On the face of it, it was a beautiful day, and I decided to go for a pre-work run in Hyde Park. Everything was going extremely well, as it usually does after ten minutes or so of running (for some reason the first ten minutes are always excruciating, and then suddenly it is all fine), when it started pouring. I was drenched. And I must admit that I didn’t like it. Everybody seemed undeterred, except for me. I am not that British yet, after all. Instead of running my usual two laps, I stopped at one, and waited for the rain to stop. It didn’t. I ended up taking a phone call from a French client under a tree. That’s when it happened: two guys, apparently work colleagues, passed by, heard me and started looking at me as if they had never seen anything like it before. And then, one of them said:
“- French women have a certain je-ne-sais-quoi, don’t you think?”
I couldn’t believe it: I was wearing black leggings and the first sport T-shirt that I could grab this morning, and they thought that I had a certain ‘je-ne-sais-quoi-! Why? I was sweating and dripping at the same time. Not to mention my lovely ponytail.
I still don’t know what went into me, but as soon as my phone conversation was over, I started running after them, and decided to confront them. Don’t judge me too harshly, I just wanted to understand.
“- Hi,” I said, “Excuse-me, but I overheard what you were saying. What do you mean exactly by ‘a certain-je-ne sais-quoi’?”
I know that it is not British to confront people like this, and it is not ladylike, but you need to understand that we French women don’t mince our words. I desperately wanted to know.
They looked a bit bewildered, and one of them muttered:
“-Ooh la la!”
I ignored him. The other was a bit more composed. I wanted an answer, and somehow he seemed to get this. He looked at me and said:
“- It is the attitude, Darling”
Don’t Darling me, I thought to myself.
“- What attitude? Running in the park?”
“- No. Somehow despite the rain and everything, you managed to pull it off .”
“- Pull what off?”
“- Well, he hesitated, good looks.” He smiled clumsily.
I sensed that I wouldn’t get anything more out of him, muttered a quick “Thank you”, and ran back as fast as I could.
The sad reality was that, because they had heard me speak French, they had simply thought that I looked good. That’s how strong the cliches are over here: you speak French, you look good. It is automatic. Speaking French simply gives you style and beauty, even when you are in your running kit under the rain. Lesson learned. It isn’t rational, it just is.
Because, come on, the simple truth was that I didn’t look good. This much I knew.
On the bright side, after talking to them I ran my fastest km ever (since I started running again), at a bit less than 5 mins (YAY!).
They got it all wrong: I didn’t look good: I was just fast today. That’s the problem with cliches, right? You simply can’t see people for who they really are.