The French Class: Part 7



Jane was the most interesting person to me in our class, although it didn’t start out that way. She was from Singapore and was amazingly beautiful and had once been a Miss Singapore. I saw some of her photos from that time when she was in native costume and they were amazing. She was very talkative and often answered someone else’s question that Angela had asked in class. Of all of us, she worked the hardest at learning French. She desperately wanted to be fluent so she could get a job in Paris.

Victoria had met Jane in another French class and so knew a little about her. Right after our class started she missed a couple of days. Victoria said that this was because she had gotten into an argument with her husband and had gone to stay with a friend.

I found out about her and her husband, Patrick, at our class’s first coffee.

“How did you meet your husband, Jane?”

“Well, I was on vacation in Paris with a friend, Lee. In fact, my boss (also, it turned out, her boyfriend) had paid for our trip. We went to a famous fashion store to buy some things as they were having a big sale.” Many people go to this sale and you see long, long lines out front of the store on Champs Ellysees with only a few people at a time being let in.

“We had been in line for an hour and finally got in the store. I was feeling very crabby and hot and was more or less ignoring our salesman, who turned out to be Fredrick. He told Lee, ‘I think your friend is very beautiful.’ I had my head turned the other way and when Lee told me what I said I turned my head and we exchanged smiles.” As Maurice says, it was one of those “bing” moments.

” He asked us if we would like to go out for drinks that night with him and some of his friends, which we did. We were out until 3 in the morning and had a wonderful time. We went out every night that was left of our time in Paris, which was 3 days. He gave me his phone number and asked me to call.”

We were all very ingrossed in her story. She took a long time in telling it, drawing it out and making us anticipate what happened next.


“Well, I got back to Singapore and the more I thought about him, the more I missed him. So, I called him and we talked for hours. The next night he called me and begged me to come back to Paris and see him. I did and we spent every minute of a long weekend together. He asked me to marry him and I said yes. I went back to Singapore, he followed and we were married 3 weeks after we met.”

Three weeks! We were all amazed. I gathered it was a rather stormy marriage since she had gone to stay with a girl friend not long before. It sounded like all hearts and roses but there were a few thorns there that I learned about as time went on and we spent more time talking. First of all, they lived with his parents way outside Paris in some suburb. They only spoke French and she,too,had those long long dinners every night in the family dining room. She loved to ride horses and they had some so she got to do that in her free time.

One day she and I were having lunch at Victoria’s place. Jane got in the kitchen and made a salad which she said her mother-in-law had taught her how to make. She seemed to have a good relationship with her. After lunch we started talking about personal things. I told them about my ex and all that had gone on there. Victoria said, “Thank you for sharing that. That must have been a very difficult time for you.”

Jane had some photos with her from her honeymoon to show us. I have to admit Frederick was very handsome. That was when she told us that she had gotten pregnant on their honeymoon but had lost the baby a few weeks later. She wasn’t sure if it was a good thing or not. It was too early in their relationship for a baby. Victoria wanted to know if they were using birth control now, sensible woman that she is, and Jane said they were.

Then Victoria did an interesting exericise with us that she used with students or clients. She gave us a regular piece of paper and had us make a fold down the middle then open it up and draw a square on it. After we did that she had us draw a tree in the square.

I drew a palm tree for some reason. I made a slant of land in the right corner and the tree curved off from there to the left. I had three fronds on the left of the trunk and a few squiggly ones on the right. For good measure I added two coconuts.

Then Victoria gave each of us an interpretation of our drawings. It was almost psychic to me although she said it wasn’t.

She said, “It’s very interesting that your tree fills the whole square. The left side of the square is the past, the middle the present and the right the future, so that’s good. That means you aren’t just stuck in one part of your life. Now, there are three fronds here on the left. What do you have three of in the past?”

“Well, I have three children.” I thought this was kind of spooky.

Then she said, “It’s interesting that you have added fruit to your tree. Do you have two things in your past that you consider an accomplishment?”

I knew immediately. “My college education. And, even though it ended in divorce, I think being married for 26 years is an accomplishment.”

She agreed. She said the three little fronds I had drawn on the right represented things I was planning on or working on in the future. I had a lot of irons in the fire at the time and lots of plans for the future.

Jane had drawn a smaller square than I had. She had put a small tree entirly on the left side with no roots, no fruit, no limbs or fronds. She said to Victoria, “I was expecting you to ask us to draw something else in the square so I was saving room.” Victoria said it didn’t matter. This was all being pulled from our unconscious. We put things where our mind told us to.

She said, “Your tree is entirely on the left side which represents the past. Something in you is still drawn to the past. This is where you place the most value. The past is the most important thing to you.”

Jane didn’t really agree with this although she couldn’t say why. I found out a few weeks later that maybe the thing in the past she was still thinking about was an old boy friend. In fact, not only was he her boy friend when she met Patrick, but he had been her boss. She had been his secretary for five years and he had been supporting her in fine style with designer clothes and trips to Paris. Now she was living with a guy and his parents and the money was tight, from what she said. She also told us that Patrick was 12 years younger than she was as well as being an only child.

Towards the end of the semester I got a phone call from her. It was 10 o’clock at night and I was just about to get in bed. She had never called me before although she had asked for my phone number weeks ago. I could tell she was upset.

“I’m sorry for calling you so late but I really need to talk to you.”

“What’s wrong?” I knew it would be something about her husband.

“I’ve been arguing all evening with Patrick and I wanted your advice.”

