A few weeks ago, I re-watched a bunch of “Call My Agent,” a brilliant French television show about the hijinks of actors and their agents at a Paris talent agency. I was about to start season 4 (which unfortunately was nowhere near as wonderful as the previous seasons), and I wanted to remember where the show had left off.
The first time I binged the show, COVID-19 did not yet exist, and my focus was on the hilarity of every situation. This time around, it was on the outfits, the outings, and the city. Everyone looked so sleek in their high heels and spiffy blazers, hobnobbing at cafes and bars. Paris seemed so kinetic and lively. It filled me with longing. I reside in what is normally among the most energetic cities in the world and yet I haven’t felt any of that in a year.
The glamorous rooftop party scene from the season three finale hit me like a punch to the gut. Oh, to be in a crowd of interesting people! To be dressed up! To be among acquaintances and strangers! To be tipsy and flirty! To have no idea where the next conversation could take you, what kind of fascinating world someone could open the door to. That certain sense of possibility has been notably absent for almost twelve months, and it’s really, really starting to get to me. (And everyone else, I know.)
As I was watching the party scene I found myself fantasizing about being there. I noticed that I particularly enjoyed the thought of schmoozing in French, as though that would double the pleasure of the party. It took me a minute to recognize why.
Perhaps this analogy is the result of too many months of lockdown, but… is it not true that speaking a foreign language is sort of like cheating, except without the betrayal of another human being? When I momentarily abandon my tried and true English to spend time with its sexier, lesser known cousin, I get such a thrill from the unfamiliarity, the appealing awkwardness, the conquest that comes with mutual understanding, and the secrecy of speaking a language most of my compatriots don’t understand. It breathes fresh life into my bored bones.
At this point I’d get a thrill out of going to the laundromat, though, so I could be blowing this analogy way out of proportion. My perspective is pretty screwed up these days…