Thursday, May 28, 2009

Parisian Playgroup Protocol

Are you following your spouse to Paris for a three year expat gig?

Wondering how on earth you're going to make new female French friends to have long sisterly chats with? Someone who will tell you the ins and outs of living in Paris? Share their secrets with you and become your best friend?

Ha! It's never going to happen with a French woman, so don't even waste your time. Just join an expat playgroup to meet women. And to that end, here are a few tips from La Mom to make your playgroup integration a success!


The most successful playdates I've ever hosted and attended are the ones where the champagne is flowing before noon (accompanied by a colorful plate of fresh fruit and macarons from Ladurée.) Champagne somehow gets the moms in a great mood and we all agree that the kids play better once we've had a glass or two!

Most of the time.

You see, the new expat arrivals are a bit shocked at this little custom. It's not taboo in France to have a glass mid-day. Embrace it and don't roll your eyes when the hostess brings out the bubbly! After all, when you move back to wherever you came from, won't it be fun to say that you attended playdates in Paris where all the moms sat around drinking champagne?

What's the worst thing that can happen? You walk home with your stroller a bit tipsy and step in dog crotte?

Rule #2: NO SHOES!

Remove your shoes and those of your children as soon as you step into an apartment. No exceptions!

Have you seen the streets in this city? It's a horror show! Some of the moms in my neighborhood have even begun issuing Sidewalk Security Advisory Alerts the night before they host a playgroup so the guests know whether to expect a clear path or not to the hostess's apartment. Dodging doggy bombs with the stoller can be very diffucult. Either the mom or the stroller ends up with a little brownie on 'em.

So save yourself the embarassment of being the new playgroup mom who shows up with dirty shoes and remove them toute de suite as you enter the apartment.


Make a heroic effort to wear nice socks. Nothing clears a group of moms chatting in the salon faster than having to talk to one who's got her big toe sticking out of the nasty hole in her mismatched socks.


Freshly baked mini croissants, pain au raisin, and pain au chocolat are the snacks of choice for Paris playgroup toddlers. Lighten up and let yours happily devour one instead of whispering to other moms, "Why do La Mom & Miami Mom give our kids this stuff? Don't they know that toddlers + sugar = trouble?"

We know, but hey, it's playgroup. It's fun, it's once a week for 2 hours, it's no big deal.

It's Paris.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Open Season

It’s the time of year when I cringe every time I open my e-mail.

Pourquoi? Here’s a sample of the kind of messages I get in June, July, and August. That’s right, La Mom is everybody’s BFF when it comes to finding a place to crash in prime tourist season.


Hiya, La Mom! It's been soooo long since we last touched base! I’ll be coming to Paris with a friend of mine in June and it would be great to see you. How about we stay with you from the 15th – 27th?


Missouri Miss

Whoa, let’s back up a minute, shall we? Missouri Miss and I were in the same Wednesday afternoon playgroup for about 6 months. That's how long her hubby needed to figure out that it took more than a couple of drinks and a round of golf to do business with the Frenchies and hightail it back to Springfield.

No big loss – Missouri Miss was too loud, too pushy, and her twin daughters liked to take turns spitting in Small Fry’s hair. At her leaving ‘do, I quite happily lifted my glass of bubbly and toasted – to her imminent departure.

And as for staying with me? Let me point out that while I’m a really lucky gal to have a spacious Parisian apartment, it’s still a Parisian apartment – not some 4000 square foot McMansion. Our so-called “guest room” is also an office, a laundry room, and happens to be smaller than most Americans’ walk-in closets.

Hang on a minute – did she say June 15th – 27th? That’s practically two whole weeks. And it looks like I missed something at the bottom of her mail:

P.S. My friend has a little problem sleeping and walking long distances, so your place will be perfect since it’s so close to the Métro.

Um, right. Please bring your insomniac friend with bunion issues to the pedestrian capital of Europe. Can’t wait to meet her.

So here’s my disclaimer going out at the bottom of all of my personal mails from now on:

Please note that Chez La Mom is not a full service bed & breakfast. Do not contact La Mom if:

1. You live in Idaho, Nebraska, or West Virginia. La Mom is not interested in a house exchange. However, if you are a resident of Palm Beach or Manhattan, let’s talk.

2. For residents of Palm Beach and Manhattan (or other suitable location), La Mom does not run a taxi service. Hop on a Velib’ bike, the Métro, or (God forbid) hoof it.

3. Laundry is self-serve. I’ll leave the washing machine manual and a French-English dictionary out in the kitchen. Just remember not to boil your jeans at 95°C (203°F) and don’t forget we don’t have a dryer, so it’ll probably take the entire week to sêcher your linge anyway. Might as well wait until you get back home.

4. If you’re a size four and don’t mind walking around La Mom’s apartment in nothing but Chantal Thomass lingerie, let’s talk.

(Dammit, Big Cheese, I told you to quit messing around on my computer! I swear I’m changing the password this time…)

Do you think it would sound less rude if I put it in French?

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