Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Wednesday Word: Sangfroid

When I was about 16, my mother and I left Massachusetts, where we'd lived for three years, and drove across Canada with a car load of our stuff and our cat back to California where we plopped back down with a sigh of relief. Well, I did anyway. I'm a Californian girl at heart and always have been, although now as an adult I have an appreciation for Mass.

For some reason, the high school wouldn't let me start on the first day of school even though we arrived in town a month before. They made me start on the second or third day, which meant that I had to enter every class as the new girl and disrupt everything while I handed my pass to the teacher and she or he wrote me into their book and then directed me to one of the last empty seats. In other words: a ton of attention drawn to me.

I hated this because years earlier we had arrived back in the US from our time in Greece. We landed then in West Virginia of all places (my mother had family there and it was easy), and let me tell you: the West Virginian kids were not at all pleased to see this little flashy girl come in from Athens. The teachers all thought it was great of course and asked me allllll about Greece while I stood in front of the class, no doubt hoping to use it as a teaching lesson, but the only thing I got was daily threats to be beaten up for being "preppy." (Because, as everyone knows, arriving from Athens means you're preppy. Or something.) It wasn't a good time.

Then, as years later in California in my junior year of high school, I quaked with fear having to draw so much attention to myself. So imagine my surprise when in that Californian school I entered my US History class and a girl named Anita invited me to work on a project with her. I said yes. I said that I'd been really nervous having to come into class a few days late. She said, "Really? Cause you looked totally confident and together."

This was huge news to me. Apparently, I had some kind of sangfroid outer shell. Sangfroid is your word today, by the way. It means coolness or composure, especially under strain or stress. At first I thought that this unknown sangfroid ability was just a fluke, that maybe Anita hadn't seen me shaking or anything because she was sitting too far back. But as time went on (and we became very good friends), I came to believe her-- that I had some kind of confidence or coolness that I could exude. I mean, hey, it's better than sweat-stains in your arm pits, isn't it?

I don't actually know if I've been sangfroid in other stressful periods of my life. I do know that I didn't quite manage it on my wedding day when I walked down the aisle. My lips were quivering because I knew all eyes were on me, and let me tell you--I was not sangfroid about it. I pursed my lips and clamped them shut so no one could see me shaking, but that didn't look so cool-- as you can see in the picture. Also, a family friend told me that he spoke to me right outside the church before we went in to walk down the aisle and all I did was stare at him like a deer in the headlights when he spoke to me, but I have absolutely no recollection of that.

(In the picture, yes, it looks like a coy little expression doesn't it, but it is not, NO it is not, it is me pursing my lips to keep them from trembling from nerves!)

Even so, I don't know whether Anita, who is still a dear friend today, knows what effect her words had on me back then on my first day in a new school in a new town when she extended kindness and friendship to me, allowing me to think I'd been sangfroid even if I'd been a mass of nerves inside.

Bonus: In contrast to walking down the aisle, here I am being accosted by a lion on my wedding day and I'm totally sangfroid about it. (Yes I have blurred out Mr. Sierra and covered his head with an arrow because I didn't ask him if he would like to be put on the web to protect his privacy.)

Did you know this word? Tell me about it in the comments.


Linda G. said...

First, let me just say you were a beautiful bride--simply lovely. :)

Yes, I did already know what sangfroid meant, because I've been accused of it myself. I do tend to keep my cool in extreme circumstances, true. It's afterward, when no one is watching, that I become a pile of quivering goo. ;)

Anonymous said...

Very kind words, thank you. I wish I could inherit some sangfroid, I get more and more shakey and nervous lately when I speak in front of a group. (BTW I didn't know of the word). -Anita

demery bader-saye said...

Didn't know it but I love it!

By the way, as a blogger, you still come across in a sangfroid kind of way... like you've got it all together and have been blogging, writing funny and charming stories, and interviewing literary agents for years.

And I agree with Linda - what a lovely bride you were :)

Roni @ FictionGroupie said...

Never heard this word, but I think this is what I refer to as my therapist face. After working a few years as a social worker/therapist, I learned to look calm and collected even when my head is screaming "OMG! WTF?" :) I'm also extremely shy in new situations and it's sometimes been construed as snobbiness, so I guess that would be kind of sangfroid as well.

Lt. Cccyxx said...

Therapist face = sangfroid =? Sigmund Freud = me confused because that's almost as bad the George Orwell/Orson Welles thing. :)

Anonymous said...

Simply want to say your article is as surprising. The clarity in your post is simply cool and i could assume you're a professional on this subject. Fine with your permission allow me to snatch your RSS feed to keep updated with forthcoming post. Thanks 1,000,000 and please carry on the rewarding work.

My web page - pool repair in Fort Lauderdale
my web site > pool maintenance in boynton beach

Anonymous said...

I used to be able to find good information from your content.

my blog post; plumbing repair in farmington hills

Anonymous said...

magnificent issues altogether, you just won a
emblem new reader. What would you suggest about your submit that you simply made a few days ago?

Any certain?

My blog post payroll services in snohomish

Anonymous said...

I have read so many posts on the topic of the blogger lovers however
this piece of writing is really a pleasant paragraph, keep it up.

Here is my blog post ... school records in national city
Also see my web page > debt settlement in spring valley

Anonymous said...

Great article.

Feel free to surf to my homepage: home remodeling in west des moines

Anonymous said...

This piece of writing is in fact a nice one it
assists new net viewers, who are wishing in favor of blogging.

Check out my web site auto repair in national city

Anonymous said...

Hey I know this is off topic but I was wondering if you knew of any widgets
I could add to my blog that automatically tweet my newest twitter updates.
I've been looking for a plug-in like this for quite some time and was hoping maybe you would have some experience with something like this. Please let me know if you run into anything. I truly enjoy reading your blog and I look forward to your new updates.

Feel free to visit my blog post: commercial roofing contractor in encinitas

Anonymous said...

I tend not to create a leave a response, but after browsing
a few of the remarks on this page "Wednesday Word: Sangfroid".
I do have some questions for you if you do not mind.
Is it just me or does it look like like some of these responses look
as if they are coming from brain dead folks? :-P And, if you are writing on additional
sites, I'd like to keep up with you. Would you list of every one of all your social sites like your linkedin profile, Facebook page or twitter feed?

my webpage notary agent in corona

Anonymous said...

I like the valuable information you provide in your articles.

I'll bookmark your blog and check again here frequently. I'm quite sure I'll learn lots of new stuff right here! Good luck for the next!

my web site - home remodeling in sumner

Anonymous said...

Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems as though you relied on the video to make your point.
You obviously know what youre talking about, why throw away your intelligence on just posting videos to your
site when you could be giving us something informative to read?

Feel free to surf to my website ... mobile window tinting in arvada
my page: mobile window tinting in castle rock

Anonymous said...

I have fun with, lead to I found exactly what I was taking a look for.
You've ended my 4 day lengthy hunt! God Bless you man. Have a great day. Bye

Here is my web blog; cabinets in yorba linda
my page - light framing in placentia

Anonymous said...

It's a shame you don't have a donate button! I'd definitely donate to this brilliant blog! I suppose for now i'll
settle for book-marking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account.
I look forward to new updates and will talk about this
site with my Facebook group. Chat soon!

My site lockout in panhandle

Anonymous said...

Magnificent website. Lots of useful info here.

I am sending it to several friends ans also sharing in delicious.

And obviously, thanks in your effort!

Have a look at my web-site: notary services in riverside

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.