What does the world cost? Oh well, then we'll just take a small coke.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Madame, cover that up...please?

It was a gorgeous Spring day outside and the French class felt couped up behind the white walls of the biggest classroom building on campus. Someone suggested we enjoy the amenities of nature and spend part of the class dehors. No one objected so we grabbed our textbooks and sortied.

As I have had opportunity to mention here before, French classes are dominated by the fairer sex. Something about the Y chromosome doesn't take to language instruction and we guys generally shun all courses whose modus operandi is to "get you out of our box." Males have a hard enough time communicating in English much less in a second tongue, especially one that forces all vowel sounds through the nose. Without exception, the guys in my French class are eccentric, odd and just plain weird (if you just applied that sentence to me, please don't think you are being original or insulting). With some exceptions, the males are also submissive, Type B personalities who would rather bow down than face conflict.

I offered my consent for the departure, a mark of approval I now regret giving.

The class' female majority led the males out of the classroom toward a picnic table where the Professor would be conducting her lecture. Predictably, the request to go outside had been as shortsighted as our bifocaled instructor and the seating area we secured lacked the capacity for all fifteen of us. Being gentlemen as well as scholars, we males let the ladies take the seats and squatted like our ancestors on the warm cement. While my left leg went to sleep, the professor asked us questions about the depressing Senegalese author she'd assigned the week before.

At first my attention was devoted solely to the material. I struggled to comprehend the author's difficult vocabulary and took notes about the other student's thoughts on the selection. For the most part, I was not environmentally aware. All of that changed when I looked to my left.

A young woman, who's name has graced these pages before, was seated on a picnic table bench directly beside me. She was leaning forward, presumably for the same reasons I was leaning forward (although I doubt think her leg was asleep). Unlike me, she was wearing a short cut blouse that failed to reach the top of her jeans. Actually, it failed miserably. Her shirt left about five inches of bare skin on her back to exposure to the outside elements.

This sort of thing has always bothered me, but I'd never had to deal with it in such close proximity. From my perch, inches away from the exhibit, I could see the roots of the hairs as they rose from her skin. I blinked twice, trying desperately to delete the image. I forced my eyes back to the reading and calmed my breathing. I thought about changing seats, but was penned in by another student to my right who was leaning toward me to stay in the shade. Any movement on my part would really disrupt the precarious tranquility we'd managed to attain. Moving would also break the code of non-disruption and throw the apple cart doctrine into a state of flux.

I thought about reaching up and pulling the young woman's shirt down. Such a nonchalant move could restore some standards of propriety to our small group and would also allow me to breath normally. Then I remembered the pending lawsuits on campus against males who had performed similar behaviors and decided force was not a suitable remedy. Maybe that was the reason guys don't take French: they can't take the lower backs.

I was powerless to enforce any kind of decency. The young woman had made her shirt selection and the rest of us had to suffer because of her mistake. I decided to mitigate the pain by keeping my concentration on my book.

My Look Away strategy worked until the Professor called on me. As I looked up to answer, I cast an inadvertent glance toward The Back and my mental picture was instantly refreshed. "Ma'am I didn't ask for this refill." I don't recall the question, but my response went something like this: "I think the author demonstrates a lot of backbone in the face of harried circumstances. I mean she could have tried to cover up her pain but instead she aired it out for everyone. Some would see that as a virtue, but I find it a tad disgusting."

The Professor nodded her approval and proceeded to explain my logic to the rest of the class. Apparently "my theory" was shared by some prominent literary critics, although it wasn't the mainstream interpretation.

The beautiful day had fallen under a shadow, the shadow of a nude back. I couldn't see the sun but was frightfully close to seeing the moon and I couldn't wait to get out of there.

French class is like the internet: you can't unwatch anything.


big mo said...

good reminder for the ladies.

it serves the guys to dress modestly!

Anonymous said...

gosh, thanks for the reminder of how important it is for us gals to dress appropriately!

Rachel Horton said...

Your note made me smile. Thanks for reminding us that modesty is definitely appreciated!
I wonder...if you'd asked her to pull it down in a French note, perhaps it wouldn't have been deemed impolite or impolitic. French tends to cover a multitude of sins. ;-)

some chick said...

there you go, girls, that's what happens when you borrow your little sister's shirt. the guys pay.
thanks for the ever-needed reminder, guys. It helps to know that modesty is not an exercise in futility.

Christopher Yerziklewski said...

Wow, that was funny, yet also very deep. Haha, good stuff.

Matthew said...

Really, there are reasons that tough guys don't learn French. First, the only reason an American would learn it is to read obscure artsy things or watch opera. Second, the French are mostly wimps. Third, it sounds like a baby on LSD.

you can call me batman said...

Matthew, you forget that chicks fall all over guys who can speak french. (it does kinda sound like a baby on LSD, though, lol)

Matthew said...

Oh my. The comment above must have been posted by Mr. Hyde. Actually, I quite admire French. It sounds like songbirds on a Summer day and baby talk doesn't even come near it. Yes, chicks probably do fall over guys who speak French. And Opera is awesome.

And no, the French are not wimps. The word "courage" wouldn't even be in our language if it weren't for them. They even had a military victory back in 1859 or so.

Lauren said...

Thanks so much for the reminder. It's easy to forget that modesty is so important, and I'll be keeping this in mind. :)

Bookworm said...

Oh, you poor, poor guy...