Saturday, November 26, 2005

Cultural Mormon: Who are these apostates coming down, coming down?

Now, this may not be obvious to many readers, but in fact I'm making a serious effort to tailor this column to my Utah Valley audience in hopes of offending as few people as possible.

People who know my writing from other venues may know that I like to talk about sex. All the time. And when I was invited to write a column for this new publication and sent in a few sample columns, the editorial board gently hinted that I might want to tone that down a bit, so as to avoid offending the good people of Utah Valley.

I'm perfectly happy to go along with this constraint to the best of my ability, since really I'm a nice person -- generally respectful to others -- and I'm not the sort of person who gets her jollies from offending and upsetting people.

Note that I'm doing this for my apostate readers (if I have any) as much as for my LDS readers (if I have any). This may seem counterintuitive, but sometimes the apostates are even more offended by the sex talk than the Mormons. This is because I'm promoting the negative stereotype that people who leave the church are mostly depraved perverts.

So for the sake of my apostate friends, I feel compelled to tell you all that I do not necessarily represent the typical apostate. Many apostates are just as somber out of the church as they ever were in it. And I personally know plenty of apostates who are not at all sex maniacs nor hard-core partiers. Too bad for them, really, but to each his own.

On an earlier column I got some negative feedback regarding the fact that I consider the Book of Mormon to be a work of fiction. To be honest, I appreciate this sort of feedback because it helps me understand the point of view of this publication's readers. Normally, I would suppose that when I say I'm an apostate, it would go without saying that I don't believe the Book of Mormon to be a real history, in the same way that when I meet someone who is LDS, I assume they believe the Book of Mormon to be nonfiction. Hence for either side, stating one's opinion (respectively testimony) shouldn't be terribly surprising. But it's been some time since I've lived in Utah Valley, and I've forgotten a few things, so it's good to have a reminder of how things work.

Actually, I think it's pretty cool if there really are any faithful Mormons reading my column. In my fantasy universe, I think this means that I'm "sparking a dialogue" to help current and former LDS understand each other's perspective. In reality, it's probably more like "Ha ha! Look at that silly apostate!," but even in that case at least I'm providing some sort of public service.

Mormonism was a huge part of my life all through my childhood and adolescence, right up until I graduated from BYU in 1992. Growing up, our family wasn't one of those half-assed borderline LDS families that the ward is always trying to reactivate. We were one of those pillar-of-the-ward, attend-every-Sunday, lots-o'-callings, don't-even-think-of-skimping-on-the-tithes-and-offerings families that the church loves so much.

Yet, now that I no longer believe in the mythology, faithful Mormons and apostates agree that any further interest I show in LDS culture or history is a sign of some sort of mental disorder. Maybe it is.

Maybe it's crazy of me to think LDS culture is interesting on its own, and not just for its heavenly rewards.

When I was back in Minnesota this past summer visiting my parents, I was irresistably drawn to this one bookshelf of my mom's where she keeps a collection of LDS-interest teen romance novels. They were actually kind of amusing, and I ended up keeping something of a mini-blog of reviews of them. The classic Jack Weyland stuff was still basically the most entertaining fare, but it's important to take it in small doses since it's kind of repetitive.

Also I love Saturday's Warrior. (Not the video, but rather the original cast recording.) This is another point where apostate and faithful LDS alike join in mocking me, but I can't help it -- for some reason I think it's fabulous. Maybe my brain is broken. It drives my husband completely up the wall. He's an ordinary French guy raised in a Catholic home with no contact with Mormonism, so he doesn't understand the draw of Saturday's Warrior. He thinks it's intolerable, so I can only listen to it when he isn't around. Sometimes if my two apostate brothers are visiting he lets us listen to it all together.

Did you catch that last line?

Yep, three apostates (in a family of five kids) that was once a pillar-of-the-ward family. Sorry to shock -- all I can say is let this be a lesson to all you LDS parents who think it's OK to be a little bit of an "intellectual" or dabble in "feminism." Also, too many stints as Gospel Doctrine teacher for both parents can be a little dangerous.

OK, by now I've probably messed up on my goal not to offend everyone, so I'd better stop here....

Published in the Utah Valley Monitor November 10, 2005.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Le Metro !: No longer car-dependent, I'm now part of the French underground

I moved to France so I could be closer to my only true love: Le Metro! Please don't tell my husband -- he still thinks it's because of him.

Now I've recently heard that some have proposed linking Utah Valley with Salt Lake via commuter rail (see this site). All I can say is that that's pretty cool that the option of a traffic-free commute might become available.

