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Nice Isn't Always So Nice.

Illustration by Inslee Haynes

The dog days of summer are here, lazy days are coming to an end, but before you start planning your September, and I invite you to take a trip with me down to the South of France. Excerpts of this story were published last fall when Aurelien invited me to the Loire for the weekend, and I was nervous to travel with a new boyfriend outside of Paris because of an experience I had in Nice. I try not to re-post stories as I do want to keep the blog fresh with new adventures and personal growth, but this tale has turned into such a summer classic that it's worth another spin, especially on a warm last weekend of summer. 

I suggest getting a glass of wine for this one...

Picture it. Nice. My first summer in France.

It was like I was living in a movie. My cute new boyfriend invited me on vacation to the South of France. I could hardly contain my excitement as I had always wanted to go to the French Riviera, ever since Madame Moureau’s slide show in 6th grade French. I had my bags packed with all my cute navy blue summer dresses, a chiffon pink scarf tied around my head, and my cat-eye sunglasses on. I was ready to go. Monsieur Flâneur said he'd be at my apartment in the Marais at noon to hit the road. He didn't show up until 7 pm. So he was seven hours late. Who cares, I was in love and was going to Nice for the week!

After a 12 hour drive from Paris in Monsieur Flâneur's driver's ed car where I couldn't stretch my feet out in fear I would hit the breaks or pedals that were also on the passenger's side of the car, we arrived in Nice. And it was pouring rain. We hadn't anticipated that the overnight drive through the entire country of France would be so exhausting, and we could barely keep our stinging bloodshot eyes open. Luckily, the landlord of our vacation rental was waiting for us under an awning of a cafe to give us the keys, and we didn't have to wait around. We let ourselves into our home for the week, a lovely three bedroom apartment equipped with a full kitchen, dining room, living room and balcony filled with flowers in colors of magenta, rose and violet. It was perfect. The only activity on the agenda was sleep, and I wasted no time in making the bed in the master bedroom that looked out onto a neighbor's well-maintained tropical garden. 

While MF was out on the balcony smoking his tenth cigarette that morning, I was nestling under the covers with a Belle France pain au chocolat that I picked up from a rest stop on the autoroute, when the doorbell rang. MF answered the door, and suddenly an orchestra of double kissing noises, ça vas, comment va-tus?, and ça fait trop longtemps could be heard in the foyer. It was MF's Nice friends whom he hasn't seen in over a year. Okay, I said to myself, what's another hour or so? In spite of my exhaustion, I pulled myself out of bed and made some coffee to perk up. These were his friends from his childhood vacations, as well as friends that I had heard so much about, and I genuinely wanted to meet them. How could I deprive him of seeing them?

Meeting the friends was more of a challenge than I had expected. With my sleep deprivation, and my at the time inability to follow the language with ease, especially with their Niçoise accents that has different inflections than the Parisian accent, I spent the morning feigning comprehension with nods, smiles, and laughs. Looking back, I probably should have just gone to bed, but I wanted them to like me. I was still in that phase of seeking approval in my relationships, and wanted to be the cool girlfriend. I have since abandoned this characteristic and now just listen to myself.


Coffee with his friends turned into lunch which turned into three bottles of rosé, and them sharing funny stories with me about their summers spent on the beach, again stories I didn't fully understand. The wine didn't give me any liquid courage to chime in the conversation, it just made me even more sleepy. I kept reminding myself that relationships are about compromise and I can always sleep later. Before I knew it, my secret wish of blissful slumber was about to be granted and the boys were finally saying their goodbyes at the door, which in France always takes forever. While I was double kissing, who was coming up the hallway stairs? MF's family. His brother, his Catalan girlfriend, his mother and his father. MF greeted them as if we were in Paris and they were just stopping by, 12 hours out of the way. 

The arrival of his family certainly was not a coincidence, this had been planned, and MF had just given me the courtesy to tell me that they were vacationing with us. His skill of not communicating anything with me would become the theme of our relationship, and this was only round one. Now that his family was there, the other two bedrooms had made more sense, I moved our things into the smaller, modest bedroom to give them master suite to his parents. They must have thought I was such a diva for selecting this room when I "knew" they were coming. MF swore that he told me that we were going on vacation with his entire family, but I stand by the fact that he did not. My French at the time may have been shaky, but I surely would have understood "ma famille vient" Come on, venir present tense, that's like Alliance Française level A1. 

