maman poule (mah-mahn-pool)
: mother hen
You can also say "une mère poule."
Une maman poule c'est une femme qui couve trop--ou surprotège--ses enfants. Alors qu'est-ce que c'est une femme poule? Cette expression n'existe pas. Mais le personnage, oui! D'après mon mari!
A mother hen is a woman who coddles--or overprotects--her children. So then what's a "wife-hen"? The term doesn't exist... but the character does! According to my husband!
A Day in a FRENCH Life... by Kristin Espinasse
"Freudian Slips are on Sale at the Mall. But I'm Paying Dearly for mine"
Last week it was LES SOLDES here in France and I promised to take my daughter to the mall--no matter how much I dread shopping. It's not that I don't love pretty clothes--the problem is finding them, i.e. striking a balance between price and quality--whilst not being faux-flattered by a salesperson, or talked into a buying that Made on Mars far-out dress.
This far out on our shopping trip my 16-year-old and I had managed to make down-to-Earth decisions and after two and a half hours--and a pair of baggy pants and a top for her--and a new blazer for me!--Jackie suggested one last trip around the mall:
"On fait un dernier tour vite fait?" she said, adding, with a batting of her eyelashes, "You are being sooo patient, Maman!"
I flashed Jackie a toothy smile, never mind my teeth were grinding. Anything to make my daughter believe I am patient. We were on our third tour or trip around the mall here at the Centre Mayol in Toulon and after leaving a popular surf shop--where we were jostled around by a troubled sea of shoppers--it came as a relief to enter a quiet boutique.
It didn't take long to understand why we weren't being trampled on or waiting in long lines for a dressing room. The pricetags! I looked up at the name of the shop, which read "Harper's Bazaar". It shared the same moniker as the fancy magazine, which touts itself "sophisticated, elegant... the fashion resource for women who are the first to buy the best...."
But we weren't looking for the best! A happy-medium--or juste-milieu (yes, a "fair middle!") was what we were after. It was time to remind my daughter of our mission and I did so by a swift suggestion. "On se casse d'ici?" Let's get out of here!
Just as I was backing out of the store, a dazzling smile stopped me in my tracks.
"Je peux vous aider?"
"Oh no, thanks, we were just looking."
But my daughter was so transfixed by the salesboy that she bi-passed her usual timidy and pointed to a pair of shoes :
"Vous avez la taille 38?" Jackie asked.
I looked at the silver high-tops in question. They were covered with menacing studs. "I don't think those will be in style much longer," I said, pointing to the metal accouterments.
"It's still the style," the salesboy was assuring. That's when I noticed more than his smile.
I stood staring at the tall, dark, and handsome figure before me when my mouth ran off before my brain could tame it:
"You have beautiful teeth!" I said, noticing the gap between his "front two." (The French have a delightful term for this: "happiness teeth" or les dents du bonheur.)
Coming to my senses--and lest my daughter be horrified by my complimenting the salesboy--I cleared up any confusion: "When you are a 46-year-old woman you can finally say these things!"
Only, that's when a heard a cough. Turning around I noticed the only other middle-aged woman in the store. She was shopping at the rack behind me. I wondered, was that a yes or a no cough? Was she agreeing or disagreeing with what I'd just said?
Never mind! Now was as good a time as ever to throw caution--and maybe my checkbook!--to the wind.
"Can my daughter try a 38 and a 39?" (Maybe the larger size would win us one more year of use, something that could be factored into the price, afterall!)
"Bien sûr," he said, running his hand through his untamed hair.
As the salesboy went to get the shoes, my mouth delivered another unbridled compliment. "You are very charming!"
"They call me 'The James Dean of Tunisia,'" he laughed, disappearing into the storage room.
I love it! More than a pretty face he was clever.
"His name really is James Dean," his supervisor added, joining us in the shoe aisle. "His Tunisian name sounds exactly like it, anyway. He is called "Shahms-ay-deen."
"C'est incroyable!" I said, and spent the next few moments trying to pronounce the name I had just heard, until, soon enough, I was hearing the name of the 50s teen heartthrob--only with an ooh-là-là twist: Shahms-ay-deen.
"But how do you spell it in Tunisian?" I wanted to know, just as soon as the salesboy returned. And, as he wrote down his name (officially spelled "Chams-Eden), I asked if I could snap his photo (see below)....
If up until now I had convinced myself my compliments were no more than a sincere appreciation of an exquisite character, I was dumbfounded by what came next--what could only be explained as a Freudian slip...
This happened at the cash register, as Jackie and I waved goodbye to the dashing salesboy.....
"Thank you." I said. "My sister and I will be back soon!"
Postnote: In the whirlwind of recounting my story, I forgot to tell you why I am truly innocent--a veritable "wife-hen" and NOT a cougar! Anyway, it's what my husband calls me (a wife-hen, that is). But will he still call me this after reading today's missive? Nah. He NEVER reads my stories!
Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi