One good reason to learn French!
Winetasting invitation! + "Allez, zou!"

Not a cougar! A "wife hen"! + James Dean in France!

The James Dean of France... and why I'm not a cougar--in today's post. Read on!

maman poule (mah-mahn-pool)

    : mother hen

You can also say "une mère poule."

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc Download MP3 or Wav file

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!

What a cutie. I mean what cute knees... er elbows... er what cute knuckles! 


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Jean-Marc Espinasse

I am reading, Miss "Couger"...


Surely your daughter asked for "pointure trente-huit", not "taille." :-)

Laurie Mills

Salut! I enjoy reading all of your posts, but this has to be my favorite. Too funny and seems like something I would do (and of course my daughter would be totally embarrassed). Although, I'm not sure I would be brave enough to take a picture. But if I didn't, I'm sure I would regret it.

David Simmons

"Helicopter parent" is the current comparable term here in the USA, and note it's not confined to mothers....

Tim Averill

This is totally hilarious and what a funny way to wake up this morning. Thanks for the great entertainment. Hope to see you in 2015!


Super story! And well told! I can really feel with you :-)

24/7 in France

Well, if you're not still "looking," you're dead :)

Rebecca Q T in Baltimore

Oh no!!!! When I read the final line I had to put down my phone to recover from sympathetic mortification! What a great story. Don't worry too much--he is surely used to that sort of thing by now. And think of it this way--next time your sister is in town, you will probably want to take her to, you know, try on some shoes--so maybe it wasn't a slip after all?


LOL! Great story …and I understand. Of course, you want to go back with your sisters to make sure the boy is fine…all in that motherly hen sort of way! ha! Well, he certainly is attractive! So you bought the shoes?

Tracie Corbett

No pix of the shoes? Him holding the shoes would have been a good photo :)


I love it! And he's hot!!!!!!!

Eileen deCamp

Cute story today Kristin! You didn't mention what Jackie thought of him? He is adorable!


Fantastic story!!! Thank you for the morning chuckle! And really, Jackie may have been embarrassed at the time, but will always have the memory of how fun her mom can be. :)


I bet he's great with home repairs and playing with little children too ;-)

Mim   (Richmond, VA, USA)

Ditto on all the comments made about how fun this post is. I laughed out loud. Thanks for giving me a smile and a laugh this very cold morning (-11C)

Cynthia Gillespie-Smith

Kristi, I LOVED your funny story -- what a laugh I got! Wish I weren't so far from Centre Mayol so I could pop in an see this adorable "James Dean" of Toulon. Your writing and your photos just get better and better. So happy you're out there bringing sunshine to your readers!

Jeanne in Oregon

I had to laugh at your post today. Now past my mid-60s, I can get away with telling young men they are handsome and no one blinks an eye. I get hugs and have my picture taken with some of the most gorgeous men I have ever seen. There's something wonderful to be said about getting old.


Did you buy the shoes??????

Pamela Blair

In that leather jacket, he's a real Rebel Without a Cause. --And there's nothing wrong with looking (and wishing)--I still do, at 72!


And, how, Kristen, did you ask him to take at least 2 photos? Was it when Jackie was trying on those hi-tops? Who was more embarrassed-you or Jackie?

And I want to see that happy space between his two front teeth. Couldn't you get a smile from him?

Chris Allin

Jean-Marc is funny.....made me laugh!

gerry o.

Are you still blushing? Great story, and I would venture a guess that your daughter was mortified.


Um, where did you say that boutique is located?

Karen from Phoenix

HA HA Jean Marc's comment. What a fun and great story. Yes we are braver as we get older aren't we. I think it is great to compliment someone no matter what age!

Nancy, San Antonio, Texas

Well, we all had our teenage crushes. Not often we bump into one in real life. Nice to know that young woman is still alive inside the Maman. Oui? Even though you are probably still a bit surprised. As always, thanks for the charming life story.

Michael Goodman

In the headline, "couger" is misspelled. Should read "cougar."


LOL; delightful story and comments...I'm only 85 and would've loved to be in your shoes...oh, your daughter's new ones!

maryka hoover

LOL! My husband has les dents de bonheur, i will tease him with that. Thanks for a great laugh!

Nyla Witmore

I will check back in a couple days to read what others have written. At a mature age we are often not willing to admit that we had experienced such flushes of exuberance... Good thing your daughter was WITH you.


'The James Dean of Tunisia' does resemble your husband...

Judi, Lake Balboa, CA

Such a fun story! I was grinning and laughing the whole time. Hey! You might have discovered the next top male model! I'm going to have to ask my grown daughter if I ever flirted in front of her. I'm almost 70 and like another reader I've been known to say 'I might be old but I'm not dead !' Whatever can bring whimsical smiles to our face and heart, it is a good thing! Loved Jean-Marc's comment - too cute!