Essentially, I was on vacation with a bunch of strangers whom I wanted to like me, and to think that I was smart, well-spoken, and good enough for their son. No pressure. I bucked up and said to myself, "I can do this, I'm Italian, we invented the art of breaking down boundaries and comfort zones". I was armed with my Becherelle should I come face to face with a conjugation crisis now that I was expected to speak in the formal vous.

Just as the shock of his family's presence was wearing off and was changing the sheets with MF's mother who thought I was insane to even consider sleeping on the linens provided without washing them first, there was another knock on the door. Who could it be now? It was Caroline, MF's 40-year-old friend from Paris who stormed into the apartment hysterically crying. I was starting to believe that we in fact never left Paris, by just how casual everyone's pop-ins were. Mind you, we said dramatic goodbyes to Caroline 24 hours earlier but alas, there she was, in Nice, crying about her relationship with her former soccer star boyfriend. 

Blatantly ignoring my request to sleep, MF had planned for us all to go to a discotheque that night in Cannes because Caroline was upset. The night before, she had discovered that the man she was living with was still inviting prostitutes to their home in the Marais after she told him not to, and he was now flying down to Nice, and she didn't know what to do. She didn't know what to do? So going to a nightclub in Cannes was the answer. And is it just me, or wouldn't finding a hooker, hired by your boyfriend, in your house the first time be grounds for a break-up? Maybe I'm just uptight.

The following morning I woke up fresh on a gorgeous sunny day in the South of France, I decided to just blow off the irritation from the day before as a result of exhaustion. I had made plans for MF and I to meet Claire, a girlfriend of mine that I knew from Paris for lunch in town. I felt like France was becoming my home because on our little vacation, I too had people to see and was proud to bring MF with me to meet one of my friends, since we were always with his crew. The lunch didn't turn out at all how I expected. It was awful. My "friend" whom I had met in English, suddenly didn't speak it anymore and was only able to communicate shamelessly flirt with my boyfriend. I had suddenly become a third wheel intruding on their date as she shared stories with him, , in particular,lar was about the little outfit she wore in a wrestling match in Thailand, in which MF responded, "you must have looked so sexy". Is it just me or is that really inappropriate?! This lasted for four painful hours where they didn't speak to me, only every so often to explain something slower because I didn't understand "fast French". 

Fuck. You. 

I was boiling mad. This chick also wasted no time in adding him on Facebook an hour after we parted from the lunch from hell. At the time, I wasn't even friends with him on Facebook, but him and Claire? Why not? And I only found out about their friendship because the following day, Facebook suggested that I friend MF, one of "Claire's friends."

The fun didn't stop there. Oh no. So on top of him not telling me that his entire family was coming to Nice, him hiding his communication with Claire, he also didn't tell me that his friend Nicole was in Nice. 

She was one of his friends that I tried my very best to tolerate but she made it so difficult. This was the girl who would say snarky, sly things to me in English so MF wouldn't understand. Goodies like "You don't have to be jealous of me. MF doesn't like girls with large breasts." or "Make sure to keep him happy otherwise he will always have me to fill his emotional void." and her favorite, "Before you, we used to talk on the phone for like five hours a day, we're soul mates." You can see why we didn't exactly stay in touch after the break-up. This girl was just horrid.

At the café on the beach, I swear she purposefully left her bathing suit top off, leaving us to have small talk for almost 45 minutes with her bare breasts jiggling in our face. I was so uncomfortable, and I didn't know where to look. I was desperately avoiding eye contact with her bull's eyes, kind of like when someone has a lazy eye and you can't help but look at the one eye you're not supposed to. And to be clear, I'm not prude, I sunbathe topless in Europe too but if a guyfriend of mine is coming to meet me with his girlfriend, I'm not going to sit there and nonchalantly sip on mojitos while strategically letting the glass rub up against breasts, allowing the condensation to drip off my cold, hard nipples. Call me old-fashioned. To give them time alone and to rise above her catty games, I left them at the beach café to catch up while I went to get a blow out with his mom at a salon in town. The plan was to meet them at his friend's brasserie two hours later. This should have enough time for them to catch up...even though we saw her a week ago in Paris.

As planned, I arrived at the brasserie and had a seat at the bar. I was feeling fabulous and refreshed with my thick curly brown hair blown out straight and the humidity giving it a slight beach wave (very Bardot), nothing was going to bring me down. Since MF and Nicole hadn't arrived yet, I ordered a coffee and chatted with the barman who had been serving us all week. They arrived shockingly on time - MF wasn't exactly known for his promptness -  and as us,ual he couldn't resist making a comment that he preferred my hair curly. I brushed off his annoying remark because I was buzzed off the fact that Nicole was leaving soon, and knew that my hair looked great. So did he. 

