The movie French Kiss is a romantic comedy that came out in 1995 starring Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline. In the movie, Meg Ryan gets dumped by her fiance. She follows him to Paris to win him back and during her journey, she makes the acquaintance of Kevin Kline. Kevin Kline is a dirtbag who hides a grapevine seedling along with a stolen diamond necklace into Meg Ryan’s bag. He intends to start his own vineyard with this seedling, funded by the necklace, but we don’t know that, yet.
The movie has a plethora of quotable lines that I never hear anyone quote but that run through my own mind on any given day when faced with various situations. One line that often narrates my life is Meg Ryan mimicking Kevin Kline’s French accent as she mocks something he said to her earlier in the movie. “My ass is twitching. You people make my ass twitch.” Literally one of the best lines ever written, and Meg Ryan’s understated delivery is nothing short of elegant. Similarly, Kevin Kline’s subtle amusement at her mockery is delicious.
Throughout the movie, Kevin Kline is coaching Meg Ryan on how to seduce like a French woman so that she can win Whatshisface back. The thesis of the movie comes when Meg Ryan has had enough of this coaching and rants at Kevin Kline about her own particular approach to life.
“Happy — smile! Sad — frown! Use the corresponding face for the corresponding emotion!” She’s been told for the entire movie that her straightforward approach to life won’t get her the man that she loves, and she has been trying to behave (with some success) like the type of woman that her fiance left her for.
I think this is the quote that runs through my mind the most often. We’re all expected to walk around feeling hashtag blessed all the time, and when we express an honest negative emotion, we’re shamed for it. I was at my local Pizza Rev because pizzas are $6 on Tuesdays, and one of the girls on the assembly line asked me how I was doing. I usually answer “okay” because even though I’m on my lunch break from a job I hate, I’m also about to eat an entire pizza to myself. But I was having a particularly bad day, so I said, “tired and cranky.”
“Oh, you shouldn’t feel that way!” she chided. And here’s the thing. She knows she’s in the service industry. She knows that her job is to be agreeable as much as it is to make pizzas. And she almost immediately remembered that she’s not supposed to have opinions while she’s clocked in and immediately said something placating. I was irritated, but not at her.
Think about how ingrained a societal attitude about how we are allowed to feel, in order for that to override the training in obsequity. I broke the social covenant by answering honestly and was immediately put in my place. And it’s not the first time. I’ve heard “you shouldn’t feel that way” from friends, family, and strangers my entire life. I’ve heard it after answering “how are you” with “I miss my dead mom”.
Our emotions are constantly being policed, and if you think about it, you’ll remember times when you’ve policed other peoples’ negative emotions. I think the reason we do this is because we live in an individualistic society. I think about it like this. Everyone is carrying an armload of burdens, at all times. We’re expected to figure out how to deal with these burdens — throw them in a lake, hand them off to some dumb sucker who doesn’t know any better, keep them buried deep in side — whatever. As long as the person walking down the street toward you never sees them.
I was having a pretty intense panic attack at work a couple of weeks ago, to the point where I couldn’t hide it and had to tell my boss. I can’t even count how many times I apologized. She was very very nice about it but I couldn’t stop apologizing. I was more ashamed that I couldn’t hide how worked up I was than I was upset about whatever it was that was causing the panic attack. Later, I regretted owning up to the panic attack.
I could have hidden in the bathroom until I had it under control, like I usually do. But mental health experts are always saying that you shouldn’t isolate when you’re in pain, that that just increases the stress level. But I feel stressed, not relieved, that my boss saw me cry. Now I think she won’t take me seriously or can’t trust me with responsibility or thinks that I’m a flake. I hate that.
It’s not cruelty that makes it impossible to let each other feel the way that we feel.