Video Interview: Jean-Marc with Kristi at the vineyard in 2009
La Chandeleur: Candlemas, Santons, Crepes (and a Sobriety update...)

Manger son Chapeau + Change a habit not a spouse :-)

Fashion hats shopfront in Paris France
The expression "manger son chapeau" comes from "avaler son chapeau" which is from the English "I'll eat my hat if..." Have you ever said this, dear reader? Ever had to eat humble pie? Enjoy today's story, and please help get the word out about this journal by sharing it with a friend. Merci!

Today's Expression: Manger son chapeau

    : to eat humble pie

Audio/Listening: Click the link below to hear Jean-Marc pronounce the French words in the following story. Then scroll down to the vocabulary list to check your French comprehension.

Click here to open audio file

by Kristi Espinasse

Over tea, I listened to a friend muse about a little ceramic pot she recently moved. "It was on that kitchen shelf for years. Then, sur un coup de tête, I moved it over here beside the stove, and now it is as if I am seeing it for the first time.”

The subject segued from shifting things to shifting habits. Mon amie shared another example: "I don't know why, but I always peeled my tomatoes raw, at the sink, when everyone else boils them (the skin comes off easily that way). I knew this but I stuck to my own system until recently when I tried the other way. Et c’est très bien!

I loved this conversation and the idea that a simple tweak in one’s habitude can improve one’s life, and I had an example to share with my friend.

Admitting my frustration about sharing la salle de bains with my husband, I confided about something Jean-Marc does that really annoys me: après la douche, when he’s done showering, he hangs the wet bathrobe over my clothes on the bathroom portemanteau. To add insult to injury, he often prefers my terrycloth peignoir over his own. Imagine the shock when I get out of the shower and hurry to reach for my robe in freezing winter and it’s all wet. Next, I go to put on my pajamas (hung on a peg beside my clothes and the robes) and...NOM D'UN CHIEN! They’re all damp!

Recently, after reaching for a wet robe and wet clothes for the énième time, I had an epiphany: If, after wearing them, I returned my in-between clothes* and my pj's to the closet (where they actually belonged...), they wouldn't get wet anymore! And just like that my years-long grudge went poof

Then came the humble pie moment: the realization I had been blaming my husband this whole time when the source of the frustration was my own lack of discipline or organization. And then there was the irony: I am always reminding my messy family "Everything has a home! The keys have a home, the coats have a home, the papers have a home..." Didn’t my clothes have a proper home, too? 

To motivate my husband to reach for his own robe the next time he showered, I began placing his bathrobe on the peg nearest the bathroom radiator. Imagine my surprise when he returned the kindness—placing my own robe beside the heater. Neither of us said a word about daily switcharoo, which made it all the more mysterious and endearing.

Bon, the moral of this story is: Change your habit not your spouse.


*"In-between clothes": clothes that are clean enough to wear again. Because it is best to air them before returning them to le placard, they often get left in various places: a peg in the bathroom, on a chair in the bedroom, on a hook behind the door...or in a pile on the floor. Where do you leave yours?:

  • derrière la porte?
  • sur une chaise?
  • sur un valet?
  • sur le lit?
  • par terre?



manger son chapeau = to eat humble pie
sur un coup de tête = on a whim
mon amie = my friend
et c'est très bien = and it's great
une habitude = custom, habit
une salle de bains = bathroom
après la douche = after showering
le portemanteau = coat rack
le peignoir de bain
= bathrobe
nom d'un chien!
= dammit!
le déclic = the aha moment, the realization 
énième = nth, umpteenth
le placard = the closet
derrière la porte = behind the door
sur une chaise = on a chair
sur un valet = on a valet
sur le lit = on the bed
par terre = on the floor
When “Pour le meilleur et pour le pire”, for better or for worse, means sharing a bathroom with your husband. Photo of Jean-Marc and me taken in 1994, in Marseilles.

Smokey in the kissing booth
Photo from the archived post Pronunciation Fears: Most Difficult French Words to Pronounce.

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety