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TARYN GEE/The Globe and Mail

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I like to pretend that I am French.

For some that might mean eating a baguette, climbing out of an invisible box or wearing a sexy maid's outfit. But for me the thing I love best is going to Paris and being mistaken for a local.

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"Excuse me. Oo ay le Ark de Tree-omph?" a confused tourist sometimes asks. Even though I don't have a clue where anything is in the city, I fix him with the look of someone who doesn't appreciate being interrupted and point confidently in a northerly direction. Before he has time to ask something that may require that I actually speak, I adjust my scarf and run down the street like Audrey Tautou in Amélie.

However, I am nothing like la petite Amélie. After surviving the most brutal Canadian winter in recent history by staying indoors watching big-screen TV, I am less gamine and more Depardieu. Still, I've been trying to be French for a long time, and with a gigantic effort I can sometimes pull it together.

Instead of looking curious, I try to look confident. Rather than slouch, I stand ramrod straight. My jackets are fitted, because a French lady always shows her waist. And then there's the scarf, the shoes, the lipstick and the attitude.

Several years ago, while visiting Paris, I went to a yoga studio where the class was taught entirely in French. Because I am familiar with yoga, I was able to ooze my way into the class and respond to the teacher with a "oui" or a nod of the head. It was only after he tried to engage me in a dialogue about elbows that my cover was busted.

"Un peu plus lentement?" I asked weakly.

His face fell with disappointment. "Oh," he said sadly, "I thought you were French."

While visiting France last month, I was determined not to let that happen again. I had spent the winter listening to language CDs in my car. Also, I was older, wiser, and had invested about $300 in pretravel grooming.

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In addition to having my hair coloured, I'd had my eyebrows tinted. This was at the suggestion of my stylist, who said that darker eyebrows would make me appear more dramatic. I thought that sounded fun, but was slightly concerned when a few hours later they started to itch. She told me not to worry: A slight reaction, or "temporary redness," was normal.

In Paris, I was staying with my friend Clare, who lives in a lovely apartment in a pretty part of town. That alone is worth a trip, but I was anxious to do more. I had already seen a lot of the museums, and I enjoy getting involved in the day-to-day activities such as grocery shopping, drinking wine and going to a yoga class.

What I forgot to pack, though, were yoga pants. So I called Clare at work, and with her permission rummaged around in her dresser to find some. Triumphantly, I grabbed the first pair I saw and ran out the door to le Métro. Barely making it to my class on time, I managed to pay, whip into the changing room and land on my mat in minutes. (Nothing makes a girl more French than being in a hurry.)

The teacher came into the room and greeted us politely. I felt as though he was smiling mostly at me and, to be honest, I wasn't surprised. After all, I was wearing the regulation striped T-shirt and my toes were freshly painted a saucy shade of crimson. All that was missing was a poodle.

As the class commenced I felt other Parisian eyes upon me. Could it be that I was the best in the class? The side wall was mirrored, and as I worked my way through "downward dog" I glanced at my reflection.

My goodness, my shirt was cute. But oh-oh! My white underwear was visible through my pants. Unfortunately they were quite tight, and were squishing my bum so that it looked like I was in a rock-climbing harness. There were bulges everywhere! I hoped that if I stood up straight it wouldn't be so obvious.

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The next pose was a standing one, which was much better, as my undies weren't so apparent. My yoga pants, (which I found out later were actually leggings rather than pants) weren't quite as see-through when I was erect.

My top was still adorable, but there was something wrong with my face. In my hurry to leave the apartment I hadn't looked in a mirror and noticed that the skin around my eyebrows was red and blotchy. Mon Dieu! I didn't look French at all. I barely looked human! The thing I mostly resembled was a clown, which explains why people were smiling. The French love clowns almost as much as they love mimes, and in my outfit I was a combination of both.

But being French comes from within, I thought, so with fake confidence I finished the class. After changing into some proper pants I put on my giant sunglasses, hurried down the street and elbowed some tourists out of my way.

Janet MacLeod lives in Toronto.

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