The fight to master the formal vs. informal in this language continues.
Last weekend, just before we left to meet the neighbours, I asked Sylvain which form of address I needed to use with them. He grinned, then frowned, "I never thought about it... I think we should vousvoie them, then I'm sure after five minutes we'll all be tutoying each other".
And thus, it was so. After five minutes, she slipped a "oh goodness, we should all be tutoying each other" into the conversation and that was the end of that.
It's just so darn difficult, I don't want to offend anyone, but I don't want to be overly formal either, so I'm glad I had asked Sylvain beforehand, because I would have been anxious the whole time and made a far bigger deal of it than necessary.
Fast-forward to Tuesday. I was talking to someone who I regularly deal with on the phone at work. He's a little older than me, and our relationship has always been quite formal, although I do use the informal with one of his colleagues, who I speak to on the phone at least once a day.
He accidentally tutoied me, then hurried to cover up his mistake. I (with my newfound confidence on the subject) jumped in with, "ohhh, we should totally be tutoying each other".
He audibly sighed in relief and said, "really? I would really prefer that!" I laughed and replied, "I'm far from formal myself, so I think this is much better".
Of course, typically, I did have a little panic attack after I hung up the phone, "have I done the right thing? does anyone else here tutoie him? did anyone hear our conversation? was that weird? is it appropriate? oh but he was the one that instigated it. i think it's fine. really. fine. fine. I'm sure it will be fine."
And so it was. And it continues to be. The sky didn't fall down. The earth didn't explode. I'm still standing.
Deciding if and when to use the informal in a professional environment is not easy.
Especially when you are inclined to think too much about such things. Like me.
I'm sure it would be far simpler if I just didn't give a flying fruitcake about screwing things up.