February 17, 2008
When our featured writer started to chronicle her life as the blogger Petite Anglaise, matters quickly spun out of control
Ask any English girl who has ever lived in France, and I’m sure she’ll tell you she has been called a petite anglaise at some time or another. It is a name loaded with meaning: an affectionate tone implies that the anglaise in question is not just English, but cute and English; a hint of lasciviousness makes her sound sexy and taps into a commonly held view that English girls are rather easy. But there is another layer of meaning I’ve always found appealing: those two words summed up neatly everything I ever wanted my life to be: an English girl who has been translated into French, her life transposed into a French key.
I embraced everything French and even met my own Mr Frog through my friend Sarah, a Scots girl with a penchant for sex with strangers. At the time, we were both assistantes at the Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris. Sarah placed an ad in a classifieds magazine.
“Jeune fille anglaise ouverte cherche amis français,” it read. She was overwhelmed by the volume of enthusiastic responses, ranging from the filthiest of indecent proposals to earnest letters from men claiming they sought only to practise their English.
We moved in together when my stint at the Sorbonne Nouvelle came to an end. With Mr Frog by my side, I laid the foundations for my French life. I was no longer just any petite anglaise. I was his. We were deliriously happy.
Seven years later, we lived in an apartment building on the avenue Simon Bolivar with one-year-old Tadpole, our daughter. It pained me to see how much Mr Frog had aged: long hours at work had leached the colour from his cheeks. The boy I’d fallen in love with had eyes that twinkled like the illuminations on the Eif-fel Tower, he kidded around, and never failed to see the funny side. The man I lived with now was a pale, grey-scale shadow of his former self.
We shared a home, slept side by side, and yet we were trapped in separate routines, a widening gulf between us. All that remained were echoes of how we used to be. Most nights he returned home hours after Tadpole’s bedtime; long after I had eaten, watched a film or retired to bed with my book.