“Dancing like I did for way too many years to count, one day I found myself sitting at the kitchen table in my apartment in Paris, feeling lower than a snail’s belly…. I recognized that my shame had power over me… as long as I refused to admit that I too felt vulnerable. That was the real problem. Being scared, scarred, abused, taken advantage of and left to fend for myself taught me a lot of things.” Julie Anderson
I wish I’d known you the day you sat at that kitchen table in Paris feeling lower than a snail’s belly. French as I am, I know a lot about escargots. Even those with a fleshy belly that drags on the gravel don’t taste good. “Let’s be going to the campagne, I take yoo,” I would have started, “I will peak yoo up at your bill-ding and wee will go to Fontainebleau to Napoleon’s castle.”
A short afternoon 45 minutes south of noisy Paris
For a vacation away from a shameless industry
Supermodeling, mon derriere!
A stroll in the winding city street and through the château’s park
Arms locked, walking together à la française
To passerby we would look complicit
We would quietly laugh at the prospect
of their assumptions
Not lovers, better
Caring friends never afraid to fight Shame together
After the walk a light lunch
The Brasserie des deux amis, so à propos
You would order a Jambon beurre
I would order a salade campagnard
and some fruits on the side.
After the first bite
You would speak of the Shame you had felt that morning;
Being scared, scarred, abused —
“Taken advantage of
And left to fend for myself…”
I would listen and hear your call for a new heart
emptied of that violent history,
Voided of these men, young and old, and their unforgivable desire to possess.
“The pain taught me a lot of things,” you would conclude,
stealing a bite of my salade.
Une tarte aux pommes et une tarte aux framboises,
my desserts, yours.
As always I would find beauty in your insights,
I would find strength in your desire to comprehend your pain.
I would encourage your desire to fight back,
something I wouldn’t be able to do myself
on my own.
And I would tell you how much I admire your fortitude:
“J’adore cette force qui fait de toi une personne exceptionnelle, Julie.
Malgrés la violence, malgrés les tourments
Tu es toujours combattante, Julie.
Tu es belle dans la peur
Tu es au plus fort de toi quand ils essaient de te faire porter le fardeau de leur faiblesse.”
My words rewarded by your smile. Sad.
A long moment, silence and sadness, one, heavy and dangerous.
But like I’ve seen you do it many times before,
you would shake off the burden of sadness.
You would push away despair, past torments haunting the present;
you would bring hope to the forefront, the present building a better future.
A sip of coffee, warm caramel lipstick on your perfect lips
You would lean forward, eyes blue, bright, and conquerant
I have this crazy idea! you would say in a soft whisper
Dis-moi, I would respond,, moving closer
I want to create a magazine
Un fashion magazine?
You would frown, Fuck no!
Quel genre, alors?
Pour les femmes and a few good men!
Okay, what woold it bee abowt?
It would be about letting go of shame by sharing our stories
Stories about ze what?
Stories of abuse, neglect, pain, fear, recovery, survival, fortitude
Stories to counter the effect of shame
A literary remedy to unprovoked violence
A means to heal wounds that should never have been
That woold be so cooool and scaree! I would respond enthusiastically.
Who woold write ze stories? Real stories with ze real people or fixions?
Real stories written by poets, survivor Angels! My kind of angels.
T’es devenue folle? Angels, you are sea-lee!
Mais non je ne suis pas folle! You would say, your biggest smile firing a happy brain response,
Julie’s Angels would be writers, mostly women, who have a desire to share their story to kick Shame in the balls.
C’est une idée génial! I would erupt, Fuck shame! ‘Fuck Shame’ zat coold be the title of ze magazine! Non?
Non, non, non, you would laugh, I am thinking more along the lines of the ‘femmes alliance’ or ‘feminine collective.’
I like zat! Ze feminine collective….and a few good men!
Non, just The Femine Collective! You would laugh louder.
Pas juste, I would smile back.
At the end of this wonderful afternoon, I would drive you back to Paris.
I would feel your body tensing up as we got closer to the city
A return to the brightly lit up burden of Shame
You would get quieter as I zigzagged through your arrondissement
By the time I would stop the car by your building you would have retreated into a deep silence
I would take your hand and, in French, looking deep into your watery eyes, I would say:
Julie, Angels don’t fall from the sky anymore and they don’t bother to come to help women fight shameless brutes.
I believe in your impeccable intelligence and limitless determination.
One day, I know you are going to hand pick your Angels
You are going to organize your army
And we are going to fight Shame, abuse, violence, neglect, and fear together.
We can’t do it alone, Julie.
Even extraordinary YOU, can’t do it alone.
Find your angels and please don’t forget!
Don’t forget what? You would ask after a moment of silent.
Don’t forget to include a few good men, like moi!
You needy fucker! You would smile kissing me on the cheeks and opening your door.
I won’t be able to forget you Michel because you always remind me never to forget about you!
I know, Julie, zat’s the burden of my own Shame. Zat is why I want to be one of yoor Angels.
And you are crazy Frenchman. Thanks for a wonderful afternoon, ciao!
Ciao crazy American Women, always my pleasure!
Michel Bordeau, aka Area Frenchman is a Psychotherapist and a Career Transition Coach in private practice in Atlanta. Born in France, he has spent half his life in the US. Bordeau is culturally French and academically American, so you can safely assume that he knows a thing or two about love (gender respectful, validating, unconditional, non-threatening) and the pleasures of life (many friends, much cheese, little w(h)ine). Find out more at http://www.areafrenchmankindnesscouch.com
Images courtesy of the author.