gray hair pulled back by a wooden barrette...but it's a dude, in a suit.
However, the one thing I have never, ever gotten over, or will get over for that matter, is how rude some people can be here. I have tons of examples, but the thing that irritates me the most is how almost every French person I speak with feels the need to tell me how badly I speak or pronounce French.
Now, I will openly admit, I don't practice French enough. I don't/haven't taken any classes because I really don't care if I learn French. I know this is a terrible attitude and I am not defending it, but I never expected to live here for more than a year (how it got to be 5 years, I will never understand), so going to classes never appealed to me. When I have spare time, I prefer to spend it at a museum or exercising, not going to a class where a teacher can tell me how badly I speak French. And you'd be surprised how easy it is to live here without speaking the language. So yes, I absolutely, unequivocally admit, I suck at French. I understand damn near everything I hear, but my spoken French is probably not much better than a 4 year old's.
Normally, I do not strike up a conversation with someone I don't know. So if I am speaking to someone in French, I either know them (which makes the whole, "Oh my god, you're French is so terrible," comment even harder to take) or it is some random stranger who starts talking to me in a public place. In the US, I probably wouldn't respond to these people, but here, I just think, "Eh, here's a good chance to practice my conversational skills without feeling too stupid." I should know better. I always end up regretting this thought because without fail the person who started speaking to me ends up making some hateful comment about my level of French.
The most recent occurrence happened last Friday. I went for a walk in a neighborhood I've hitherto avoided because it isn't the best place in the world to go for a promenade. But the weather is getting better and I definitely wanted to see the area before leaving so I decided to suck it up, hide my wallet and brave it. I wasn't on the street for more than two minutes before a guy popped up beside me and started chatting. He walked with for about ten minutes, the whole time conversing in French with me responding in French. I did not say ONE English word. When I'd had enough of the the general, creepy conversation, I told him bye and said I was off to meet my husband (good way to get rid of pesky men fast). At this point, he decided that he should let me know just how badly I spoke French. Not only did he tell me my pronunciation was terrible, but also my conjugation and my verb usage was embarrassing. He even hinted that I might possibly be mentally challenged and should be tested because there are special programs in France for people who have "difficulties".
I hate to say that I will always recall incidences like these after I leave Paris because I have had some really great experiences here, but it just feels like things like this happen all too often for me to remember my time here with much more than a lukewarm feeling. I hope that after I've lived elsewhere for a few years, I will reflect and dreamily say, "Ah, Paris...," but most days I just can't think of many things I will miss once I am gone.