Hallelujah! Nicole was finally leaving and was going back to her hotel to meet her boyfriend whom by the way, I had never met. My buzz came to screeching halt when MF orde:red "un café pour ma chérie, s'il te plaît!". The server who certainly knew we were a couple was confused, who was chérie? Certainly not me in this context, I for one was already drinking a café. The barman looked at me and then at Nicole who looked satisfied as if she was a cat who just pissed on her territory and with a girlish giggle said, "C'est pour moi." A coffee for his sweetheart?! His baby? His darling? I know in France this word is used more loosely than it is in the States but on top of everything that was happening, I was reaching my limit.

I kept saying goodbye to Nicole, as a hint to get her on her way but she was never leaving, and as we were walking back to the apartment, she followed along. At this point, hiding my irritation was becoming more and more of a challenge. I was pissed at MF, done with her, and just wanted to snap my fingers and be back in Paris. Nice was turning into a nightmare. At the apartment, he then told me he was driving her back to her hotel. En plus. "How did she get here?" I sharply asked, "And where is her boyfriend?" It was only 5 pm, the sun was still out, she had gotten to the beach on her very own and I was fed up with lending my boyfriend out. "She's wearing heels, chérie, she can't get back on her own," he said, trying to reason with me. Now I'm chérie again. How convenient. Oblivious to my aggravation, he left me in the apartment alone. His brother and girlfriend were taking a sieste as was the dad who was sleeping on the couch in his underwear, and his mother was out grocery shopping. I sat on the bed in our room and tried to read a book but just looked out on to the balcony at the waving palm trees wondering if I was being too sensitive or if he really was being completely ridiculous this entire week. I later found out that Nicole took the car ride as an opportunity to tell MF her concerns about me. "Elle n'est pas normal. Excuse-moi mais..." I'm not normal?! I'm not normal because I don't want my new boyfriend calling another woman baby in front of me, because I don't want to be called dramatic when I am exhausted after driving for 12 hours over night and don't want to go clubbing, because I don't like to be ignored at a lunch of three people when I'm the person in common, because I don't want my boyfriend flirting with my friends in front of me, because I don't want to look at her boobs, and because I don't want to be left in an apartment alone on our vacation while she feeds him tales on how I am not normal? Again, where was this girl's boyfriend? 

MF came back three hours later, and as you can imagine I was pissed. Three hours? Where was her hotel? Italy? After confronting him about everything that had gone wrong this week, and then being called dramatic, insecure, erratic, selfish and ungrateful by him, I spent the rest of the vacation walking on eggshells, half believing that everything was my fault. That was my need for approval creeping back in. A day after returning to Paris, I fled to New York like a bat out of hell, and wanting to avoid any further confrontation, I told MF that my brother Andrew had been stabbed and I needed to get back to the States. I know. It was horrible. It was one of my lowest moments. Seriously, who does that? I just really needed a French break. A break from the language, the country, and a break from MF without anymore drama between us. Just my brother getting stabbed, that's all. At the time, I wasn't sure if this experience was an extreme case of culture shock or if MF really did suck. Fast forward three years later, I have my answer, and rest assured, I have never had an experience anything close to this with Aurelien.

It's such a shame that my first trip to the South of France ended up being such a disastrous mess, but now that I am over MF, the story of Nice makes me laugh and almost nostalgic for my first summer in France. Saying that, I look forward to seeing Nice again, but this time with much better company.

Bon week-end!

16 comments:

  1. You deserve a medal for this. Plus, you can re-tell stories all you want! You always put a new spin on everything.

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    1. Thanks, Jenna! It was one of the more challenging weeks I've had in France, but hey, it tells a good story now! Silver lining.. : )

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  2. This story makes me seethe! I'm glad you can laugh at it now, because if it was still weighing on your mind I'd probably take it upon myself to jet over to France to fly kick MF, Claire and Nicole :)

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    1. I love everyone's reaction to this story. I'm glad it wasn't only me who found it unbelievably inappropriate on the account of several parties included!

      I'm definitely laughing about it now. Ass-kicking not need it...although it would be entertaining!!

      Thanks, Katya!

