It’s been a huge month and to top it off the sun is shining in Paris like we’re already bursting into Spring… a rather strange feeling as we prepare for holidays.
Paul and I got our Pacs (pacte civil de solidarité), which was a little confusing for my family, friends and even me. The Pacs was created by the French government to give rights to gay couples before gay marriage was legal. It’s softer than a marriage but recognized by the government and does give certain rights – namely for me as the étrangère parter.
As my friend Fiona said, “You’re just declaring yourself a couple in the eyes of the government – it’s not new news.” But regardless, to do it as we did on a time crunch and away from my family, the same weekend as everyone on my side was gathered in Port Townsend for Thanksgiving, felt a little surreal. We lay in bed about a week before the appointment with his parents’ notaire in Normandy, and I asked, “What does the Pacs mean to you?” My question was: Will it feel like a marriage? Can I tell my family we’re engaged? Are we engaged? Am I missing something?
We talked: It’s a love thing, it’s to help my situation, many modern French couples do this rather than getting married or before getting married. “It’s like being a super couple!” Paul offered. “I like that,” I said. Ultimately, I had to kind of settle with the idea that is just doesn’t translate to my culture. It’s a French thing. And a big thing in anyone’s lives… if they are in France. My first big, real French thing is being in a “super couple”.
My parents and siblings crowded around Skype the day before the Pacs. My dad’s head in the back but the most alert. “We just don’t want to be missing anything…” he said. “Don’t worry,” I offered. “Paul said it’s very easy to break!” If this had the intention of making people feel better, it obviously did not.
I wore a simple black dress purchased the day before and my brown equestrian boots. Paul wore denim on denim and was mad at himself that he forgot all his favorite clothes. Chantal, Paul’s mum, gave me a some big beautiful gold hoop earrings to wear as mine were starting to hurt my ears. Paul’s dad and brother accompanied us to the notaire’s office and sat behind us. The young notaire, an ancient profession in France, was hip in an official way and made me feel that this was kind of a cool, albeit official process.
We reviewed our contract. Everything was in French. I asked questions. Everyone smiled. We signed electronically. Paul and I kissed because we didn’t know what else to do and my heart was beating fast.
As we drove away from the beautiful old stone building and the notaire, I said, “Wait! We need to go back and get a picture on the steps!” Paul’s Dad and brother looked at each other. “It’s for my parents,” I said. “It’s an American thing.”
They swung the car around.