Jan  Hersh

Love the story with pictures! Found a typo - dread.
Chams-Eden must have been equally charmed by you and your beautiful daughter. Thanks for starting my morning with a smile.


Hilarious! When I see a handsome young man, I sometimes have to remind myself that I'm no longer 25... I'm now 58 and would be mortified, like you, to be caught flirting with one!

(As you know by now, you'll want to change "couger" to "cougar" in a couple of places, and "dred" to "dread.")

Brenda of SF

I read the "James Dean" story and had a great laugh. Jackie will overcome her "timidity" by learning from her Mom. Both of you are good sports. Is there a French expression for that?

Kathleen from Connecticut

I'm sure that Jackie was mortified..but hey...don't we older women (you are still young) still look at the gorgeous young men? The comment about being her sister was interesting.



If I was waited on by that young man...I probably would have said, "My mother and I will be back." because I would have become so befuddled. He is movie star material. Wowie-zowie. I would think sales have improved since he started working there. Great story, I could really feel the experience. And with a French accent...yikes.


Hilarious! I laugh b/c I tend to say things that can be totally taken out of context. And it's usually my daughter that does the "cough" thing and then later tells me how humiliating that was!

Thanks for being so real - you feel like a friend I've known forever!

Bless you!


Hmmm, I think a little trip to Toulon is in order! Really, what a funny story. I snickered in sympathy the entire time.


Sooooooooooooooo funny - but I can see why it happened. Has Jacqui got over the embarassement yet?!!!!!!!!!!




True...the older we get , the "braver" we become...I've read that as we age we tend to loose those restricting inhibitions of youth and I'm sure that's right. I used to embarrass my daughters...but now I manage to embarrass my husband by just blurting out what I think (nothing bad though...just good compliments) Anyway , loved today's post and that gorgeous boy !!(think i would be all aflutter in his presence too)...and I'm 75 !!

jan greene

The young people I work with would write OMG, Mom what are you doing? I would agree with other comments that whatever our age, 'we are not dead yet"! What a great way to start a totally snowy day on Cape Cod! Thank you!

Sarah LaBelle, near Chicago

So Jackie was entranced as well, overcoming her timid(it)y.

I really liked your opening line, Freudian slips on sale at the mall.

Silver high tops with studs on them, that gets me curious. Did she buy them?

Lee Armstrong

Awesome post! Super fun to read! He's adorable. Et vous avez acheté les baskets????????


Soooo cute.....!
(the story too)
I would have bought the entire store.....


You may have launched a career!


Our dear Kristi,
Another wonderful post that filled us with smiles!
How gifted you are!
THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!
Natalia XO


The funniest, of course, is Jean Marc's comment :-).. How has he managed to be the first one to reply?

..and the boy certainly GOT IT..
.. the charm and innocence..

It's my 46 y.o. in me speaking.. :-)


Oops! :-) 45 y.o. In me speaking. :-)
I forget my age; most days anyways.

Barbara P.

When I am no longer interested in admiring handsome men or eating ice cream, call the undertaker! I can appreciate beautiful people of either gender the way I can appreciate art or a beautiful starry sky. One of the joys of getting older is that one can get away with flirting with young men and they don't feel threatened. I get lots of hugs and smiles from younger men and have never received more compliments than when I let my hair revert to its natural white. I am almost 72 and I say "Older women rock". P.S.--I've noticed that many younger women don't know how to flirt; remember, girls, it's all about the man not you!

Jo Statham

Salut, Kristin! Nice to know your spark plugs are firing!

Dianne Tonge

Hilarious !!! I love your blog I too thought it was your son what a dish I would have not been able to speak !!!!


I love the story. I'm glad I'm not the only one who crushes on men 20 years my junior. Relax, it's only a crush.

Jeanne Martinelli Engelkemeir

J'avais adoré le dernier ligne de ton conte!!! J'ai rigolé comme un bossu!! :) Chouette, comme toujours! Merci, Kristin (et Jackie!) :)

Jeanne Martinelli Engelkemeir

Opps, pardon, la dernière ligne. . . :)


Hello Kristin, if you are in need of support, here it goes: he is perfect! Beautiful people, men or women,are delightful visions not to be ignored.

Sue Whelan

I loved the story, and kept looking for the "like" button while nodding my head after each comment (I'm obviously spending too much time on FB). When I lived in France, the constant delight that men and women took in acknowledging "la difference" between the sexes never seemed to me to belong only to the young. Au contraire! The French gift for mild flirtation at any age is intrinsic to la douçeur de la vie. It's part of the French atmosphere. You reacted in a normal French way to a normal French situation. It was only protestant American guilt, which we, alas, breathe in with all that fresh American air, that brought the "cougar" label to mind.

Logan Walker

Anyone know who is that guy in leather jacket with popped collar up?

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