“What’s the problem?” I was puzzled that she had called me. I am not exactly a subtitute mother type, at least I didn’t think I was. Maybe she thought of me as an older friend.

“I think part of the problem is that Patrick is so much younger than me, but women are coming into the store all of the time and telling him he should be a model and he’s decided to do it.”

“Yes?” He was really handsome.

“What am I going to do?” She burst into tears. “He will be around all of those young beautiful girls and I’ll loose him!” She cried some more. Geeze. What could I say? She was so hysterical that I didn’t know if she would hear anything I had to say anyway. But I gave it a try.

“Jane. First of all, you are an extremely beautiful woman. You were Miss Singapore for God sakes. You could be a model in my opinion, never mind Patrick. I don’t think you would have anything to worry about as far as other women. I know a lot of young, beautiful women must come into the store all of the time and he hasn’t left you for one of them.”

She sniffed. “That’s true.”

“Secondly, do you have any idea of how incredible hard it is to become a model? It’s right up there with becoming a major movie star. Just because he wants to do this, doesn’t mean he will succeed. This may all come to nothing and all of this emotional upset will be for nothing.”

She agreed. “Now, what I think the problem may be is that he wants to do something and you don’t want him to. This will make him more stubborn. The smart thing to do would be to tell him you are behind him 100% no matter what he wants to do, and, as I said, the chances are he won’t be doing any modeling anyway.”

“But what if I lose him?”she cried. “I love him!”

“I know you love him but you have to trust him to be true to you. And you have to realize that you have married a man still in his 20’s. He’s still growing up and changing. Not to mention that he is an only child. That means he will usually want things his way.”

She repeated that she loved him and didn’t want to lose him. By now Maurice had come in to look at me in puzzlement. I sounded like Dr. Laura.

“Well, Jane. Maybe you marriage isn’t going to make it. It has a lot of problems with him being so young and with you not really getting to know each other before marrying. Do you think you could go back to Singapore?”

“I don’t want to go back there. I’m happier in Paris.” She had gone back about a month ago for a few weeks to visit her parents and get her dog. When she came back she told us how happy she was to be back in Paris and sure Singapore wasn’t for her. “I want to stay here.”

“Do you have your legal papers yet?”

“What papers?”

“Did Patrick start getting any papers for you?” This was the first thing Maurice had done when we moved to Paris. It was a lot of work but I had a card that made me legal for 10 years and it allowed me to work.

“No. He hasn’t done anything.” That was too bad. If she left him she wouldn’t be able to stay in Paris. Not legally, anyway.

“You know, Jane, when women are young and newly married I think they tend to give too much to a marriage. Once the man has won you he feels his work is over, but women want the marriage to work so bad that they give and give and hope and hope even when nothing is there. Sometimes all that is there is your hope that the marriage is going to work. I have learned, over the years, that the woman has to start asking herself, “What’s good for me? What do I want? Is this marriage meeting MY needs?’ Maybe, your marriage is an illusion of what you want. I know my first marriage was. The whole thing was nothing that I thought it was because I was afraid the face the truth.”

We talked for about 30 minutes more. All I could do was repeat what I had said and tell her that she needed him to get going on the papers with her. By the end she seemed to have settled down and told me that she appreciated what I had said and would think about it. In my opinion, although I didn’t say it, was that she should kiss the marriage good-bye and move on.

I called Victoria the next morning which was a Saturday and talked to her about Jane. I was surprised Jane hadn’t called her. We discussed all of the girls in our class and how they had married Frenchmen and moved to Paris expecting, perhaps, glamerous lives and here they were living with in-laws or resentful stepchildren without much money. Then Victoria said something that really made sense to me.

“You know, I think that when they married a Frenchman, they also married their ideal of Paris.” I think she hit the nail on the head. Women, but especially young women, marry with all sorts of expectations and dreams and quickly find out that they are no where to be found in their marriages.

On Monday after class Victoria and I went up to Jane to see how she was. She said she was much better and then she shocked us.

“I’m pregnant.”

I know both of our mouths dropped open. It was all I could do not to say, “Are you kidding me?” But I didn’t. I just asked how she felt about it.

“I’m happy about it and a little apprehensive, too.”

Victoria asked, “How does Patrick feel about it?”

“He seems to be happy.” She didn’t look happy about it to me. I just couldn’t believe it.

Afterwards Victoria said, “I can’t believe they weren’t using birth control.”

“Me either. Man, what a mess.”

I was out of town a month later when I called Victoria and she told me that Jane had had an abortion.

Jane is one of the French students that I did see again. It turned out that she had divorced her French husband but had a new French boyfriend. I met her for drinks after work-she was working in one of the major department stores helping people from China. This was three years later and she and her boyfriend both said they didn’t like France and that the French were often jealous of them and sabatoged various things. She told me about situations that had happened at work to back this up. They were both talking about moving back to Singapore. She seemed to have grown up alot since that phone call. A month or so later I was walking in the St Germain area with some ladies and ran into her again walking her dogs. She was lucky enough to live in that posh area. One of these days I think I will pop back into the store she worked in and see if she is still there.

4 thoughts to “The French Class: Part 7”

  1. Interesting observation about expectations and ideals that we bring to situations. Perfect picture to go with the story.

  2. Exquisite photo. Most interesting to notice bit by bit all the detail from the interior that is reflected into the window. What a great metaphor for the story of this girl and her relationships.

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