Le Dernier Mot: Odd Woman Out

Le Dernier Mot: Odd Woman Out

Kristin takes a deep breath after discovering her dream chalet has turned into a ‘man-tuary’

Last spring my husband and I bought a tiny chalet in the Alps after imagining the pleasure of living in a such a place.

The little cabin particularly appealed to mon homme, an outdoorsy type. Jean-Marc could not wait to begin moving in, and so arrived a week before I did. Fine by me: he could get everything up and running and I could show up in time to enjoy the comforts of our cosy Alpine nest. Cosy? Nest? I guess that depended on your perspective. What little space we had in the one-room abode was taken up by all of my husband’s sports paraphernalia.

Inching my way into the maisonette, I noticed seven pairs of hiking/biking/running shoes and the coat rack was crowded with mountain gear. Pushing aside some equipment in order to hang my scarf and sun hat, I caught a glimpse of the room beyond, where mountain bikes took up what space remained.

“I’ll move those right away,” my husband volunteered. And he did, in time to reveal a few more rugged details of the manspace he had (unconsciously?) created. Did he actually hang his L’Étape du Tour vanity medal on the kitchen wall – in place of the apron that was there before it? Who hangs a medal in a cosy nest? Cro-magnon does! In his man cave! There was no mistaking it now: my husband had, however inadvertently, created a man-pad and the ‘homely’ details I continued to discover were baffling.

Searching for linens at dinnertime, I had a great shock. The hand-stitched napkins I had carefully packed were completely déchirées – torn right down the centre! “Oh, I had friends over for a BBQ. There weren’t enough napkins so I halved them.”

Exhaling, I calmly reminded myself those embroidered napkins cost only three bucks at the brocante. Still, he was lucky they weren’t hand-stitched by my grandmother or no amount of sagesse could have kept me from clobbering my caveman.

Setting the frayed cloth serviettes in a mending pile (perhaps they could be refashioned into cocktail napkins?), I headed outside for some fresh air. That’s when I noticed a bright white dress shirt dangling from a tree limb… Now what?

“Oh, I washed it,” Jean-Marc explained. Just then my eyes darted over to the clothesline, qui avait disparue. In its place, a row of grapevines.

“You tore out my clothesline and planted vines?”

“I’m experimenting to see if I can make wine at this elevation,” he said.

“In the freezing Alps?”

Just then my man smiled that sourire that seduced me all those years ago, adding: “Qui ne tente rien n’a rien.” Nothing ventured nothing gained…

Me and my caveman have come too far in our adventures together for one of us to make a fuss over having to hang her culottes in the trees.

Grapevines in the Alps. Photo: Kristin Espinasse


UN HOMME = man
UNE MAISONNETTE = cottage, small house
DÉCHIRÉ(E) = torn
UNE BROCANTE = flea market
LA SAGESSE = wisdom
DISPARU / DISPARAÎTRE = disappeared / to disappear
UN SOURIRE = smile
UNE CULOTTE = underwear

From France Today magazine

Read more of Kristin’s popular columns here:
Le Dernier Mot: Wait a Minute Mr Postman
Le Dernier Mot: Crowning Glory
Le Dernier Mot: Affair of the Heart
Le Dernier Mot: Inside Job
Le Dernier Mot: Naked Ambition
Le Dernier Mot: That Which We Call a Rose…
Le Dernier Mot: France Isn’t All That Bad!
Le Dernier Mot: A Passage to Corsica
Le Dernier Mot: Desperately Seeking… Dessert
Le Dernier Mot: Sirène Again!
Le Dernier Mot: Milking the Breakfast Bar
Le Dernier Mot: Saperlipopette
Le Dernier Mot: Uninvited Guêpes
Le Dernier Mot: An Exception to Every Rule

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The American-born author and photographer lives with her French husband, Jean-Marc, and their two children on a vineyard and olive farm near Bandol in Provence. She's the author of "Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language from the South of France" and runs the French Word-a-Day blog and newsletter.

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  • Jan Hersh
    2020-03-04 23:10:24
    Jan Hersh
    Short but sweet...things change over the years in a long marriage. At least that what I am experiencing since our wedding in 1975!