When I was attending BYU, I already found the bus service between the two to be pretty convenient, at least for weekend visits, though perhaps not for a daily commute.

The only time I had a problem with the SLC/Utah Valley bus was one evening when I decided to take the last bus up to Salt Lake to surprise my friend, and I didn't think about the fact that I would arrive after the SLC buses were done running for the night. I ended up having to walk 20 blocks to my friend's house in the snow! Uphill both ways, of course. You kids today have no idea of the hardships we had to endure back in the days before everyone on the freaking planet got a cell phone.

Anyway, back to the Paris Metro, and how I fell in love with it.

I know a lot of you have plenty of good reasons to prefer the convenience of going everywhere by car. But for myself, I've found that a combination of walking and public transportation perfectly fits with all of my wacky eccentricities.

First of all, I can't stand exercising for its own sake -- it bores me to tears. I once went a good 10 months of faithfully doing a 90-minute workout three times a week because I had a car commute to a sedentary programming job -- and believe me, I was crying on my Stairmaster the whole time.

On the other hand, I love a pleasant, brisk half-hour walk across town twice a day (my current commute to work). I'm not sure why, but it's practically my favorite part of my whole day.

Second of all, I have a terrible sense of direction, so every time I drive somewhere I've never been before, it's a real bother for me to try to interpret the map in real time while I'm also trying not to crash into pedestrians or other cars. And when I'm driving along a route I know well enough to follow without a map, it's a bother for me to pay attention to not hitting things when I'd rather be thinking about something more interesting (I'm not telling you what).

Then, once I get to wherever I'm going, I have to find a parking place. Then I have to park. Then I have to figure out if I have enough change for parking. Then -- worst of all -- when I'm done with whatever it was I had driven to, I have to remember where I left my car.

And don't get me started on keeping track of whether my insurance and registration are up-to-date and the oil is changed and all that nonsense!

I know that none of these tasks is a big deal individually, but they add up to a big pain in the butt for an absent-minded person like myself.

Of course, up until my early 20s, I had always lived in either the suburbs or in some other suburban-like developed area, so I assumed that there was no other way to live.

Then one day I was invited to a month-long math workshop in Paris.

I discovered that I could just keep walking in any direction and pass nothing but block after block packed full of interesting places to go. Then if I got bored of my immediate neighborhood, all I had to do was go into any subway station and take the Metro to more fascinating destinations than I had ever imagined. And the cool thing is that I could never get lost, because the subway network is so amazingly simple and easy to understand that even a directionally challenged person like me just can't mess it up! It's effectively impossible to get lost in Paris because wherever you are, you can always find a subway station, and from there a quick, convenient ride back to where you're staying.

It was like a miracle. I was immediately in love. I started to see my car back home less as a source of autonomy and more as a two-ton weight around my neck.

Now I don't currently live in Paris, but we have a great tramway system here where I live, plus -- like many people in France -- I end up going to Paris a few times a year for various reasons, and then I get to visit my true love.

They say Paris is one of the top tourist destinations in the world, possibly number one. I've been in plenty of conversations with various French people about why that is. They never believe me when I tell them it's because of the Metro. To most French people, the Metro is some ordinary, banal thing that they take for granted. But what else could it be? The Eiffel Tower? Yeah, it's cool, but I'm not going to buy a $1,000 plane ticket to go see it.

Laugh if you will, but I know. It's le Metro.

Published in the Utah Valley Monitor November 03, 2005.

The Mating Game: A primatologist looks at the mathematical community

Are you like me? Do you love reading those books by Jane Goodall and Frans De Waal where they observe a community of great apes and describe all of their social interactions in graphic detail?

If so, you're in luck! Because I have observed a primate society myself (in their natural habitat!), and today I am going to share my observations with you!!!

Alpha males

Many people do not realize that the mathematical community has alpha males. Outsiders often think that mathematicians are all more or less equally dorky and socially maladjusted. To outsiders, perhaps they are! But not within their own society.

Everyone within the community knows who the most brilliant world-famous researchers are. Outwardly everyone generally treats everyone else in a friendly and egalitarian manner, from the genius Fields Medalist down to the lowliest first-year grad student. Yet the rest of the community will defer to the top dogs in subtle ways merely by virtue of the esteem and awe their brilliance inspires.

(Note: There are also females in this category, but they are more rare and hence less well-understood by the primatologist.)

