I was in grade nine, on exchange in Dijon. As a French immersion student, I was one of the lucky few who, because of my fluency, was picked to spend a month oversees studying at the lycée.
The trip was a pilot programme – the school wanted to “try it out” and see if it was something they would consider implementing on a permanent, yearly basis.
Believe me when I say that my time in the city as a student was a total trip.
First off, my home-stay parents didn’t seem to grasp the concept that I was a vegetarian. Every day for lunch they would make me these amazing baguettes filled with salami, or rotisserie chicken, or roast beef – seriously, you name the viande and it was packed up for me every morning, between two slices of bread.
I felt so horrible the one and only time I binned my lunch, that from that day onwards I would gift them to one of the other Canadian students whose parents didn’t think to send them off to class with anything at all.
It was a pretty sweet trade off in the end, because in return, whomever I had gifted the sammie would give me a couple of francs, which I would then use to purchase a crepe from the creperie down the street.
Come to think of it, I pretty much ate my body weight in Nutella during my stay.
(Whoever owned stocks in that brilliant, hazelnut-chocolate nectar of the gods that month must have done very, very well.)
My classes were great, though some (re: computer science) were a complete write off because not only did I understand nothing of which was said (alas, I learned much as an immersion student, but the inner workings of PCs was never a topic included in our weekly dictées) but the boys in that class were so darn funny, I was too busy concentrating on keeping all my urine inside my body to really focus on anything else.
Other notes of mention: French schools have super long hours, way crazy math, and the multi-storied, multi-buildinged campus made our school back home look like a pre-kindergarten.
Okay, back to kisses.
It was Friday night, the end of our second week of study.
All of the Canadian students were invited to attend the school’s senior dance.
Point: high-school dances are complete gong shows, and a completely ridiculous explosion of drama, hormones, angst, and hilarity the world over.
Teenagers – doing it like it’s the most important thing in life, since time immemorial.
Anywho, so myself and my home-stay gal Charlotte showed up ready to get our tip-top grooves on with the rest of the senior grades.
As we walked into the gymnasium I couldn’t help remarking to myself, for what was probably the (rougly) two thousandth time since touching down in France: HOLY CRAP FRENCH BOYS WEAR TIGHT PANTS.
My immediate follow-up thought was (of course): I wonder if any of them think I’m pretty?
And so it went on.
We danced to Will Smith and Ricky Martin, and a TON of crazy French rap and R&B. At one point the DJ played a rap song that had bagpipes in it and everyone went completely batshit crazy, dancing like complete madmen and singing like banshees, which both cracked me up but also made me really happy.
It was at this point, as I moved off to the side, just to watch the carnage unfold – a slightly loopy smile flickering across my mostly shocked visage – that a boy about my height (pretty good for 14 years old, because at this point I had already reached five foot ten) came and stood beside me.
He had sandy brown hair, in the style of Chris Klein from American Pie. Freckles dotted the bridge of his nose, and his front teeth were crooked, but only slightly so.
He was a bona fide hottie.
Bonjour, he said.
Bonjour, I said.
My heart nearly exploded out my chest right then and there. A boy!? Talking to ME!?
It was almost a real Alien moment.
Voulez-vous sortir avec moi? Juste pour quelques instants? He asked.
He wanted to go outside!? With ME!?
HELL YES I WILL ACCOMPANY YOU OUTSIDE I wanted to yell.
Instead, I remembered to smile coquettishly and simply nod. Also, the less I spoke, the less likely I was to barf all over my shoes.
We walked outside and sat on top of a picnic table in the middle of a covered courtyard. We talked about school, and Canada, and France, and good grief, I’m pretty sure we talked about Will Smith’s latest CD, and then – WHAM.
Julian, of the freckles and the tight jeans, was kissing me.
And honestly, it wasn’t good.
Dude was a smoker and as much as half of my brain was screaming THIS IS THE MOST ROMANTIC THING EVER!!!!1!!1!!, the other have was screaming THIS IS LIKE LICKING A BLOODY ASHTRAY MAKE IT STOP.
Also, French kissing may look glamorous and sexy as hell to all those young, impressionable kidlets at the movie theatre, (aka me) but in real life, for the first time – EGADS.
Do not want.
Especially with Monsieur Marlboro.
Anyways, the long and short of it is, we made out for a good hour (you think just because the guy tasted like a tobacco leaf I didn’t want to keep kissing him? DREAM ON!) before returning to the dance for one final slow jam.
We met up the next day, ate at McDonalds and walked around the old town.
On Monday, after spending about half an hour looking for him after class, Julian’s friend Tony came up to me and let me know that he was really sorry, but Julian had just been using me to get back at his girlfriend who had cheated on him the week before.
This was the second time in a very short period that I felt as though I was going to have a real alien moment.
Or barf on my shoes.
But I didn’t. I sucked it up and moved on.
But only until of course I arrived home, opened a jar of Nutella, listened to Everybody Hurts on repeat six hundred times, and wept like the silly, angsty teenager that I was.
So there you have it.
I had my first French kiss, with a French boy, in France.