Je t’aime moi non plus

Jane and Serge, who loved to hate each other

I don’t often take an instant dislike to people. But I must say that Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin filled me with loathing when I first came to France and discovered the eponymous song of this post title. It made me cringe, not out of prudishness, but because it was embarrassing and tacky. I won’t share it here, merci, but if you don’t know the reference you can google it. The song is said to have inspired Donna Summer and a whole wave of steamy eighties pop.

I’ve posted before about how the French ‘sense’ each other often by le nez and will sometimes decide, even without speaking a word, that mutual mépris (indifference or disdain) is the only emotion possible. Then they will literally never speak or even look directly at one another.

I must say this makes me uncomfortable. Even people I feel little love for are deserving of at least superficial politesse, for their sake as well as mine. I try to put my best face forward and be kind, as long as I get similar in return. Not everyone has to be your best friend but with a bit of effort you can get along with most people. Besides, nobody wins in hate wars. All that negative energy flies back in your face.

Which is not to say there aren’t people I dislike. Whether by instinct or in reaction to their behaviour (often a combination of both). And sometimes in response to the sense that they simply don’t like me. Let’s face it – life is like that. There are people we just clash with.

Currently there are one or two clients I’m not fond of. Either because they treat me like the hired help (or at least a highly expendable resource to be called upon only when urgent need arises) or because I sense a certain entitlement in their behaviour. Those who think the world revolves around their problems get minimal support from me. Even when they are paying the bills.

Some years ago when I worked in the corporate world, I learned the hard way the truth in the saying, ‘Keep your friends close and your enemies closer’. A person on our team was proving not to be an ally and, frankly, I didn’t particularly like her. But when it came down to it, we had to work together and so I pushed up my positive energy in order to play nice. Wonder of wonders, we did become friends of sorts. Not in any permanent or deep way; we were too different for that. But I learned a lot about the value in making a connection with someone who is your poles-apart opposite. And having her onside made all the difference in the project we worked on. We still keep in touch.

As for ‘Je t’aime moi non plus’ the words of the song took on their own meaning for me. As I disliked Gainsbourg and the song, I took them to mean ‘I don’t like you either’. But what they actually mean is ‘I love you me neither’. Which makes little sense to poor literal old me but to the French is a subtle statement about the impossibility of love. All against a backdrop of erotic innuendo. Go figure.

How do you handle people you don’t like? Avoid, ignore, befriend?


  1. awtytravels · January 27, 2022

    I’m having this situation with two clients too! With one it got to the point where I had to employ the technique I’ve learned when working in an airport “If you insist of being this rude/disrespectful/pain in the neck then I will not help you” and, well, that worked. For the other I think I’m fast approaching the time where we’ll tell them to go find someone else to play with.

    • MELewis · January 27, 2022

      It’s funny how some people actually do respond well to being told where to get off! I also had another extremely unfortunate experience with a (sort of) boss many years ago. There was nothing for it but to force myself to be unhelpful (actually found this very hard). Ultimately, though, it’s survival!

  2. margaret21 · January 27, 2022

    Thank goodness my work never involved ‘clients’ in that sense! And these days, as someone no longer in the world of work, I’m able to choose who I associate with – much easier!

    • MELewis · January 27, 2022

      Always nice to be able to choose who we spend time with. I am lucky though…most of my clients are lovely!

  3. Dale · January 27, 2022

    Oh, I hear you (and I always thought that was a stupid title…)
    I have this co-worker who breathes my air and I would love to punch her lights out. However, I have more dignity than that so I put up with her. I did, however, give her a load of shit one day when she falsely accused me of something. Since then, she is all nice and sweet. I still can’t stand her but I endure her and am polite and friendly. Now, please excuse me while I go barf…

    • MELewis · February 3, 2022

      I was convinced I had replied to this…!? My brain lately! 😤 I love how you describe your emotions about your coworker. There are just people who have that effect on us, eh? Funny how some become so sweet after we give them what’s what. Good work!

      • Dale · February 3, 2022

        It happens. Worry not. Sometimes we see it in the notification pane, read it and go do something else. When we return, it is gone. (Can you tell this has happened to me umpteen times?)
        Yes. There are. I won’t miss her when I’m gone. Because, one day, I sure am planning to be!)

      • MELewis · February 3, 2022

        Hope it’s sooner than later! (Assuming that’s what you want! 😉)

      • Dale · February 3, 2022

        Yes, please! 🙂

  4. Ally Bean · January 27, 2022

    Excellent question. I am open to being cooperative with people who I dislike BUT I’ll add the proviso that over the last few years I’ve also gotten to a point where I won’t take crap from anyone. I have boundaries now, and if someone crosses them I will snap back. This seems to surprise the people who liked me when I was a pawn in their games. Now they stay clear of me, and that makes me smile.

    • MELewis · February 3, 2022

      That’s quite the turnaround! Boundaries are essential. I like your character arc. 💪

  5. Becky Ross Michael · January 28, 2022

    Avoid them if I can!

  6. acflory · January 28, 2022

    I’ve reached an age at which life is too short to waste on people who are non-simpatico. I’ll always be polite, but if someone simply doesn’t like me, there’s not much I’m prepared to do about it. -gallic shrug-

    • MELewis · February 3, 2022

      I can just imagine you doing a Gallic shrug. A little bit of French does us all good!

      • acflory · February 4, 2022

        Bien sur! Apologies, I was too lazy to get the accent. 🙂

      • MELewis · February 4, 2022

        No worries, from one stickler to another! 😅

      • acflory · February 5, 2022

        lmao! Ka ching, girl. 😀 😀

  7. midihideaways · January 28, 2022

    It’s an interesting question – and I guess there are as many answers as there are people. I have learnt to be polite to people, but if I don’t like them (or if they’ve taken just too much) then ‘bonjour’ is all they’ll get. I’ve been around for too long to waste my time on ‘high maintenance low reward people’ or on things I dislike. 🙂

    • MELewis · February 3, 2022

      And there are far too many of those people in the world (both virtual and in real life). If people never give anything back, why would I bother? Bonjour is enough.

  8. Garfield Hug · January 29, 2022

    Good post! People I do not like, I avoid but where business is concerned and I have no choice, then I put on my biggest pearly white smiles and quietly swear in my head how I hate dealing with such morons. I agree with you in keeping enemies closer as it is always better the devil you know than you don’t. Although I hate being all smiley and polite, I find that by doing it, I deal lesser with such people.

    • MELewis · February 3, 2022

      You are right! Somehow by rising to the occasion, we overcome the worst poison. Good strategy with the pearly whites! 😁

      • Garfield Hug · February 3, 2022

        I am so fake when I am all smiley with my pearly whites. Haha..but I have to survive the game. And the morons think I am sweetest to lap up their nonsense🤣🤣

  9. Vanessa in France · January 31, 2022

    I’ve never suffered fools gladly, or people I don’t like, for that matter. When I worked in a corporate setting and then with my own clients, I had to deal with some very difficult people. As you say, keeping enemies closer is the strategy you have to adopt in those settings. As I’ve got older and less dependent on the goodwill of people like that, I just have as little as possible to do with them, but I will be polite if I encounter them. Life is too short, as others have said.

    • MELewis · February 3, 2022

      ‘Not suffering fools gladly’ — great expression, and one I can well relate to having been told time and again that it is written all over my face. But keep enemies close is a lesson that, once learned, we never forget. But avoidance of those who don’t bring out the best in me in generally the strategy I adopt, too. As you say, life is short and as we get older, we realize the value of the company we keep.

  10. House of Heart · February 19, 2022

    To each his own. I adore Gainsbourg’s lyrics to je t’aime !

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