Saturday, March 24, 2007

Succeed this

The French verb réussir, to succeed, is both a transitive and an intransitive verb.

I find this detail of vocabulary a telling counterpoint to typical Gallic fatalism. In French, success isn't an abstract thing you bring to one subject or another, but something that you can actually bring to act upon an object. It's almost an optimistic concept, really.

It's also extremely annoying, because it's primarily used in incessant, annoying ad campaigns which explain just how to "succeed" a career, a real estate transaction, or pratically anything than can be advertised through billboards in the Métro. Am I the only one who finds nothing relaxing about the idea that I have to "succeed" my vacation? How do you "fail" a vacation anyway, do you screw up the internet booking and wind up in Siberia instead of the Seychelles? (Anyone who wants to point out that my previous post demonstrates clearly how one can fail a vacation is kindly asked to keep their comments to themselves.)

I feel that all this puts unnecessary pressure on me, the poor consumer, by trying to make me believe that if I were only smart enough to spend my money in the right place success would come easily. I'd have to be stupid not to succeed, since I can just follow the instructions. I resent it all, thoroughly.

So I was honestly offended when I came down the escalator to the RER A platform one morning and ended up face to face with a billboard of a picture-perfect, cuter-than-the-Gerber-baby tike with the caption "Réussir son bébé." Succeed your baby? Surely parenthood isn't a contest, and if it were, would buying the right playpen or bottle warmer really put me out ahead? Surely this vocabulary quirk had been taken it to its most ridiculous extreme.

I noted the store, promised myself never to go there, and then promptly forgot all about it. I wasn't pregnant yet at the time, and car seats and diaper pails weren't exactly on my shopping list. Now, however, I've started to care about such things, and while surfing the web comparing cribs and changing tables, I wound up on this retailer's web site. And as much as I hate to admit it, they have a very nice selection of products.

Alas, however, it's all much worse than I could have possibly imagined. On their web site I've learned all I need to know to succeed bed time, bath time, meal time, and traveling with baby. There are detailed lists with everything I need to purchase. Best of all, at around six months old the rules all change. They should come out with a board game or something.

Perhaps I'll give up and just stick with succeeding vacation this year. It may be all the pressure I can handle.

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