Stationner + we surprise our daughter at her new job
94 Useful French Words (listen to them here)

Faire la tête + A French grandmother's advice for a happy marriage

Jean-Marc and Kristi's wedding at the cathedrale in Marseilles France

If you have followed this blog a while, you've seen this photo a million times. Jean-Marc and I were both scared to death about an imminent "for life" decision! Soon after this picture was taken, we got some very good marriage advice from Jean-Marc's grandmother. Twenty-three years later, it is still one of the best tips for a healthy relationship I've come across -- even if we occasionally break the rule! (Mais bien sûr!)

TODAY'S WORD: faire la tête

        : sulk, pout, be in a huff, look cross


Click right here to listen to the sound file, recorded by Jean-Marc

Faire la tête, ça veut dire "bouder", c'est à dire montrer du mécontentement tout en restant silencieux, passif. -sensagent
To sulk, means to "bouder", or to express annoyance while remaining silent, passive.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

I notice my husband is shaving this morning, something he rarely does anymore, now that he’s working from home as a wine sales rep.

"Where are you going?" I ask.

"En tournée."

Prospecting? Where? I wonder.

"In Saint-Raphaël."

Saint-Raphaël? My mind fills with visions of the foamy sea, sandy beaches, sidewalk cafés and brasseries, the boardwalk, the boutiques, the marché, and the glamorous Belle Époque architecture.... Suddenly a pulsion comes over me. The pulsion to pout.

"I didn't know you were going out today...." I grumble.
"Well, do you want to come with me?" Jean-Marc offers.

"You know I can't come with you. I have work to do!” With a huff and a puff I leave the room.


In 1994 the only conseil Jean-Marc's ailing grandmother gave me before I married her grandson was this: "ne boude pas." Don’t boude when love gets tough! “C’est terrible—insupportable!—une femme ou un mari qui boude!

I hurried to look up the word bouder just as soon as I returned from Grand-mère’s modest apartment in Lyon to Jean-Marc’s studio in Marseilles. I was hesitant to ask my husband-to-be what the word meant. What was it that was so terrible, so insufferable… something a husband or wife should never ever do? And why had Jean-Marc’s grandmother selected this bit of counsel above the rest?

"Germaine," as Jean-Marc’s mamie was called, was a stern woman who saw the collapse of a family fortune. In Morocco, after the war, she peddled house linens from her Estafette (a converted military supply vehicle) as there were six mouths to feed. When her husband, a prisoner of war, returned from la guerre, Germaine continued to "wear the pants," selling her linens porte-à-porte, while her husband went seaside to cast out horrific battle images along with his fishing line.

My first encounter with Germaine had me watching the once-authoritarian-now-frail woman eat the eyes right out of the fish on her plate! No sooner had I recovered from the fact that the French serve their seafood with its heads and tails intact, than I witnessed this unforgettable eye-popping scene!

Apart from Germaine’s advice not to sulk, she taught me where all those forks, knives, and cuillères belong on the French table, at once thoughtful about her bourgeois upbringing, and méprisante of it.


The French word bouder, it turns out, means “to pout”. From bouder comes the noun boudoir, which originally meant "a place in which to sulk". Though the dictionary says that a boudoir is "un petit salon de dame," it is really nothing more fancy or exciting than a pouting room.

I return to my sulking place, and continue to work and to sniff. Je boude, je boude!

"We'll leave in 10 minutes?" my husband suggests, popping his head in from the hall.

"I didn't say I was going with you!" I snap.

"Well, if you change your mind, I am leaving in 10 minutes."

I continue to faire la tête, or "be in the sulks," while my husband prepares for his surely glamorous tournée along the French Riviera. At my desk, I peck at the faded keyboard, staring into the dismal screen. I can’t concentrate on writing a story when I’m so busy obsessing about my husband’s freedom:

"Monsieur Espinasse goes to the sunny Riviera," I grumble. "Monsieur Espinasse would like the plat du jour. Would Monsieur fancy a glass of champagne with his foie gras?"

Despite my ridiculous imaginings and the cynical commentary that accompanies them, I know that reality is quite different. My husband’s door-to-door sales day will be spent lugging 18-kilo boxes of wine from one cave to another, navigating medieval roads, trying to find parking in a small French village full of one-way streets!

