Thursday, October 5

Garconaire

The other night Joe took Neretta to Angel Memorial in Jamaica Plain. Neretta is a little black cat that has taken up residence on our front porch. She was feral when we found her several months ago and she’d run away if we got too close, but we’ve managed to tame her and she’s become quite affectionate. The problem is that we both have allergies, and a cat indoors is out of the question. We’re trying to figure out if she can survive outdoors during the winter months. So far, we’ve not been able to find a suitable home for her and we’d rather keep her outdoors than hand her over to an animal shelter. In the meantime, we thought we should get her checked out by a vet. We’re taking her to be spayed next week.

While sitting in the waiting room at the vet’s office, Joe picked up a small neighborhood newspaper (the name of which he could not recall) and came across an article from which he tore out the following excerpt:

“Hooking-up and having friends with ‘benefits’ is very common among students in schools and colleges throughout America.

In earlier times, affluent Americans had a place on their property called a ‘garconaire’ where young boys learned about sex. We ought to have it today for everyone…”
He found that quite amusing and brought the scrap home to me, suggesting I do a little research into the whole garconaire thing. Not having the complete article in front of me, I’m not sure if it was part of an editorial of some kind or what. The author went on to reminisce about the era of Doris Day and John Wayne, lamenting the libertinism of our own day, which, s/he argued, has lead to a rise in sexually transmitted diseases.

Regardless of the veracity of that argument, I too was intrigued by the concept of the garconaire as a place where boys go to learn about sex. These days that seems to be Capitol Hill.

I decided to google the term and discovered that the term is actually “garçonnière.” Apparently, during the 19th century, separate living quarters akin to small cottages were set up on the grounds of large estates for the family’s teenage sons. They seem to have been more common in the antebellum South, where they were referred to as garçonnières.

I myself was not familiar with this practice, so I probed a bit further. I didn’t find much, but I did manage to locate an entry on Wikipedia’s German mirror site:

Eine Garconniere (von frz. garcon für Junggeselle) ist eine voll ausgestattete und möblierte Kleinwohnung, die zumeist von Junggesellen oder Studenten bewohnt wird. Eine Garconniere dient jedoch auch Verheirateten manchmal als Zufluchtsort für Seitensprünge. Der Begriff ist vor allem in Österreich gebräuchlich für eine Einzimmerwohnung.
Not being a German speaker, I ran the text through altavista’s Babel Fish translator, and this is what came out:
A Garconniere (of fr. garcon for bachelor) is a fully equipped and furnished small flat, which is inhabited mostly by bachelors or students. Sometimes, however, a Garconniere also serves married men as place of refuge for side jumps. The term is particularly common in Austria for one-room dwelling.
Not bad for an online translator. It’s pretty readable, with the exception of the phrase “side jump,” which I found kind of amusing. Clearly a mistranslation, I isolated the word, “Seitensprünge,” and googled that. Here’s what I found:

Upon further investigation, I discovered that Seitensprünge refers to a fling or dalliance, which is kind of what I suspected all along and probably why I shouldn’t have googled it at work. Moreover, if that’s what used to go on in the garçonnières, I wish my parents had built one for me.

7 Comments:

Anonymous evangelia said...

interesting that you have a little black cat. i just adopted a little black cat myself. how did you pick the name neretta? we baptized ours lumumba (it's a boy).
the garconaire thing is not that uncommon. in san diego, we have one of those in our yard. it's called "tijuana".
oh yeah, and thanks for the charming illustration. next time put a NSFW warning! love you dean, eisai o kaluteros "bloggerr" (say that with a greek accent). polla filakia.

5:44 PM  
Blogger Sandouri Dean Bey said...

agapi mou,
that's so funny about your cat. i wish you lived closer so we could've given neretta to you!

joe came up with the name. nera is the feminine form of "black" since she's a girl, and neretta is the diminutive, since she's so tiny.

so you're not kidding, you have a garconaire in your yard, and it's called "tijuana"?? i don't believe it! that's too much! did your brother(s) ever tell you what went on out there? do you have brothers??

anyway, you're too kind :)

7:14 PM  
Blogger gay super hero said...

The word "garconniere" is also used in greek for an one-bedroom appartment. The word also carries the connotation of a love-nest for young singles or older married individuals

11:16 AM  
Blogger Sandouri Dean Bey said...

now that you mention it, gsh, i do recall looking at "garsonieres" when i was apartment hunting in athens many years ago...

11:33 AM  
Blogger Will said...

I first came across the term one night when I was prowling the web for gay blogs. I don't emember the blogger's name, but he did live in the South in a situation where the main house was filing up with family, so he decided to move into the garçonniere--the origins of which he explained--for some privacy, with his very own garçon.

1:31 PM  
Blogger Perspective said...

now you have a use for your barn.

8:10 AM  
Blogger Ryan said...

wow i havent heard of any of these terms. thanx 4 the lesson!

8:16 AM  

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