Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Beer Bellies And Buckeye Fans Vs. Chic Shoes And Garden Loungers

Res Publica

August 2005

by Rebeccah Ramey

There is something fantastical about Paris. It was the end of the school year and I was off to France. I could not wait to see what the country and its people were like. I was curious to see what the civilized suave, romantic French men were like too. Surely they would impress me since I have spent the past few years amongst college—aged, energetic, beer—bellied Buckeye fans.

As soon as I arrived, I saw that it was similar to what I expected it to be. Giant cathedrals commanded my attention and silently demanded my praise of God. There was a mist over the Seine that haloed the bridges trimmed in gold. The Eiffel Tower proudly stood erect, showing off its modern edges above the old monuments with their jealous gargoyles. Gardens stretched themselves out everywhere. The gray fog gently caressed the roses of red, yellow, and pink hue making a lovely contrast. The stillness of the atmosphere was stunning but it was the movement of the people that was captivating.

Cafés lined the streets and slender, pale people crowded under the canopies, their bony fingers gripping their cigarettes. Their clothes fit their bodies as if they were made especially for their pointed shapes. Their motions were slow. Each took long, slow inhales of their cigarettes and equally long, slow exhales. Each person seemed to take an exceptionally long time to drink one glass of wine. And everyone was drinking wine. I decided to join the relaxing Parisians in their pastime. I sat with a novel in the little café sipping on a smooth ferment that overwhelmed my taste buds and sedated my tongue. Occasionally the waiter, without a smile, checked to see if he could sell me another. After his third time around to my table, I finally stood up to leave. I noticed the same people were still there that had been there when I first arrived. This would not seem strange to me except that it was only one in the afternoon and everyone around me was in the prime of their life. I guessed their places of employment granted particularly long lunch breaks… or smoke/wine breaks.

I continued to walk the cobblestone roads, admiring the flowers that spilled over each window box of every apartment. It seemed as though the inhabitants of those places must know how to appreciate beauty. The inhabitants of those apartments walked all around me. The women took long slow strides in their pointy—toed high heels. Their faces were sunken and sad. The children were skinny, well—dressed, and apparently well—behaved. They were adult—like as they followed their fashionable mothers down the street.

And the suave, romantic Parisian men that I was anticipating so…impressed me the least. They were loud. Several men approached me, spewing out what I assumed to be "compliments" in French. They did this even more when they realized I could not understand a word, occasionally forcing out crass remarks in English, the only English they knew. Their shoes were the latest trend. Their shaggy hair lain messily atop their heads and framed their slender jaws. Their frames were lanky, and their stylish collared shirts hung out of their faded jeans. After they realized I was not impressed by their banter and crude gestures they returned to their benches in the flower gardens. Their unexercised arms draped over the benches and their soft, pasty hands with their manicured nails graced lazily over the blades of grass. They now returned to the lifeless painting that was the flower garden, evidently enjoying the beauty of their city. By this time it was 3pm.

The rest of my time in Paris was spent wandering in and out of the churches and catching glimpses of the thousands of priceless masterpieces in the museums. But as I came and went in Paris, I could not help but examine the people. I could not get over the slowness of their pace. I thought that such a magnificent city adorned with so many beautiful monuments would lift its citizens to a higher state of excellence. With all of the beauty in Paris, I did not see it manifested in the lethargic movements of its people. The men on strike exhibited the most energy. They shouted, "More pay!" and "More money!" I recognized several from the café earlier that afternoon.

It was finally time to return to the States. When I landed in Dallas I boarded my connecting flight to Columbus. I was starved for conversation with an American. I turned to the man next to me who spoke with me all the way back home. He was a young, sun—tanned American. He was polite, bubbling with enthusiasm and interesting. A scarlet and gray neck tie lain proudly over his white, starched, collared shirt. His well—ironed Dockers were buckled in place under his belly and were a bit too short, exposing his scuffed loafers. Our conversation topics ranged from his baseball—star son on the honor roll, his new yacht and the latest movie at the theaters. I cannot remember anything particularly unique about our words, but I know that it is some of the most treasured dialogue I have ever had.

When we landed, we said our goodbyes and sincerely bid one another good fortune. I walked quickly, so as not to get trampled by the crowd. The airport was a sea of color. Businessmen on their phones making deals, parents bidding their farewells to their children for a short holiday, and athletic teams with their gym bags hurried to catch their flights. I could not stop smiling at all the competitive strangers, bumping into one another and apologizing to the other anxious and understanding Americans. Though I was still far from my house, I was very much at home. I will always prefer beer—bellies and Buckeyes fans to chic shoes and garden loungers.

Rebeccah Ramey is a senior from Fredericktown, Ohio, majoring in Political Science and History.

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