Someday, my friends, COVID will be under control and you’ll carry out those travel plans you’ve been saving. You’ll see the ocean again. You’ll feel sand under your toes or rub lavender between your fingers or hear church bells clanging from a tower. You’ll hug your mom.
And if you’re lucky, you’ll go to France.
And when you do go to France, you might find a nice Frenchman to spend some time with. Let’s call him Jean-Pierre. It’s going to be lovely, but there are a few things you need to know. Some to look forward to, some to look out for.
Why? Because we rugged-individualist-feminist-cowgirl types are used to certain Anglo-Saxon dating rituals. Our relationships progress slowly. They involve extensive texting and define-the-relationship chats and wondering if he’s just not that into you. People play it cool, not wanting to appear over-eager.
The French love affair is a whole different animal.
To help you out, mes chères amies and I have compiled the following list of observations. Proceed with caution. But do proceed!
There is no drawn-out courtship
If the first date goes well and there’s going to be a second one, you’re dating. You can leave a toothbrush at his place without him panicking that you’re trying to move in. Jean-Pierre is a coupler.
However, this does not mean that you’ll be 2-gether 4-ever. It just means, “until further notice, let’s do stuff.” No pressure. Enjoy.
Frenchmen are a little old-fashioned
Quaint. Gentlemanly. It’ll make you re-evaluate your idea of feminism.
For example, in restaurants, Jean-Pierre might ask you what you want to eat, then order it for you when the waiter comes. The first time this happened to me, I started to yell, “hey buddy I can order myself like a big girl,” but then I realized that it was kind of nice to have somebody do a little work for me. Now I’m into it.
Voulez-vous une cigarette?
He might be a smoker. If this is a deal-breaker for you, so be it. But, you’re going to be cutting out a lot of nice guys who will make sure you’re up-wind from them and then chew gum after they puff. Your call.
Remember that time on Sex and the City when a tuxedo-clad Mikhail Baryshnikov asked Carrie to dance in front of the opera fountain and she fainted? When she came to, she said, “I’m an American. You’ve got to take it down a notch.”
This is a real danger in France. We love the idea of a romantic guy, but when the rubber meets the road, it takes some getting used to. He’ll sign off texts with je t’embrasse (I kiss you). He will honest-to-god rent a rowboat and haul your ass around a lake while you dangle your hand in the water and watch his biceps working. This blatant romanticism is a little alarming at first, but treat it like yoga – breathe, hold the pose, and let your body relax into it. Pretty soon, that Je pense à toi (I’m thinking of you) will feel as good as a well-executed downward dog.
Did you miss Yvonne Hazelton’s post on dating yourself in Paris? Click here to read.
Oui, chivalry still exists
He’ll take care of you. In restaurants, Jean-Pierre will see that you have a nice view. He’ll listen attentively when you talk about your day, or give you his jacket if you’re cold, or refill your water glass during lunch. Thing is, cowgirls, this isn’t a one-way street – you’ll need to figure out how to take care of him, too. He might need more attention than you’re used to giving, but you’ll figure it out, and the payoff is excellent. 10/10 recommend.
He’s a gracious guest
When you’re ready to feed him, you might be worried about the whole snooty-French-cuisine thing, but don’t be. Unless he lives with his mom, he’ll have been eating breakfast standing in his kitchen, slurping coffee and dunking his buttered baguette in it. He’s ready for a nice, relaxed meal in your home.
I recommend starting with an apéro – the easiest of French meals. Just go down to the fromagerie, tell the cheese lady you’re doing a cheese plate for two, and let her set you up. Next, go to the wine shop and tell them which cheeses you’ve got, and they’ll sell you a divine matching wine. Throw in some pretty grapes and baguette slices, and you’ve got a hit. Jean-Pierre will be enchanted.
You’re going to have to slow down. He takes his time over meals, coffee, glasses of wine, snuggling. If you take a walk together, it’ll be more of a stroll, with pauses to stand on a bridge and appreciate the view. In the middle of meals, he’ll put down his fork and look around and just… smile.
Raised on the white Anglo-Saxon work ethic philosophy of “Places to go! People to see!”, I found this laid-back behavior unnerving. I had to stop asking what was wrong (Is the chicken okay? Did you have a stroke?) and learn that you really can just appreciate simple, small things. Who knew?
As tempting as it may be to generalize, you’ve got to be careful to learn about Jean-Pierre as a guy, not just as a Frenchman. He, like men everywhere, might be moody or charming or jealous or passionate, and it might just be him, not his Frenchness. A red flag in any language is still a red flag.
So, let’s wrap this virus up and get back to exploring our big beautiful world. Paris is waiting for you.
And so is Jean-Pierre.