began to grow worried at his refusal to leave me alone.

Ahead of me, inside a black, wrought-iron fence churchyard, I saw a door open in a stone building and the sound of organ music filtered out. Without glancing at the insistent man again, I slipped into the door and perched on a wooden kneeler, sitting through an entire mass to escape the dogged man who might, or might not, have been a danger to me.

Now, I’m a true grown up. Men might occasionally smile at me or nod their heads, but no one tenaciously tries to win my attention as I sight-see in Paris or Marseille or Aix en Provence.

When I tell friends and relatives that my husband and I plan to move to France, they cluck in worry. “It’s so dangerous there,” they’ll say.

Sometimes I simply point to the newspaper and the latest gun deaths in the United States, which is much higher than in France. Most of the time, I’ll shrug (I’m practicing my French shrugs) and say, “C’est la vie!” That’s life. We can’t be afraid to live the life we want; otherwise, we might get to the end and realize that we made it safely, but we forgot to enjoy the journey.

I hope you’ll take a journey in Paris Runaway and see what the main character, Sadie, chooses to do.

Thanks so much for playing along with Dreaming of France today. Please leave your name and blog address in Mr. Linky below, and leave a comment letting me know what  you think about my love affair with France, or your own passion for the country and its people and cultures. Also consider visiting the blogs of others who play along so we can all share the love.


Anonymous said...

I feel far safer in France than in the U.S. Mass shootings are unheard of--yes, there was the terrorist attack, but in the U.S., far more people have died in mass shootings. One third of the world's mass shootings between 1966 and 2012 happened in the U.S., which has only 5% of the world's population. Road rage also is very rare.
I once left a soirée in Paris near the Institut du Monde Arabe and, not finding a cab, walked back to my friend's place near 2 a.m. Several cars stopped to offer me a lift, but I just answered that I was just around the corner from my destination. And they accepted it.

Joy said...

I always compare risks to car accidents so that I know I'm being realistic. I drive my car pretty much every day and nothing approaches the risk of that, even walking alone in the great cities of our world.

I love being a bit older and the reduction of harassment that came with that. Part of it is the loss of attraction, I suppose, but I prefer to think of it as a gain in confidence and looking like I can give back as good as I get -- don't mess with me.

Paulita said...

Francetaste, Yes, I agree. For some reason, Americans only count the really big events as being unsafe.
Joy, Yes, pros and cons about no longer being noticed on the street, but mostly pros.

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