travel

Quelle Pain in the Nuque

avenue BosquetOf all the dilemmas in France, I never anticipated this.

Quite suddenly I got a really bad crick in my neck. Earlier, I had dashed out of the apartment to do an errand, with slightly damp hair pulled hastily into a pony tail. I guess the fashion & beauty gods couldn't figure out how to punish this mortal for such a Parisian coiffure transgression, so they dealt me a stiff neck as penance.

I suffered through a quiet evening at home, with a fuzzy muffler warming my aching neck and indulging in frequent ibuprofen therapy (both pills and the lovely nurophen topical gel from the pharmacienne). Sleep was tormented, but I was determined to make the most of my Sunday.

So I decided to buck up and head out for the day's activities. Busy agenda today. I hadn't been to the Cathedral in a while, and wanted to attend the le bosquet cafeAnnual Art Show there sponsored by Les Arts George V. Lots of people to catch up with. Of course, by now I know the drill at Parisian receptions: bonjour, bonjour -- and bisous-bisous.

And that's where the pain-in-the-neck problem came in. After the first brief peck at a friend's right cheek, I yelped in pain: the required turning of my head quickly to the side for the air-kisses sent a knife-like jab into the nape of my neck. Repeat for the left-cheek kiss. Agony!

Here I was, supposedly delighted to be reunited with friends old and new, and each time I saw someone approach, an involuntary look of dread must have crossed my face as I anticipated the searing pain. Then my grimace after the first torturous bise, the face turning pale from pain after the second bise.

Paris waiterRepeat that scenario about twenty times. By the fifth air-kiss, the pain was streaking down my shoulder-blade. Help! In a crowded, noisy room, with people babbling in French and English, you can't exactly say "I can't give you a kiss because I have a stiff neck" when a cheek is offered. Besides, no one really wants to know about my minor ailments.

Normally it's not a big deal. I've had a sore neck before; and, I've been in France for a while -- but I never had both occur at the same time. I tried to muster every milligram of stoicism and acting skills in order to bob and weave through the crowd, and was doing a mighty poor job of it.

I survived to tell the tale, of course, but I wondered: what is the proper protocol when you are temporarily un-kissable in France?

Okay hair-style gods, I've spent a full day atoning for my sin. Enough already! And please, I don't ever want to hear the phrase "turn the other cheek" again.

Polly is a Boston born Baby Boomer living on the Left Bank in Paris and blogging about it at Polly-Vous Francais. © 2006-2008, Polly-Vous Francais, all rights reserved.

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