Many of the Catholic peoples of the world, and some of the orthodox non-Catholic Christians, celebrate Three Kings day with the gimmick of a tiny doll baked into a sweet cake. The participant who finds the doll in a slice is the king or queen, and are permitted to pick their opposite number, and then there are many ribald jokes. Such are the French: they are pleased to be both cultured and uncultured in the presence of an American so they can chide him for his Puritan roots (though these may go as far back as 1520, they seem to say, they are still much too young to impart an acceptable cultural identity) and lecture him for his inability to relax and enjoy life (id est: You should be drinking more, but better) and stare in askance at the uncouth discussions of money he seems to be starting. But such is my role: the token American. I play it well. I am not a typical nor representative American, merely token. This also suits the French well. My politics and world-view are similar enough to those of my French friends that I do not grossly offend, but different enough so that we can have those fascinating conversations which begin, “You Americans always…” Good company, of course: the only people I know with whom I can discuss Venezuelan politics, black market currency fluctuations in Serbia and how one must turn the head when dancing the tango.
Posted January 21, 2003