It took months of preparation: study, research, training. I rehearsed it in my head dozens of times, how it would go. It was so daunting, with such potential for failure, that I kept putting it off. But I knew that I would have to swallow my pride, tackle my fears and go through with it. If only to confirm my status as a true American.

The day came when, confidence at a new high, I felt strong. Strong enough to push past the discomfort. Hand trembling, I dialed the phone. A voice answered, in French. I swallowed hard and spoke, timidly at first, but finally making myself clear. Unmistakably clear. By the time it was all over, I felt a huge sense of accomplishment, coupled with relief. Exhausted, I took the afternoon off.

So, I have an appointment for my first dental checkup and cleaning in France, in two weeks.