Gelled Hair, Axe Cologne, and Cotton-Eyed Joe

This may be the first time that I have begun typing without anything particular in mind, but I think that it is good to write these sorts of posts every once in a while to see where they go. That way, you find out what really has been l’expérience the most impressionante.

It’s 10:12pm here, and everyone in the house has gone to bed but me. I find myself sitting on les-Girault’s large, rip stick red sofa, and there is a nice fire in front of me and to my left. Looking back on the past few days, there are a few things that come to mind, most immediately, “Cotton-Eyed Joe” by Rednex.

My host family has some American music that they love listening to–Adele, some strange artist from the 80’s with an extremely high singing voice for a man, and that song we all remember from middle school dances, “Cotton-Eyed Joe.” O yeah.

The memories are coming back–my hair gelled up in the front so that it looks like a wave about to crash down on my forehead sending saltwater into my eyes, that abercrombie t-shirt that I would wear consecutive days in a row and pair with some exotic Hawaiian necklace (puka shells?), the Axe cologne (the green one, kilo?) that my pre-pubescent armpits didn’t need, and probably my favorite part about middle school dances–looking, yet pretending not to notice the other huddle of girls across the way. Let’s not forget the dance circles that would form during a particularly catchy song where a few brave souls would venture into the middle, showing off their best worm or that easy break dance move that everyone knows how to do.

I remember those dances well, one reason being my heightened sensitivity to all things romantic, a characteristic I attribute to a natural disposition, perhaps, and from watching a fair amount of romance films as a kid. I don’t know why, but I loved them. I also liked Barbies, but I digress.

Among the discomfort, the magic, and prospect of locking lips with someone, songs like The Electric Slide and Cotton-Eyed Joe always stuck out. Why? Because no one really knew how to dance, and these songs provided an out, a way for everyone to look cool, to participate, to feel a part of the group.

I followed my little brother “Boubou” into the parlor where he continued to flap the wings of the origami crane that he had just made, where Miranda and “Dadin” were playing hockey with a homemade stick and my bundled up running socks, and before I knew what was happening, Dadin had stopped playing hockey and turned on Cotton-Eyed Joe. Like magic, as if it were all pre-planned like a mini flash mob, Boubou dropped what he was doing, Sandrine entered the parlor from the kitchen, and they all began to dance, counting out loud the steps so that we could learn as well.

Within maybe 30 seconds, Miranda, Ella, Roxanne, and myself had learned the dance, and began joining in with the family.

1-2-3-4… double right foot tap forward, double right foot tap backward, touch foot with left hand, swing foot out towards the right and pat it with the right hand, four hops to the right (CLAP), four to the left (CLAP) REPEAT

and when things would change, you pretend as if you are pulling a rope as you move forward, and after you have gone forward for four counts, you hop backwards to where you started with your head down and your hand on your head, holding onto your cowboy hat, your other hand tapping your thigh as if it were the horse’s, telling it to go faster.

We listened to the song twice, all eight of us dancing in the parlor together. Dadin and Boubou had the biggest smiles on their faces, and it was really cute to hear them announcing the steps. Sébastien and Roxanne usually one move off, and Sandrine laughing during the chaos that resulted from trying to spin in circles with a partner in a crowded parlor.

***

This makes me think about a lot of things–the significance of Cotton-Eyed Joe for my French family, how fun and spontaneous living with them can be, and how much things have changed since abercrombie and Axe cologne, school pizza vs. round pizza, that damn car seat that I sat in until I was twelve because Oprah decided that she wanted to investigate into car safety for children.

Here I am now, 21, going on 22, sitting next to a warm fire in France, pursuing a degree in English Literature and French, not knowing what is going to come after I go back home. I guess it doesn’t really matter though, does it? To a degree, it’s important to have something that at least slightly resembles, could at least adequately pass for, a plan, but “if someone were to have asked me ten years ago, at the ripe age of 11 years, 11 months, and change, where I would be in the next ten years,” I would have said that I would be training for the Olympics for running or going to school to design houses, not that I would be in France as a student, sitting next to the river drinking wine, going dancing, surfing, and hiking in some of the most beautiful parts of the country. No. I wouldn’t have seen that coming.

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