“What! You Want to Become an Au Pair?” These outbursts from family and friends were common in 1979. The introduction in my memoir, French Illusions: My Story as an American Au Pair in the Loire Valley, reveals the reasons behind this decision, but here’s a recap.
I was twenty-one at the time and employed as a medical assistant for a busy practice in Seattle, Washington. My roommate, Carline, was working on her glamorous career as a model and my other close friend was an aspiring actress. Day after day, I listened as one, or both of them, recounted their daily experiences and I became disenchanted with my humdrum career.
Intrigued with the notion of overseas travel, I researched my options and decided to apply for a flight attendant position with World Airways, Inc. The interview went well, but they didn’t hire me because I couldn’t speak a second language – French, German or Spanish. With very little money in my bank account, I realized that a job as an au pair, or nanny, would be the best option to learn a language fast without a large outlay of money. French appealed to me more than the other languages and I moved forward with this idea. Unfortunately, after some research, I learned about a large obstacle in my way.
All of the au pair agencies required prospective au pairs to have familiarity with the language, conversational French at the very least. To get around this, I did something reprehensible. Really reprehensible. I lied and pretended to speak the language in order to secure my job as an au pair. I knew it was wrong, but I did it anyway, and I regret my actions to this day. Young and impulsive, I had some lessons to learn.
During my stay in France, I kept a diary and my memoir is based on these recollections. If you’d like to read about my real-life adventure, you can purchase a copy of my book at Amazon.