Wednesday, July 2, 2014

First Word: Charmaine Pauls: Accent

When I lived in Montpellier, the cultured French said my accent was vulgar. So were my clothes, my hair, my red nail varnish, and my birthday cakes. In my new country things seemed to be subdued: cloud-blue and mud-pink for babies; a dust of lilac for men’s shirts; a brush of earthy color for women’s skirts; and cakes only au-natural. Vanilla or chocolate. 
            In South Africa we like bright colors that match the hard, Germanic sound of our tongue – red, blue, yellow and green. You see it in the hairstyles, violet or orange highlights and asymmetrical cuts. Shooters are preferred to wine. There are at least twenty different body-shots on the menu of any bar. Men wear khaki shirts, sleeves rolled up, and safari pants. They speak loud and they say what they mean. Our portions are large. Five hundred grams of meat, at least, is the norm. No hard-working boertjie is going to appreciate the fusion of three peas and a scallop on a French plate.
            My preference for birthday parties are fantasy themes, things the kids will remember. Green dinosaurs, magenta Barbies, red fire trucks, and yellow-purple butterflies. The French kids are skeptical of my colored icing, and the parents gasp in horror. At first this makes me question my style, my taste, and my affection for all things top-heavy. But then I go back home, and I slip right in. What I wear, and say, and mean, just Fits.

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