Monday 23 February 2009

In which we wonder whether fetishes also can be nationalized

The horror-sign that you find in all French swimming pools. And which the natives embrace with gusto...the national swimming network is run rather like an English prep school.

Before getting out here I bought myself a decent pair of jammer trunks (like cycling shorts - very modest) which is my usual garb for cranking out my granny-lengths. In the past they have always passed the French speedo-radar but on my very first trip to a pool I was accosted by a scrawny locker attendant (very Roald Dahl/Quentin Blake-esque) who told me I couldn't go in because my trunks were not brief enough. The old perv. Luckily I managed to get the life guard to convince her otherwise but it would have been a close shave.

Rather more surprisingly, I was swimming in my usual (pool and trunks) the other night when, not an attendant, but another swimmer took it upon himself to approach me in the deep end:

[Disdainfully] "Vous avez un short?"
[Very disdainfully] "C'est un short de bain?"

I had to lift my thigh out of the water to convince him I was correctly attired. Quite extraordinary and, most bizarrely, this wasn't some old Cognac-damaged fart but a wee whipper-snapper who must have been younger than me. I simply cannot understand how he could have been fussed. Or even had the balls, basically, to say he'd rather I was wearing skimpies. Maybe this was some kind of French polari.

While I sort of agree that swimming is best done in this genre of attire, the French male's obsession with flaunting himself in revealing lycra is not just in the almost legitimate privacy of the swimming pool. Men of all ages sprint gaily along the pavements in assorted leggings and there are some really quite bizarre sights. When I took Thomas to his handball match a few weeks ago, we passed a game of football where all the boys were wearing tights under their strips. It obviously catches on young. And the other day, I saw a boy waiting in rollerblades outside a shop wearing just a pair of black tights and a fleece. And spectacles. Bloody weird. Even the roller blades alone...

I suppose I shall have sufficiently absorbed French culture not when I start to dream in French but when I feel an unexplained urge to slip into a bodystocking and prance to SuperU.

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