after my rant about how badly we’ve struggled and suffered because of the French laws regarding gay couples, i wanted to write something positive about this country. if i had gone ahead and posted earlier this week, you would have gotten something akin to an ode to the French social security system. Friday, though, we got a letter in the mail, and most of my positivity evaporated along with the teeny tiny glimmer of hope i had been nervously guarding in a quiet corner of my heart.
i guess the situation requires a bit of backstory. a couple of weeks after little sun died, we received a letter from the CAF (caisse d’allocations familiales), a branch of the French social security system that deals with families. every family who is expecting a baby gets a payment of nearly 1000€ to help them prepare for their child’s arrival, and we’d received our money from the CAF about a month before little sun was born. (French people don’t do baby showers, so the money is very useful for buying things like car seats, strollers, clothes and diapers.) the letter we received from them after little sun died told us that one of their representatives would be coming to visit us to discuss benefits that we were eligible for.
Froggy was as surprised as i was by this letter, and neither of us had any idea what kind of benefits they were talking about. when the representative came for her visit, she explained that we were eligible for free grief counseling, and that, if we qualified, we could have our funeral expenses reimbursed and receive a small grant to fund a trip….a get-a-way for bereaved parents. these “benefits” are offered to everyone ( whether straight, gay, married, PACSed or single) who loses a baby or a child, and for once we felt as if we were being treated like a normal couple.
at first, i thought of the money for a trip as a sad “consolation” prize, a kind of “my baby died and all i got was this lousy government sponsored vacation” type thing. after time passed, though, i began to feel desperate for the company of loved ones. as i mentioned before, i feel incredibly alone right now. grieving would be hard enough if i were surrounded by friends and family whom i could confide in and lean on. being in a foreign country where i have no close friends and no family (besides Froggy, of course), however, is a special kind of hell. i don’t think all of this isolation is emotionally or mentally healthy for me, so i finally decided that a trip to visit people i love would be a good thing.
a dear friend who lives in a town in England where I used to live had already offered me a place to stay and even said he’d pay my way if i wanted to come visit. i turned him down at first, but after finding out about the money from the CAF, i changed my mind, and we began to plan the trip. in the meantime, we had another visited from the CAF representative, a very sweet young woman who was going out of her way to help us as much as possible. she took our receipts from the funeral and asked us to mail her an itinerary for the trip to England, and she told us that it would only take a few days for everything to be approved and for the money to be deposited in our account.
Vive la France, right?
yesterday, we received a letter from the CAF telling us that we are no longer eligible for anything because my carte de sejour (my residence card, basically) is about to expire. Froggy made the appointment to have it renewed back in December, but the appointment itself isn’t until August. at this point, i’m not even sure if i can take that trip to England or even leave the country at all, because my card expires in less than two weeks. what if i go and they don’t let me into the UK? what if i go and they don’t let me back into France?
once again, the fact that we are not hetereosexual comes back to bite us in the ass. Froggy and i have been PACSed for nearly three and a half years, and every single year, both of us have to take a day off work and go to one of the crowded prefectures with stacks and stacks of paperwork in hand to reapply for my residence card. every year we have to prove, once again, that we live together as a couple and that i am gainfully employed. i have a few straight acquaintances who are married to French partners. most of them have been married a few years, and all of them already have their ten-year residence cards. several are starting the process of applying for citizenship. since we can’t get married, i won’t be eligible for a ten-year card until i’ve earned a certain amount of money every year for five years in a row. normally, i’d be able to apply for that ten-year residence card in just two more years, but, because i was pregnant and housebound last autumn, i couldn’t take a second teaching job, so i made less money than the minimum required. this all means that i am back to absolute zero and will have to wait (at least) another five years before i can apply for long-term residency.
i thought things were finally going a little bit in our favor. i thought for once we were going to be treated like all the other babylost French couples. i thought it was safe to allow that little light of hope to keep flickering. i was wrong…..better to just snuff that little fucker out now.