Thursday, April 18, 2019

My Foolish Self

April is the month of fooling people. It makes me think back to a time long ago when I was young, foolish, daring, and maybe a bit irresponsible. I’ll keep it chronological, so I’ll start in the fifth grade.

I always wanted to be foreign and speak another language. Even when I was in grade school, I was fascinated with anyone from another country. In the fifth grade, my home room teacher was Greek, so when two sisters newly arrived from Greece were placed in her class without regard for their ages just because Miss Thanaglou spoke Greek, I was right there making friends. I was invited to their house and served a bowl of Greek tomato soup with lots of lemon. An older sister came in and whisked the bowl away thinking I wouldn't like it, but I did. I learned how to write in Greek, really translating from English to Greek letters. I still remember how to count in Greek, say stand up and sit down; hello, how are you, fine thank you, and you?
Recipe: Domata Soupa - Épices de Cru

How does this translate to the month of April Fools? Well, in high school, my girlfriend and I—one I’m still friends with all these years later—would get dressed in our best clothes and take the bus into Boston to go shopping. We spent the whole trip speaking some foreign language known only to us. Of course, we had no idea what we were saying, and neither did anyone else on the bus, but we were chic and exotic, or so we thought.

Another time at a college mixer, I put on a foreign accent with a college boy who bought my ruse hook, line, and sinker. I won’t tell you the fake story I told him because it’s embarrassing, but while I was fooling this very cute guy, another boy I knew sat to my left and started a conversation. I spoke to him in very soft, unaccented English, while I was speaking accented English equally softly to my new admirer on my right. The mark—yes, he was a mark—asked me and my friends out, and we went. After a while, I started to feel guilty that I was such a jerk and started speaking unaccented English. We all watched as the three guys exchanged glances. I think I’ve blocked out what happened after that, but I do remember it was a short evening. Recounting this reminds me that it could have been a scene in a mindless teen movie pulled off by a character I would dislike intensely.

After college, I spent fourteen months in Italy with one of the gals from that night. Though I’d learned Spanish in high school―not enough to carry on a conversation―I finally learned enough Italian to speak fairly fluently. The only problem was I had no one to speak with when I returned home. I free-lanced for Women’s Wear Daily in Boston in those days, and when we went to the big bridal design houses in Boston, Priscilla of Boston, and Bianchi—both now defunct, I spoke to the Italian seamstresses, but it wasn’t the same. Italian restaurants weren’t much help either.
On the way to Italy on the Leonardo da Vinci

I dated many foreign guys during those years: Greek, Italian, Israeli, Mexican, and Austrian. I finally stopped in India and married him.

Alas, it’s years later. I never learned Hindi, gave up on Spanish, and my Italian has grown rusty, though I think a few months in Rome would reignite the language for me. Instead, I’ve parked my foolish self in front of a computer, making up stories that even I couldn’t have imagined back then. I’ve grown up since then―just barely―but I doubt I could pretend to be a high-priced call girl or a psychic or a blind psychologist to fool anyone these days, so I guess writing about them will have to do.

Polly Iyer is the author of nine novels: standalones Hooked, InSight, Murder Déjà Vu, Threads, and Indiscretion, and four books in the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series, Mind Games, Goddess of the Moon, Backlash and The Scent of Murder. A Massachusetts native, she makes her home in the beautiful Piedmont region of South Carolina. You can visit her website for more on Polly and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

9 comments :

  1. Ah, the magic of youth with all its adventures and foolishness. It sounds like you have lots of grist for your writing mill, Polly. Such memories are treasures despite being at times embarrassing; they remind us that we were indeed young once and living life to the full, even if a bit foolishly now and then. This is a fun post, Polly, and an inspiration to reminisce. :-)

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    1. Sometimes I look back and wonder how I had the nerve to do half the things I did. I'm such a dud now.

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  2. Very entertaining post, Polly. I wish I had traveled as much as you did when you were young. It can't help but provide lots more ideas for your stories.

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    1. I'm glad I did things when I did, Pat. Those were the days you could actually not make much money and still afford travel, still afford to pay for college on a part-time job. Times surely have changed.

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  3. I had to laugh at you and your girlfriend speaking a foreign language that was totally made up. My girlfriend from teen years, who is still my best friend, did a similar thing. We would go to this fancy dress shop - fancy for us LOL - and pretend that she was visiting royalty. Her mother, who worked at the Kmart down from the dress shop would join in the charade. We would pretend to be communicating with my girlfriend in her foreign language, then translating for the clerk, asking for more dresses to try on. My girlfriend, her mother, and I had such great fun playing together.

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    1. Ha! I would have loved your friend and her mother. Sounds like something my friend and I would do. Oh, wait. We did. I'm laughing. The college mixer episode cured me of doing stuff like that. Came too close to exposing me as the phony I was.

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  4. I have the subconscious habit of sometimes mimicking the accent of the person I'm talking to (particularly if it's an accent I really like). Once in a pub in England I was being chatted up by an Irishman who suddenly brightened and switched to speaking to me in Gaelic convinced I was a fellow countrywoman. I had to pretend I couldn't hear him over the noise of the pub! I beat a hasty exit because I was too embarrassed to admit I'd been putting on the accent. LOL

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    1. Ha. I'm so glad I'm not alone here. We are lovers of accents. I do a pretty good French but I can't speak a word besides bon jour.

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