Establishing dominance

The principal manner of establishing dominance is by proving an important theorem and publishing it. It is particularly highly regarded to solve a famous problem, prove a long-standing conjecture, or win a prize such as a Fields Medal. However, dominance is also often established and expressed at lectures in seminars or conferences.

Dominance is established in a lecture by asking the speaker lots of relevant and insightful questions. Math research lectures are notoriously deep and complex even for good mathematicians! If you ask relevant and insightful questions about the lecture, it shows that you are following it well enough in real time to be one step ahead of the lecturer. This will impress everyone in the audience.

Asking questions throughout the lecture is also a means of demonstrating your importance. An alpha-male world-famous researcher will sometimes sit in the front row and talk to the speaker as if the lecture were a personal conversation between himself and the speaker, despite an entire lecture hall full of less important people. I've even seen one guy put his feet up on the podium while chatting with the speaker!

Only people who are very confident of their top-dog status would dare (and be permitted) to do this.


Mathematicians love to gossip! They particularly love to gossip about famous mathematicians. At almost any dinner or party for mathematicians, once they're done discussing the technical precisions of this or that theory, they start gossiping.

The main purpose of this appears to be an excuse for name-dropping -- i.e., you wouldn't know a bunch of random details about so-and-so's personal life unless you know him personally, and perhaps you are brilliant enough yourself to be doing a research project with him. In the mathematical community, if otherwise serious and reserved grown men are spreading a bunch of questionable stories about you behind your back, then you know you've really made it!

Male sexuality

A top researcher who is world-famous in his field will have plenty of opportunity for sex with female grad students and post-docs. How the researcher responds to these opportunities is a question of temperament. Like many humans, some will choose to be monogamous anyway. Others take up these opportunities. Some researchers who are famous for their mathematical results also have a reputation for sexual conquests. Hard to believe, but there exist humans who -- to the untrained eye -- look like ordinary boring professors, but in their own society are alpha-male casanovas!!

Outside of the top echelons, however, sexual opportunities within the community drop off rapidly for males because of the scarcity of females. Mid-tier (respected but not awe-inspiring) males often succeed in attracting another mathematician as a mate. Below that level, males are typically obligated to look outside the community for mates. This is less desirable because it requires engaging in non-math-related social activities.

Juvenile males (undergraduate and younger) are often sequestered in a math and science curriculum where they have limited access to females. Many of them have no sexual opportunities at all.

Female sexuality

Because the supply/demand ratio is in their favor, female mathematicians have their pick of mates at every level. One common result of this is a complete gender-role reversal of the typical human mating strategies.

In ordinary human society, the female is commonly more interested in establishing a monogamous relationship while the male is more interested in having sex with multiple partners. This is often reversed in the mathematical community because the males have so few sexual opportunities that they logically attempt to hold onto those opportunities that arise, whereas the females have so much opportunity that they are hesitant to commit too quickly.

Some females deliberately seek out the most famous researchers just for the status that comes from seducing someone who is held in such esteem by the community.


A mathematician is a shy and often misunderstood creature. Yet careful observation shows him to have similar social habits to those of other primates.

Published in the Utah Valley Monitor October 27, 2005.

The Mishies and Me: Cultural Mormon nostalgia

The local LDS mission is aware of my existence, and they appear to have classified me in the category of "mostly harmless," which is just the way I like it.

The fact that I go out of my way to chat with the missionaries whenever I see them baffles my fellow apostates, most of whom can't stop complaining about how the church found them again despite 20 years of "inactivity" and/or keeps refusing to honor their "do not contact" request. Personally, I don't understand what the problem is since I can easily think of 10 or 20 things off the top of my head that I could do to offend or upset the mishies to the point where they would call up the mission president and have him draw a big black X over my house on the mission map if I wanted him to. But since I don't want him to do that, I'm studiously avoiding doing those 10 or 20 bad things.

Why do I like to chat with the mishies anyway?

Everyone knows that apostates like me are supposed to hate the church and everything about it with a fiery passion! The crazy thing though is that even though I think the Book of Mormon is a work of fiction, for some reason I don't hate the church or its members. Even though they may not be too thrilled about it, in some ways they'll always be my people.

I live in France. I've chosen to live here, this is where I want to live, and in fact I've gone native to the point where I've practically become a French person myself. Still, when I see a pair of LDS missionaries walking down the street, I see something familiar from back home in the old country. And I know that I share a common background with them that we don't share with anyone else walking down that same street.

Those of you who live in Utah are constantly reminded of Mormonism

So a subtle distinction like whether a given person believes it's real or not seems like a big deal to you. But here in France, Mormonism is so freakishly rare that it makes sense that all of us "cultural Mormons" should stick together.

