Monday, June 4, 2012

I'm not a prude, but my eyes might be.

Over the past nearly 8 years of our marriage, my husband and I have acquired some European friends.  Most have started out as pen pals for my husband, who taught himself how to speak German.  Some we had the pleasure of meeting in Germany during our travels, and some we have met on their travels here in the US.  Some great friendships have come out of this, and we both have learned so much.  I really felt I was pretty good at conveying that I was something other than the infamous "stupid American" stereotype when it came to getting to know our European friends.  My husband speaks German fluently, so we never expect English (though, most of them are learning English, and also want the opportunity to practice it).  We aren't uptight, or prudish... or at least we think we aren't.  Apparently my mind isn't a prude and is open and accepting of other cultures, but some parts of my face haven't caught up.

I was well aware of the cheek kissing greetings and send-offs, and I was mostly prepared for that (even if I was a little slow and only slightly caught off guard).  I did manage to pull it off once I realized I was mid cheek kiss with one of our friends.  I swore to myself that, the next time we saw him, I would not be caught off guard again, and I would be much more smooth.  After all, I'm a sophisticated American, who is down with all things European.  The next time I saw him, however, I went for the cheek kiss, and since we were more familiar (I guess) he went for a peck on the mouth.  Well, then I started to panic.  How did I screw that up?  Did I miss with my cheek and land on his face with my mouth?  Is that what more familiar friends do?  Does my husband think I just kissed this guy?  Am I being a prude worrying about what my husband thinks of our goodbye?  What is going on?!  Is this real life?!  I was a mess.  My cheeks and my mouth were totally keeping the rest of me from pulling off being cool and "with it".  Oy.

In between these two kissing debacles, we had an underwear "event".  We had all been to the beach, and we had returned to the beach house and were all showering and changing into fresh clothes for dinner.  My little family got all cleaned up and dressed in one bathroom, while our friends were down the hall.  When we emerged, though, everyone was walking around nude or in underwear.  Our guy friend came up to me for a chat, and I had a moment where my brain knew that things are different in Europe, and this would not be a big deal, but my eyes did NOT know what to do with themselves.  Do I stare at his face, non-blinking, and give away that I am avoiding looking at his scantily clad business, or do I try to look casual.  I don't want to look around too much, and make him think I'm back to being a prude and am desperately trying not to even look at him, and I also don't want him to think I'm gawking.  Oh no, does he see the panic in my "deer in the headlights" eyes?!  Maybe it's safer to just say "Oh, I just wanted to say it's tooooootally cool that you're standing there in your designer skivvies while you're talking to me.  I know exactly how to act in this situation.... ignore whatever my face is doing.  It's unfamiliar with any European cultures, and doesn't know what to do with itself."  C'mon eyes, fix yourself!  Where did my husband and kid go?!  Now it's just me and the underwear my friend.  Can I have a do-over?!  I'm so much better than this, I swear!  Luckily, I speak pretty broken German, and he speaks pretty broken English, so maybe both of us stumbling over the language distracted him from the mini-crisis I was having inside, trying so hard to be progressive (for an American).

The underwear "event" was quickly forgotten when everyone got busy trying to explain the art of "S'mores" to our German friends.  One of the brothers is married to an American woman, and between her and my husband and I, we knew all about S'mores... however, we weren't the ones who went food shopping.  When 2 of our friends returned from the store, they explained that they had come up with the idea to make "That treat in America with the toasted marshmallows."  They weren't exactly sure how to make them, so they got Lorna Doones and Nutella to go with the marshmallows.  At least everyone was giggling trying to make something yummy out of this, and to make them feel like they at least gave it a ton of effort.  Eventually, someone decided to use chocolate chip cookies.  So, there you have it... the EuroS'more.  Whatever it was, it took the focus off of my dorkiness, and I am forever grateful.

I'd like to think I'll do better the next time around, but something else I didn't anticipate may come up.  I just haven't learned to control my facial expressions when something comes out of the blue that I didn't expect.  One of these days I'll be refined and never caught off guard.  I will be an honorary European.  I'm sure of it.  Any day now. 

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