The glamorous day will continue as he stops for lunch at a grimy roadside gas station where he’ll pick up one of those preservative-rich sandwiches: un jambon beurre or un pan-bagnat. He’ll wash that down with a cup of bitter coffee before rushing to the next appointment. Finally he will weave in and out of traffic on the autoroute, struggling to get back to our village in time to pick up our son from basketball at the end of the day.

Meantime I will be working freely at my computer, trying to write the next great American story (or so my imagination would like to think!). To my left, there’ll be a café au lait, before me, the adventure of my choice, if I will but find the words to transport me there. Will I ever find the words? Oh, to be transported!

"Do you know what the word boudoir means?" I am out of breath, catching up to my husband, who is loading cases of wine into the trunk.

"Comment?" What's that? he asks.

"Boudoir. It's French," I reply.

"No. I don't know that word. What does it mean?" Jean-Marc asks, opening the car door for me.

“A sulking place,” I laugh. “It’s a place to bouder, or to be in the sulks.”

"Are you in the sulks?" Jean-Marc teases.

“Oh no, not me!” I glance out of the car window, to the heavens above. I hoped Germaine was watching. God rest her courageous, peddler’s soul.

I look over to the other peddler, seated beside me. Germaine would be proud of her grandson, who has, in his own way, followed in her steps.

This story is from 2006, and is included in the book First French Essais' Venturing into Writing, Marriage, and France.

une tournée = a sales round (sales prospecting) 
le marché = market 
une pulsion = an impulse
un conseil = a piece of advice
ne boude pas! = don't sulk!
C’est terrible—insupportable!—une femme ou un mari qui boude! = It's awful—intolerable—when a wife or a husband sulks!
la grand-mère = grandmother
la mamie = grandma 
la guerre = war
porte-à-porte = door-to-door 
une cuillère = spoon
méprisant(e) = contemptuous, scornful
un petit salon de dame = a woman's sitting room
faire la tête = to sulk, to give somebody the silent treatment
le plat du jour = the day's special (in a restaurant)
un kilo = a kilo, or 2.2 pounds
une cave = cellar
un jambon-beurre = a ham sandwich with butter
un pan-bagnat = a sandwich made with tuna and olives (specialty from Nice)
une autoroute = motorway, highway
le café au lait = coffee with milk

First French Essais is available here in paperback or via kindle



A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

GREAT story - well worth repeating! Thank you

marina Garcia

The best read yet! I love your "Germaine"!
I always thought they were saying Powder room/ not pouting room..Mon Dieu! Hehehe


Wow! Somehow I missed this story when it first posted! (And I even have the book! 😱)

So it's really, really great you re-release these from time to time. It was excellent advice and an excellent telling of the "adventure."

All us moms & grammas should remember to pass this along when our precious daughters (or daughters-in-law) as their own journée de marriage approaches!

Wonderful advice. Thank you for sharing it again.

Linda in California

One of your best stories ever!




I fear I could sulk "for England". Is it one result of being an only child? And I cringed at your image of eating the fish eyes. As a squeamish vegetarian I recall, some 50 years ago, an English friend, eating in a restaurant in Rouen, seeing in horror her sea food MOVE on her plate. She summoned the waiter to complain but with a Gallic shrug he just said "Mais Mademoiselle, c'est tout frais." (But it's very fresh.)


Wonderful advice for everyone!! Thank you

David DeCrane

while her husband went seaside to cast out horrific battle images along with his fishing line.

That's some good writing!

Gwyn Ganjeau

I will never tire of that photo.


One of my favorite Kristin stories - and everyone needs a boudoir! If we need to, we can go and 'bouder' and come out smiling!


Our dear Kristi,
I loved this story when I first read it,and it has become a favorite!(not to mention that beautiful picture!)It truly is one of your best!
The advice
from your dear Germaine are things we can imagine our own dear ones telling us,life lessons that reach our hearts and into our memories.
Thank you for sharing this with us and reminding us what we were taught way back when and have now received a wonderful refresher!
Natalia. xo


(To sulk, means to "bouder", or to express annoyance while remaining silent, passive.)
What does bouder mean in English? Never heard this word in English.


Je vous suis de San Francisco. Nous avons une maison de village a Lorgues ou nous passons 2 mois chaque été. J'adore lire vos email parce que je connais bien ce paysage - et vous m'aidez a garder ce vocabulaire qui m'échappe chaque hiver aux Etats Unis. J'arrive en deux semaines. Merci pour tout vos efforts!


