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French Connection

Emily Flake

By Mink Stole | Posted 11/7/2001

A few years ago I took my first trip to the south of France and fell in love--not with a person but with the country. I've been back a couple of times since then, and it has become my dream to live there. I'm a woman, almost 50 years old, divorced with no kids, and my last remaining parent died recently, leaving me some money. I've also saved quite a bit toward my retirement, and it may even be possible for me to work there. It's not like there's anything really the matter with my life here in the States--I have a good job, a nice apartment, friends I care about--but I've lived in the same Midwestern town all my life and I'm longing for adventure. I've always loved the French language, speak it decently, and I'm pretty outgoing, so I think I'll be able to meet and talk to people. The one friend I confided in told me she thinks I'm nuts. What do you think?


Dear RSVP:
Nuts, schmuts. It's your life and your dream, not hers, and if you want to move to France, you should move to France. It's a huge change, of course, but there are plenty of Americans who live there full or part time, and if they can do it, so can you. When your friend called you nuts, what she was really saying was that it was out of the question for her. Or her feelings might be hurt; it's not uncommon for us to take it personally when someone we know suddenly says the life we've always thought was perfectly fine isn't good enough for her. Or it may have been a simple knee-jerk response to a completely unfamiliar idea.

Getting a job would be a great way to connect with the place and get to know people quickly, but work permits are hard to get and generally require that you set up your job before moving there. Check with the French Consulate for details. If it's too hard to get a job right away, enroll in a French class, a cooking school (they're all over the place), or an art class, anything that will give you some sense of groundedness while getting used to your new home. It's a beautiful country, and when I was there early this year, I found the people surprisingly friendly. Not only did they not laugh in my face at my high school French, they helped me with it. Plus the men all look like either Jean-Paul Belmondo or Gérard Depardieu, and, unlike Americans, they still pay attention to women over 40. Vive la différence!

Do some homework before you hop on the plane, but remember, no decision you make has to be final. If you find your new home in France isn't everything you hoped for, your hometown will still be there if you want to come back. And if it is as good as you expected, be sure to invite your old pals for a visit.

My grandfather, whom I loved, died recently, and in his will he left me a beautiful antique mantelpiece clock that I have always openly admired and secretly coveted. Naturally, I was touched and pleased. But now his son, my uncle, is claiming that the clock really belongs to him, that my grandmother had promised it to him before she died seven years ago but my grandfather refused to give it to him. He had hoped his father would leave it to him, but because that didn't happen he wants me to turn it over to him. I don't know what caused the rift between my uncle and his father, but the clock is the only thing my grandfather left me, and I don't want to part with it. But I also feel bad for my uncle. What should I do?

Heiress Apparent

Dear Heiress:
Ah, families! We gotta love 'em, at least the luckier among us do, but they can complicate our lives. Legally, of course, there's no question: Unless your uncle has written proof to the contrary, the clock is yours. His problems with his dad are neither your fault nor your responsibility, and it's not your job to fix them. And it's really unfair of him (though fairness is often more than we can expect in inheritance disputes) to try to make you give it up. Unfortunately, knowing you're right won't keep you from feeling like a hard-hearted bitch, especially if your uncle is a good manipulator. But if you can resist his initial pleadings, it will get easier. Tell him you're sorry for him that it didn't work out the way he wanted, but that all you know is what was in the will, and your grandfather wanted you to have the clock. If your uncle refuses to give in gracefully and his relentless nagging makes living with the damn thing more painful than pleasurable, or if your heart is simply too soft to stand up to him, as a last resort you could try making him a long-term loan of it. Be sure you get him to sign a paper confirming your ownership, just in case he tries to hand it down to someone else.

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