French Friday: I’m American. I Hug.

As soon as I started the Cours Préparatoire or CP, which is the equivalent of the American Kindergarten, I fell in love with history. I enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed the stories our teacher read out loud and the ones I started to decipher on my own, likely because I understood that history tells of a people’s stories. Likely also, because I lived in a village with one single elementary school divided between the lower and upper grades. While the first year in the lower grade completed easy additions or copied the alphabet, our teacher taught history to the first and second graders. And I listened.

Now that I think about the woman who taught me my first three years of elementary school I’m sure she was more rebellious than she looked. With her severe chignon, in her classic knee-length skirt, silky blouse worn underneath a lab coat, and her strict orders she definitely reigned above us. And yet I knew that she disliked anything royal. I could feel it. She was a public school teacher after all and worked in a country where the Revolution triggers strong opinions, still in 2018.


“It’s a protest? No, your majesty, it’s a revolution.” The infamous quote is the answer that the duke de la Rochefoucauld-Liancourt gave to Louis XVI, on July 14, 1789. Used now by the French railroad workers’ union to announce their strike with French President Emmanuel Macron as the king.

At home, my mother and my father put the principle of equality above liberty and fraternity. They were old enough to know that true liberty and fraternity could not be be achieved without equality.

As a kid I disliked the color bleu roi or royal blue, because of its name. Queens and princesses did not enchant me. I never dressed up as one, never pretended to be one, and certainly never wanted to be one. Real or not, I kept my distance from princesses.

One thing I loved about the U.S. when I moved there was the certitude that the country didn’t want to have anything to do with royalty either. I still applaud Americans for kicking those British tea trunks in the Boston Harbor, paving the way to the Revolution.

Last weekend, though, it was hard and almost impossible to entirely avoid royalty.

I managed to skip Harry and Meghan’s wedding on TV and everywhere else. I wish them the best, of course, as I would wish the best to any couple embarking the marriage boat. Which is equally hard to steer, for royalty and the rest of us.

That said there is ONE thing in common between Meghan and me.

When she started to visit Kensington Palace she greeted the palace guards with hugs, threatening centuries of protocol and shaking the entire kingdom (queendom since a while, in fact).

When scolded, Meghan replied, “I’m American. I hug.”

When I started to explore the countless playgrounds in my new American neighborhood I greeted mothers with solid handshakes.

No one scolded me, thanks to the infamous American acceptance. Yet, based on the quick surprised look I caught in their eyes, I should have felt compelled to explain, “I’m French. I shake hands. Or I kiss on both cheeks.”

I’m always glad that I didn’t go for the kiss. A bisou or a smack, like the French nowadays call the very light kiss (es) that only natives truly master, would have triggered some real shock, particularly in the early 1990s.

Phew. I’m so relieved for Meghan. At least she isn’t French.

Secretly, although I don’t care about what’s going on one way or another at the palace across the Chanel, I hope Meghan will stick to her good old American hugs and defend them.

When instinctively I lean toward French people to embrace them and meet their resistance I also say, “I’m American. I hug.”





  1. OH ! OH ! – et sourires 🙂

  2. Hugs and kisses… Aww. 😉

  3. Behind the Story says:

    When I was a child, I loved fairy tales with princes and princesses. I suppose I liked the pretty dresses. I didn’t worry our country ever returning to a monarchy. Until last year, I assumed our democracy would go on forever. Now I realize how fragile it is.

    I did watch the royal wedding last weekend. It was a good break from the more unpleasant news. I enjoyed the beauty of the surroundings and of traditions. It reminded me of my wedding and my daughters’ weddings, days when we made an effort to make everything special because marriage is important. And the guests also made an effort by dressing up and traveling to the wedding to show their support of the marriage. Ceremonies can be silly or meaningful. If the participants’ hearts are in the right place, they’re meaningful.

    • Oh, I agree with you, Nicki, on the importance of marriage. It’s a huge deal when two people choose to live their lives together. Absolutely. Whether they belong to the working-class, the movie industry, or a royal dynasty. And yes, when they get married they have the choice to choose the kind of celebration they want to make this day theirs. Totally agree. Let’s just say that royal things and mega weddings are not my things. This is why I really hope to watch the newlywed couple break conventions and do important work around them. With Meghan’s American hugs.
      See you on your blog.

  4. I’m sending a virtual hug. It’s probably and awkward one, because that is often my style – but I try.

  5. Love this post in entirety. Might be my favorite one I’ve read here on your site. Yes, we’re huggers. We are. Kisses are for dear friends. Handshakes are for strangers. Everyone else is a hug.

    • Thank you, Joey. I’m glad you enjoyed this post and blush because of the compliment. If you enjoyed what you read, and since you know some French you might like my upcoming post 🙂

  6. Laughing, Evelyne. I hug to. And I have never been overly impressed with royalty or royalty doings, whether its of the Buckingham Palace or Hollywood type. –Curt

  7. ” Queens and princesses did not enchant me. I never dressed up as one, never pretended to be one, and certainly never wanted to be one. Real or not, I kept my distance from princesses.”

    As you know, enough little girls in America and Canada like to pretend they are a queen or princess.. How interesting these cultural differences and perceptions of royalty.

    I personally never wanted to. I couldn’t even relate to princess or queen idea. Certainly my parents from China never fostered the thought. China deposed their last empress in early 1900’s. Maybe my youngest sister might have played princess ..I just don’t remember. The thing is growing up with 4 other younger sisters, we didn’t play that pretend game… it would be like a mini competition. Already I was the eldest and bossy until I was 15 yrs. old. So no point playing queen or princess. 🙂

    • I love the last line of your comment! I guess these princess and prince games are made for some and not for others. I was far more interested by the poor, the underdog and the rebels!

  8. I was never in favour of royalty and don’t believe in the inherited wealth and privilege, though I do find I’ve softened towards our royal family over the years – particularly the queen. This royal wedding was very different and I do hope that some good in the world will come from the platform they have to make changes.


  1. […] there was Joey‘s comment on my last post. “Yes, we’re huggers,” she wrote about Americans. “We are. Kisses are for […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: