My high school French teacher did not speak French.
Trying to learn a language from a woman who does not speak it herself is a daunting task, and my mother, who was quite proficient in French, often flinched at my pronunciation. In retrospect, Spanish would have done me far better in life, but at my high school, there was a subtext to the language you selected.
French: you are smart, and maybe a little on the wild side romantically.
German: you are extremely smart, but you are also a closet Nazi.
Spanish: you are not very smart, and want to pad your transcript with an easy A.
Clearly, German was out so that people would not mistake me for a Nazi. I waffled between Spanish and French. But I did not want colleges thinking I picked fluffy Spanish over a more challenging course, and being thought of as a little wild was an image I was desperate to project. Pimply, gawky thirteen-year-old library nerds need all the help they can get. So French it was, with a teacher who did not speak it, and who had been removed from teaching second-year French after the parents of her students banded together and complained to the administration.
Due to this, what I list below shows you all of the French I know:
The sad part is that I knew those first two before I’d even enrolled in the class. And so we are left with my mastery of raison d’être, which means reason for being. I believe that we had to write a few sentences in French about our raison d’être for homework. Teachers have no idea what agony they cause with an assignment like this, especially when one must share the answer with a classroom of vicious teenagers. One must find something bland and inoffensive, something that cannot be tittered about, something so boring that everyone has forgotten it the second it is given voice.
But I am no longer in high school, and I feel no shame in admitting the truth here. I can say without a shadow of doubt that you have a cooler raison d’être than I do. For some of you, your raison d’être is your significant other or children. For others, it is your pets or friends. Certain people have work or a hobby or a religion that they love beyond reason. When it comes to many narcissistic celebrities, their raison d’être is simply themselves. My own raison d’être only exists two months out of the year in America, and in the remaining ten, I try desperately not to dwell upon our separation. In Aisle 11 of CVS on Saturday, I stumbled over the ultimate reason for my existence on the third shelf down from the top.
Cadbury Crème Eggs.
The Dark Time of the year has ended. Let us revel in the return of the light.