if only they’d been older

In case you were wondering, here’s a snapshot of what 23-year-old French boys are like:

1. They’re outgoing. The two of them struck up a conversation with Jessica and me while we were sitting on the front steps of our Amsterdam hostel at 11 p.m. I was drinking a coffee mug of cabernet while we people-watched and tried to stay out of the rain.

2. Their English is really good. “Hey, your English is really good!” I said.

“Thanks,” the more outgoing one said. “Where are you from?”

“America,” Jessica said.

3. They have some misconceptions about America. “Oh!” the outgoing one said. “I know how to say, ‘Yo, dog!'”

Jessica and I laughed. “That’s good, but not everyone talks like rappers in the States,” I said.

“Oh, really?” he said, disappointed.

“We really don’t,” Jessica said.

“Are you SURE?” he said.

“Yes. I think people talked like that in high school, didn’t they?” I said.

“Yeah, they did,” Jessica said.

“Let me ask you this,” he said. “Are you voting for Obama or McCain?”

“Obama!” we both said.

4. They really like Barack Obama. “Yes!” he said. “We just saw him speak in Berlin!”

“How was it?” I said.

“It was quite good,” said the shy one.

“So why do you not like McCain?” said the outgoing one.

The wine was talking for me, so I said, “When I hear him on the radio, his voice sounds just like George W. Bush, and it freaks me out.” I don’t remember what else Jessica or I said about it.

5. They love Will Ferrell, and they LOVE Judd Apatow movies.

“Did you see Superbad?” the outgoing one said.

“Yeah, but I didn’t like it too much,” I said.

“What, really? It was great! He is McLovin!” he said, pointing to his shy friend, who did indeed look a little like McLovin.

“Maybe a bit,” I said.

“It’s just the hair and the glasses,” Jessica said. Then we talked about Old School and the 40-Year-Old Virgin and some other man-child movies.

“You should see Pineapple Express when it comes out,” I said. “You’ll like it, it has Seth Rogen.”

“Seth Rogen?” the shy one said.

“Yeah, he was the one in the 40-Year-Old Virgin who said, ‘I’m ugly as fuck.'”

“Oh, yes, him! Let’s write this down!” the outgoing one said. The shy friend took out some paper and a pen and wrote “Pine Apple Express.”

“Pineapple is one word, like the fruit,” I said.

“Okay, and then you have to see Blades of Glory. You will like it!” the outgoing one said.

“Eh,” I said.

“What! You have to see it! I promise you will like it!”

“Here’s an American expression for you: I’ll take your word for it.”

“‘I’ll take your word for it.’ What does that mean?”

“It means you’re not going to do whatever the person said you should do, but you’ll believe them that it’s good,” Jessica said.

“Ah, so it is ironical, yes?”


6. They understand why George Bush got into the Iraq war.

“WHAT?” I said.

“He had to,” said the outgoing one. “When things are bad America has to go in. They are the biggest, richest country in the world–”

“Not anymore,” the shy one and I said at the same time.

“But still, they are very powerful, and they had to go in.”

“Let me tell you something–” I said.

“Uh-oh, here she goes,” Jessica said to the shy one. They both laughed.

“–George Bush is a war criminal, and he needs to be impeached, but he won’t be, because–”

“What is ‘impeach’?” said the shy one.

“Oh,” I said. “Impeachment is when the government decides that the president might need to be removed from office, so they hold a trial to see if they can vote to remove him.”

“Oh, okay,” said the shy one.

“Bill Clinton was impeached, but it didn’t go through, and–”

“Nixon?” said the outgoing one.

“No,” Jessica said, “he resigned before he could be impeached.”

“Only one president has ever been impeached and thrown out of office, and it was Andrew Jackson. Wait–”

“Johnson,” Jessica said.

“Andrew Johnson, yes.”

[I was wrong, though.]

7. They want to hang out with YOU.

“Where is the red light district?” the outgoing one said.

“Oh, we just walked around over there,” Jessica said. “Go down that way and take a right at the canal, then take a left at the next bridge. It’s down there somewhere.”

“Thanks,” the outgoing one said. “Do you want to come with us?”

“We just got in and we’re pretty tired tonight, but thanks anyway!” I said.

“Okay. Well, it was nice to meet you. I will remember ‘I’ll take your word for it.'”

“Good!” I said. We all shook hands and they took off into the rain.