Also, I have to admit that I find the whole mission thing kind of intriguing. I would never be brave enough to go around wearing a badge like that myself, and there's no way in heaven or Earth I could do that thing of staying in the presence of an assigned companion constantly twenty-four-seven (I'm way too ornery and disagreeable for that).

Seeing these young guys reminds me of when I was a young student learning to speak French and visiting France for the first time. Learning a new language and culture is an extremely fun and valuable experience, and it's one of the cool aspects of Mormonism that they systematically send out their young adults to live in another part of the country or another part of the world.

The last pair I talked to happened to both be from the same high school as each other. They took pains to explain to me that that was not typical -- which of course I already knew -- but I couldn't help but find it kind of impressive that some random community in Utah would set aside the resources to make it a priority to send its youngsters all over the world like that. Certainly my old high school back in Minnesota didn't do that.

Then the mishies themselves complete the effect

All of the LDS missionaries I've talked to here in France have consistently been bright, confident and charming, with interesting things to say about their impressions of France. This surprised me at first since I've been a bad Mormon and then an ex-Mormon for my whole life, so you can imagine that I had some negative stereotypes in my mind of what mishies are like. On the other hand, I've heard rumors that the church intentionally sends the smart ones to Europe, so I may be getting a skewed sample.

But as long as the church keeps sending them, I'll probably keep chatting with them.

Published in the Utah Valley Monitor October 13, 2005.

'There's a place in France...'

Looking up from the Java code on my screen, I gaze out the window at the river and at the long row of stately white stone buildings on the other side, with the cathedral spires just beyond them. I look at the bridge standing on its brick arches with the tramway train speeding across it. Being a programmer in France is a lot like being a programmer in the U.S., except for the view.

There are other differences as well. For one thing, U.S. companies seem to like to put the programmers into individual cubicles, Dilbert-style. French companies are more partial to tossing all of the programmers into one big hall where everyone can see and talk to everyone else continuously. As you can imagine, this has advantages and disadvantages for getting your program written. It's easier to quickly ask a colleague about a point you don't follow in the code, yet it's harder to concentrate on your own code without getting distracted. It's also harder to surf the Internet for hours on end without people noticing. So here in France you get a similar but slightly different set of challenges.

Another difference is the morning round of greetings. The way I remember it in the U.S. companies I worked for, people would say "good morning" the first time they happened to see each other for the day, but that was about it. Both of the French companies I've worked for have had this custom that when you arrive in the morning you go around and individually greet all of the people who work in your area. Or if you're really friendly and/or ambitious, you go around and greet everyone in the whole programming hall.

Here the greeting is a big production. It's more than just "Bonjour!" or "Salut!" When two women meet, they greet with a kiss. I'm not making this up -- this is how random colleagues greet each other every morning!! It's not a "French kiss" of course -- sorry to disappoint! -- it's just one of those air-kisses on both cheeks.

When a man and a woman greet each other, they do the kiss-kiss thing as well. Now just try to guess what two male colleagues do when they greet each other in the morning!

Give up? They shake hands! See? Even here in enlightened France the guys have this "I'm-not-gay-not-that-there's-anything-wrong-with-that" thing going just like their American counterparts!

Now if you're a typical programmer (i.e. not getting any action outside of the great virtual realm of cyberspace), you may be thinking that this is a really sweet deal (unless you're a gay guy, of course). After all, you're bound to have at least a few attractive colleagues, and they have to kiss you every day!! Air kisses at least are better than nothing, right?

Well this, my friend, is one of the many good reasons for moving to France. Of course it's a bit of a two-edged sword since no matter how repulsive you are, there's bound to be someone more repulsive, and you have to air kiss them too. So you need to take that into consideration as you're weighing the pros and cons of submitting your transfer request to your boss.

Another amusing difference is in this same vein: naughty pics!!

On the wall within view of my desk is a calendar of almost-naked ladies. Last year it was a swimsuit calendar and at my previous job in France it was a lingerie calendar. Such a thing is so perfectly ordinary here that I really have to stretch my brain to remember that in the U.S., posting such a thing in a workplace would be shocking! Shocking!!! And almost certainly illegal.

Now I'm a feminist, and I've spent a lot of time wondering precisely how this sort of thing would create a "hostile work environment" for women as people say the feminists claim. I'm not joking or being facetious when I say that. Even before leaving the U.S., for years I'd spent a lot of time trying to figure out why such a thing should be offensive to women in order to decide whether I should be offended by it.

