Tout le monde me ménage.
tool mawd muh may-NAHZH. Click below to hear this.*
Everyone is handling me with kid gloves.
Time has passed. Nathalie (the lead character in “La Délicatesse“…have you been following our series on the film?) is back at work. She is visiting with her friend Sophie in a park, on a sunny day, surrounded by children playing.
Nathalie isn’t sure how she feels. Bereaved, yes, but she also misses belonging to the world. She feels like an outsider. Tout le monde me ménage, she tells Sophie. The subtitles translate as Everyone handles me gently, but that sounds awkward to me. I like with kid gloves better; it’s more descriptive, more eloquent.
Ménager has many meanings, the primary one being to manage. Nathalie feels that the people around her are afraid to speak to her for fear of saying the wrong thing. They arrange their words carefully, they shield her from “difficult” topics, they watch her from afar. In brief, other people are trying to manage Nathalie’s feelings. Nathalie wants them to stop.
And then comes the moment of grace. Sophie confesses that she too has been tempted to ménager Nathalie, and wasn’t sure how to tell her this news. Nathalie’s face lights up. You’re pregnant? Nathalie’s happiness for her friend is total, genuine, and manifest. Sophie has dared to break the wall of protection that other people have been building around Nathalie. Nathalie feels released, welcomed back into the real world.
*Some mobile phones, such as Blackberries, won’t display the audio player. If no player appears, here’s an alternative link to the audio file: