Blazer, Forever 21 | Cowlneck, DKNY | Dress, Kohl's | Boots, Target | Necklace, Macy's
(How long before Lily ends up in the same exact location, posing exactly the same? Not long.)
Vous faisez du vélo souvent? Do you bike often?
It was a conversation starter that never left my head.
For me, solo travel means lots of people-watching. As I waited for the train this morning, I couldn't help but notice the stranger to my left--a ruggedly but tastefully dressed man gripping a well-loved road bike and bearing a hiking backpack the size of a small child, He seemed like an intriguing adventurer. What better opportunity to practice French conversation?
After speaking to over 20 strangers for my social psych experiment last spring, you'd think reaching out would now be a breeze (to refresh your memory, my partner and I began conversations with strangers in public locations, classified their reactions, and discussed with them their perception of stranger interactions).
But I was afraid.
When I speak in French, I feel almost as if I adopt a new persona. I'm more timid and less interesting. It requires a lot of patience to speak with a language-learner in general--I often fail to catch jokes, trail off in the middle of sentences because I have no idea how to say whatever I'm thinking, and stumble over conjugations.
So I made excuses to keep quiet. It's too noisy--we wouldn't be able to carry a conversation even if we wanted to. It's not culturally acceptable--remember that suspicious look that girl on the bus gave you when you asked if she played violin? (she was carrying an instrument case). It's weird to talk to random guys near my age--what if he thinks I'm hitting on him or something when all I want to do is talk in French?
The noise eventually died down, but I kept resisting. I fought the opportunity, and then the opportunity walked away--literally. I must've been so lost in my mental battle that I failed to notice I was staring a little too intently. The adventurer man rolled his bike several meters down the platform, and waited at a new location. Whoops.
The train ended up being late, and I finally mustered up the courage to start a benign conversation with a woman next to me (fittingly, about the trains and whether they were often late). It didn't get much further than that--the train arrived a few minutes later--but it was a start. I sensed no hint of aversion, disgust, or impatience.
Perhaps it's time for social psych experiment, part 2, France edition?