I love this post too. Rich in humor, history, and advice. Merci beaucoup! Please keep writing!

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristi,

Sweet story and what a courageous woman Mamie Germaine was. I bet she never sulked, just kept on trucking and doing the best she could for her family! I'm sure she was an amazing woman!

I have done my share of sulking or pouting! :-) I don't know if the boudoir is a good place to be sulking!!!

Oh, and I'm glad you went along with JM for the day!

Patricia Sands

That's my favourite book of yours, Kristi! Can't wait to finally meet face à face in Nice! :-)

Julia Baumgarten

What a beautiful photo. You look sooo pretty!


Boudoir is a women"s sitting room. Origin; late 18th century, French, Literally "sulking place". We use boudoir as the sometimes meaning bedroom. Many words change from their original meaning or are massacred through the ages.
Love the story and the picture. Thank you Kristin.


Mary Montague

What a smart Grandmother. Love this story!


This is such a good one! What a pleasure to read!

Lisa Smith

Wonderfully written piece dear Kristi. Your talent (and personality) truly shines through. xx

Chris Allin

Dear Kristi,

This story was delightful then and still is today. It would be interesting to hear the story from Jean-Marc's perspective.

I just love David McCrane's comment!!

Marianne Rankin

I thought I recognized the story, which evidemment I'd read on FWAD and then in my copy of First French Essais.

Germaine was "right on." Pouting, or giving a spouse the silent treatment, does nothing for a marriage. If something is wrong and the pouting person doesn't say anything, how could the other spouse know what is wrong or how to fix it? Jean-Marc, on the other hand, encouraged you to come along on his trip, which was better for both of you.

In a waiting room once, I saw a sign whose message has stayed with me: "For every minute you have complained, you have forfeited a moment of happiness." It's true.

Leslie NYC

I also agree with David and Chris.
That line about fishing and war: wow. Et la belle photo de vous deux. . .

Chris Allin

So sorry, David DeCrane, for misspelling your last name! (I do try to be happens to me all the time.)

Sarah La Belle

The 2 words mean the same thing, one is perhaps less formal. Bouder means to pout, and faire la tête means to pout.


Beautiful story and suberbly glad you went with him on that day.....
What good advice Germaine gave you.....


Ha ha, I remember my first trip to the côte d'azur and ordering a plateau de arrived and everything on the plate was alive....The oysters of course, but then there were all kinds of shell things I had never seen before and the inhabitants were crawling all over the plate! Squishy, translucent, snail-like creatures that were probably as terrified as I was.... I couldn't eat a thing.....

Frederick Caswell

Insightful, so human, very cleverly and accurately entertaining -- another special gift to your readers!

great council from Germaine

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you very much, Fred! Your comments touch me deeply.

And thanks to all who have responded to this story. Your notes are much appreciated--as well as encouraging and a joy to read. Mille mercis!

jean Palmer

Thank you for sharing such a beautiful story; I had not seen the original. It was touching, insightful and so very positive - much needed these days. Love the photo as well; both so beautiful! May you have many more years together. At least you have France, still.
Thank you

Catherine Spencer

What a beautiful wedding photo! The bride looks truly radiant and groom serious and caring.

Jacqueline Pope

Kristin, I love the ability you afford those of us who absolutely adore your writing, giving us a chance to peep into your world, as we slowly read just to savor every morsel. And so many times I have wanted to reach through this internet thing and just give you a giant hug for sharing your memories so beautifully with us. Your beauty and honesty shines through in your words, so prettily chained together. And what an artist you are. With your paintbrush, i saw Germaine and heard her words. And i saw you passing by with that cute and wise husband that you chose. Thanks much beautiful girl with the golden heart. I miss you when I don't check in.
Take best of care. Jacquie pope


A fantastic story, and a very relatable one. Sulking is a waste of time and often leads to unnecessary added anxiety. Thank you for your words, Kristi.


I met your Mom at the store the other day. Lovely woman.I hope to have a chance to visit with her. Hello from Mexico.

Kristin Espinasse

Hello, Tamara, 

I can just picture the meeting with Mom in the shop. Thanks so much for taking the time to share this. I am excited to say that Mom will be coming to France to visit us at the end of May. We cannot wait. I hope you two will have the chance to see each other before she leaves. Take good  care. 

Addie Ladner

Love this story and the advice! Thanks so much for sharing your stories, words, photos etc with us. xx -Addie Ladner

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)