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  3. How horrible! Seriously, reading it has left me with that nasty pit in my stomach and more than a little peeved. That girl Nicole was poison! I am so happy that this isn't your life anymore.
    And the next time you make it to Nice, I'll drive down and meet you and we'll make memories that will kick the ass of this one! :)

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    1. Doesn't that make you just cringe?! Like I was telling Grenobloise, I omitted a lot from that week, just for the sake of the story's length.

      Oh yeah, Nicole sucked. She was so happy when MF and broke up. I really wanted to smash her face in. I swear I'm not violent...really. : )

      Yes, if I'm down there, we will sooooo have a girl's date! I'm still trying to work out coming down to Montpellier. Will let you know sooner than later! Thank you for inviting me!

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  4. Oh my god, awful! I would have got so pissed off that I would have been insulting the guy and left Nice immediately (and that guy too). But, Nice is very lovely place -I'm sorry you had so bad first holiday there. You should go back and have a fabulous holidays with NICE people :)

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    1. Totally awful!

      I look forward to seeing the city again under a more positive influence may it be with my boyfriend or friends. Nothing could be worst than that experience, so I'm sure that I will really enjoy myself!

      Thanks for commenting, Sini!

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  5. Isn't it amazing what us gals will put ourselves through - making excuses, blaming ourselves - because we love someone. It isn't until we find someone who treats us how we are supposed to be treated that we realize how silly past relationships may have been. I have so been there and could hit myself for staying with that person but I don't think I would be able to truly appreciate how lucky I am now if it wasn't for my past failed relationships. It's nice when you can finally take a step back to learn from it rather than continue to be bitter. So happy this is no longer your life and you have found someone who makes you happy, laugh and treats you how you deserve to be treated! How refreshing!

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    1. It sure is amazing what we put ourselves through for love! Oy vey.

      I truly do believe that we are supposed to have these painful experiences to grow, learn and appreciate the right person, otherwise we wouldn't know any different.

      Amen to your comment! Here's to not taking crap and feeling confident for getting through tough times and moving on!

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  6. I'm glad you retold this story. It really is insane. I did that in the past too- staying in crappy situations with disrespectful, egotistical, manipulative ppl due to approval-seeking. I'm glad we're both wiser now and in healthy relationships!

    I have not yet been to Nice. I've been to the cote d'Azur but not that far east. One day hopefully!

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    1. Isn't it nuts?! Believe it or not, for the sake of the story's length, I left out A LOT. We'll gossip one of these days over drinks. It seems like we have tons in common. We'll need a bottle or two of rose. ; )

      Approval-seeking is the worst. Once I got over that (in all relationships, not just romantic), I felt liberated knowing that it's completely okay if not everyone likes you. It happens...

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  7. What a staggeringly stupifyingly horrible dickwad. Good riddance. So glad you reposted though, as I haven't dug into the background. Honestly I think Claire is worse in this scenario than Nicole. Because Nicole's just a plain straight shooting bitch. She doesn't try to hide it, she advertises "I'm the enemy". But Claire was yours, and to be betrayed by your own links is far worse than straight-forward "enemies". Of course the worst of all of them is MF -- the others were just bit players -- so, GOOD RIDDANCE. (and I love the 'Fuck. You.' Punctuation can be so satisfying).

    Next time you return with Seb, drop me a line as I'd be thrilled to give you some suggestions. I grew up going to Beaulieu (a small town btwn Nice and Monaco) because my best friend grew up there.
    xx

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    1. Hahaha omg, Daisy! Wow, you passionately dislike MF! You're so funny with your comments in regard to him! You have no patience. That's that New Yorker in you coming out. We can't help it. : )

      Yeah Claire sucked. Claire also had a thing for married men. She was 38, still single and had no idea why. I could have given her a few reasons had she asked. Yeah, we said bye to Claire right after this. Those two can have each other!

      Hahahah a simple Fuck. You really does say it all, doesn't it?

      Thanks so much for your comment. You make me laugh!!

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  8. You can re-tell stories anytime! But wowza this one is crazy. How and why we put up with men and/or friends like this because we care about them, is something that I will never understand. You had such a right to be pissed...I know I would not have maintained my cool as well as you. However, I am so glad all of those toxic people are out of your life now! :)

    xo

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    1. Thanks!! Hahaha yeah, this was is pretty nuts! I guess we live and learn, right? At least I can laugh about it now!
      At the time, not so much. I was fuming!!

      Thanks Lauren! I'm glad these people are gone too!

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