My conclusion is that erotica -- even in a workplace -- is not a priori offensive to women, and that I am not offended by it.

The only serious explanation for why some feminists don't like it is for the simple reason that loads of people -- no matter what their ideology from secular leftist to religious fundamentalist and everywhere in between -- are made uncomfortable by reminders about sex. Period. That seems weird to people like me who love sex unconditionally, but the reality is that feeling embarrassed about sex is very common. And people of every stripe tend to try to explain their negative feelings through some sort of religious or political rationalization.

Now I imagine I've offended a gaggle of people by writing that, and I can picture them in my mind's eye jumping all over themselves to tell me that erotic pics in a workplace will certainly encourage sexism and sexual harassment. However, I can tell you from first-hand experience that they do not.

In reality universe we have X amount of code that needs to get written, and X number of bugs that need to be debugged, and X amount of work that requires our full attention. Also in reality universe, a bunch of programmers sitting around writing code are going to spend X amount of time fantasizing about their colleagues (or their spouses, or celebrities, or random people they met on the Internet), and this X is affected little (if at all) by a gentle reminder to think about sex posted on the wall. I haven't noticed it to have any affect on the various engineers' professionalism or respect for their colleagues' technical expertise, regardless of gender.

True there aren't many female programmers, so you might easily get the idea that there is some sexism going on. Yet at least I can report that the few women are treated like anyone else. Indeed, one female colleague just got a big promotion, and don't even imagine for a second it was in exchange for "favors" (wink-wink-nudge-nudge). It would be more accurate to say that it was for intimidating everyone. :lol:

On the other hand, I have to admit that all of the nudity all the time can get a little tiresome. I know you're probably shocked to hear me say that! But there's just so much boobage going on here in France! I pass several topless sculptures on my way to work each day and countless ads for all manner of things being sold by half-naked people (of either gender, but mostly female). One time when a new sculpture was installed in a nearby park that had a female figure that didn't have obvious exposed breasts, I caught myself admiring its originality!

I think I might feel differently about all the boobage if I were a guy. Perhaps I'd be aroused by it rather than simply finding it vaguely amusing. On the other hand I might not. Hard to say. Of course all of my elaborate musings about what it would be like to be a guy could fill up a whole other column, so I guess I'll stop here.

Published in the Utah Valley Monitor October 6, 2005.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Life in France

Time capsule: written May 5, 2002.

Today I'd like to tell you a few things about what it's like to live in France.

The most disappointing thing about moving to France:

It's not original. Americans are always going to France, and with good reason. France has the perfect mixture of all the lazy joie-de-vivre that you love in a southern European country with all the civilization that you've grown dependent on as a citizen of the First World. Plus, it's just exotic enough to be non-threatening while giving you an endless stream of Tarantinoesque "It's the little things" moments to tell your friends at home about.

The problem, of course, is that countless other people have already had these same moments, and have beaten you to the punch of writing witty things about them. The inevitable reaction is to emphatically protest, "Yes, but it was so much more amusing when it happened to ME." Too bad. It's been done.

That's why I'm adding a second theme to this essay: babies.

You've heard about France, and you've heard about babies, but have you heard about babies in France? Together in the same essay? If so, you can probably skip reading the rest of this. Unless you're really bored.

Everybody hates a know-it-all-parent.

That's why my husband and I have no friends. Unfortunately, our in-depth studies of parenting handbooks, coupled with our seven months of intensive parenting experience, have granted us infinite wisdom on the subject of child-rearing. For example, another couple we know was explaining that the only baby food they were feeding their six-month-old baby was a big vat of apple-pear sauce that they prepared in weekly increments, and which they fed to their baby directly from the main vat (without first spooning it into a separate bowl or anything!).

Now you may not know this if you're not a know-it-all parent, but in fact you're not supposed to do that. Fortunately, we were able to muster up enough willpower to restrain ourselves from telling them that they're not supposed to do that. This is mostly because we didn't want to get trapped in a discussion involving other people's wacky parenting theories. (Also because the guy was nice enough to help us schlep some heavy baby furniture up four flights of stairs.) After all, if we start telling them not to do this or that, then we run the risk that they might point out that you're not supposed to drink any wine at all (not even one glass occasionally with dinner) if you're breast-feeding your baby. Strangely enough, this couple is really negative about wine, despite not being adherents of any peculiar religious group (as far as we can tell). My question is, if they don't like wine, then why do they bother living in France at all? Maybe it's because they were born here.

It's the guilt, stupid.

One thing you learn as a parent is that the human capacity to feel guilty is infinite. You can devote 25 hours a day, eight days a week, to your precious darling (plus your job), you can give up everything you enjoy doing (down to simple things, like sleeping), and still feel guilty. For example, my baby is seven months old, and I would like to finish the process of weaning him. The current popular wisdom is that it is good to breast-feed your baby for a full year. Yet, after 16 months of good behavior, I would selfishly like to have a glass of wine with dinner whenever I want to. Or two. Or three, if I'm feeling crazy. Or maybe even take an aspirin when I have a headache. After all, I don't want to turn into one of those martyr-mothers.

Are we really supposed to be feeding him so many baby-yogurts?

The weaning process is proceeding apace, due to strong motivation on the part of the mother (who was sincerely happy to do it for the first five or six months -- the time to get all the pregnancy fat off the thighs and into the baby -- but is now saying enough already). Baby, of course, is not so keen on the whole weaning thing, and, while unable to thwart it completely, he has found some clever ways to make it inconvenient. First of all he refuses to take a bottle at all under any circumstances. Not a show-stopper: Mommy and Daddy can always resort to the more labor-intensive technique of feeding him formula from a cup. The second problem is that he's really not so big on formula, even from a cup. I mentioned this to the pediatrician during his last check-up, and she said that at his age he is only supposed to have one semi-solid meal per day, and the rest is supposed to be formula or breast milk.

This is where the guilt comes in (see the paragraph above). I agreed to this, but immediately upon arriving at home, I consulted my vast library of baby-care manuals and found the second opinion I wanted, namely "seven months old? Feed him whatever the hell you want." Baby-care manuals can be very helpful sometimes, especially if you have enough of them to get the whole opinion spectrum. And besides, those other people fed their baby nothing but semi-rancid apple sauce at this age, and he's still alive.

Plus the guilt is partially defrayed by a miraculous substance known as baby-yogurt. The pediatrician mentioned that if I really can't get him to drink enough formula, there exists special yogurt for babies that is made with baby formula instead of regular milk, and that was all I needed to hear. This wonderfood has saved us because our baby absolutely adores it. He could eat it all day. And we know that it's OK to use it to replace the formula he won't drink because there's a helpful info-graphic on the package that tells us so. It's a cute little box labeled "tableau d'équivalence" which contains a little glyph representing a baby-yogurt, then an equals sign, then another glyph representing a baby bottle. So it's okay.

The main problem with this strategy is that I'm not sure what we're going to do during our three-week vacation in the U.S. It's not clear that baby-yogurt exists in the U.S. Raising my first baby while living in a foreign country has given me the surreal experience of knowing exactly how the French take care of babies but having only the vaguest idea of how it's done back in the old country. So as far as finding a replacement for baby-yogurt is concerned, we're opting for the time-honored planning method known as "we'll cross that bridge when we come to it." Or, more precisely, my parents will be crossing that bridge.

The gift we're not giving him.

Another nugget of wisdom that I would like to share with you is that parents cannot give their children everything. Here is a good example. One the one hand, my husband and I speak to each other in English at home, yet from the kids at school our little boy will hear nothing but French. Thus, if all goes according to plan, he will be perfectly bilingual and speak both languages without an accent. Many people have pointed out what a wonderful advantage this will be for him.

But is it really? Consider this: Back in France, my sweetie was just another nerdy math guy who couldn't get a date. But upon arriving in the U.S. with that outrageous French accent, he was irresistible! Ditto for how cute I was during my first trip to Paris trying to communicate with the natives in their mysterious tongue. But when my little boy is old enough to want to pick up chicks during his vacations in the U.S., he'll have to go way out of his way to mention to them that he's French. He'll probably even have to show them his passport so they won't think it's just a line. How lame is that? If he follows in his dad's footsteps and becomes a nerdy math guy, he'll be at a major disadvantage because his cruel parents have denied him the fabulous accent that should be his birthright as a Frenchman. Poor thing, he'll undoubtedly have to go to some entirely different country to pick up chicks.

Published in the Utah Valley Monitor September 29, 2005.

Explanations and apologies

This blog will be an archive of my writings for the column "Letters from a Broad" in the Utah Valley Monitor.

The title of the column was chosen by my friend Peter Walters, who is the head honcho of the Utah Valley Monitor. The idea is for the column to written by women who have some connection with Utah Valley and are now living abroad. So far I'm the only person that has written for this column.