Sunday, October 29, 2006

French Flirting

My friend Polly Platt, author of French or Foe and Savoir Flair, is soon to publish a third book on l'Amour a la Francaise. "Any thoughts?" she asked me. Although I'm a Polly too, I know precious little about "love" in France, I told her. I've only been here since March. But as a relative newcomer to Paris I have noticed how the preamble works.

The flirting -- it's everywhere!

One observation, initially, is that in France all flirtation skills get honed and ready for practice on a daily basis. Until last spring I had been living in frosty old New England for almost 30 years and not at all accustomed to it. But somehow being in France, if one is at all adept at joining the esprit of the repartee, the flirtation takes place.

One simple moment. Last month at the Carrefour at Auteuil, in the checkout lane for home delivery, in front of me was a tall, ruggedly handsome man, clearly just back from vacation. He was wearing Bermudas and topsiders, a polo shirt and a great tan. Tousled hair. I was doing my own "check out" by trying to determine his domestic status by analyzing what he was buying (a great game in any case). We were jostling and bumping a bit because of bulky items in our respective carts. Anyway, I did eventually notice a wedding ring on his finger, so he was off-limits, officially, at any rate. However, when it was my turn to go to from the cashier to the livraison a domicile desk, the clerk said, "What else can we do for you, madame? Vous etes avec le monsieur, n'est-ce pas?"

I replied, with my best stage sigh and engaging smile, "Non, hélas!"

Mr. Tousled Hair was flattered and amused, and gave me a glittering glance and complicitous nod as he headed out the door.

It was a great little moment of connecting. (I would NEVER have done that in puritanical Massachusetts, especially not as a divorced woman. Bad, bad, bad.) I guess part of it is that in France it feels as though it's your duty to show appreciation of beauty or something pleasing.

Another little moment: One Sunday after church at the American Cathedral a small group (4 women, one man) decided to have lunch. As we were exiting the church building, the sexton gave us beautiful flowers left over from a Saturday wedding. When we entered the cafe on avenue George V, the waiter asked what the flowers were for (we all had identical bouquets of antique roses). Quick to rise to the opportunity, I quipped. "Aujourd'hui on les offrait aux plus belles femmes du quartier." (They were giving them to the prettiest ladies in the neighborhood.) The handsome waiter, just as quick in his French flirtation skills, replied with a smile, "Ils n'avaient pas tort!"

Paris just brings this out in people. And this is only the lighthearted banter. There is, for those who can handle it, a little teasing that goes on that creates a positive (magnetic?) tension between men and women. It leaves the door wide open for the next step and the next step.

Moment number 3. I arrived for a business meeting in the entrance to a gorgeous Haussmanien building. One attractive Parisian businessman whom I'd met previously was there already, and he greeted me and we chatted aimiably in the grand courtyard. A beautiful setting for any encounter. After about 15 minutes when my French colleague hadn't shown up yet, Mr. Big Business and I decided it was best to give her a call. He teasingly said to her into the phone, "Yes, Polly and I have been here for a while, but I won't tell you what we've been up to." I giggled (not very French?) and maybe blushed. Hanging up, he gave me one of those very French looks and offered a coy apology, saying, "Alors, I hope I didn't shock you?"

"Mais non, I was actually flattered..." I warbled.

(Is it really me saying things like this? Polly-who-stammers-at-the-slightest-crush? Where do these words come from? Is it because I'm speaking another language? Or is it just Paris?)

So, ladies and gentlemen, the next step is --- ??

My guess is that 99% of the time the "next step" doesn't take place. But then at least everyone continues on their day, slightly more charged than before.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Another French Paradox

I've discovered a new French Paradox. I took part in it. Yes, a paradox because it is, at once, the most French and the most un-French thing I've done in the 8 months that I've been in Paris. And I paid to do it:

Facial gymnastics.

Here is the scenario. Four parisiennes and me, sitting around a formal dining room table in a swish but hip comme il faut apartment in the 16th arrondissement. We had enrolled in the class through a group called La Belle Ecole. Catherine Pez, our instructor, tells us her story. She's 58, her doctor husband had long ago banned any form of plastic surgery, so she had to invent her own way of preserving her looks. She thought she was doing fine until 3 years ago when her dermatologist told her that her neck looked like chair de poule (chicken flesh). That launched her into action. She investigated facial exercises from all parts of the world, adopted the best ones, and became so renowned for having restored her youthful appearance that she started giving lessons and, of course, wrote a book.

So, where is the paradox? Mais oui -- in order to become beautiful and wrinkle-free, we had to spend two hours making the most hideous grimaces and facial contortions. An American and four French women sticking their tongues out at each other, and enjoying it. And if we want to keep our faces maiden-smooth and taut, and scalpel-free, we'll have to do at least 15 minutes of the terrifying facial feats daily.

And who said the French don't know how to celebrate Halloween?

That French Glow

Riding the 92 bus on Thursday, stopped in vacation traffic at the Ecole Militaire, I see a not-unfamiliar sight. A sleek, shiny Jaguar, with slightly paunchy Parisian papa at the wheel. In the rear seat is pale, bespectacled 9 year old boy, perfectly groomed, gazing out the car window and de-crotting his nose in a big way. In the passenger seat is chic 40-something maman, her bejewelled hand holding the portable to her ear.

Wait -- what's wrong with this picture?? The lady is a different color from the rest of her family. No, she's not a different race -- she just has that golden-orange French perma-tan that can only come from little carrot pills and manmade UV rays or sprays.

My initial reaction is: they must rarely spend any time together as a family, because they just don't match. Anyone would know right away she didn't get the tan from basking at the beach. Maybe a 10-day Toussaint vacation will even the playing field.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Polly's Choice

Oh, I'm just soooo parisienne, aren't I? I'm such an habituee of my neighborhood coiffeur, Sergio Bossi, that I no longer need to ask, "Vous avez le temps pour un brushing?". When I pop my head in the door, they smile and can always accommodate my impromptu request. "Vous avez le temps pour un brushing?" just rolls off my tongue, even if I cheat on Sergio and go to Jean-Claude Biguine for variety.

In NYC last week, I needed to have my hair look decent before a big event. So without the little nanosecond of communication angst I have before conversing with most Parisian shop owners, it was going to be a breeze chatting with the hair stylist. After all, we speak the same language, right? So at 9 am on Saturday I popped my head into a little hair salon on Amsterdam Ave. The handsome 30-something guy at the desk greeted me.

"Hi," I said in my most sophisticatedly-cool-I-live-in-Paris-but-am-visiting-NYC way. "Do you have time for a blow...."

Okay, English words failed me and I thankfully stopped my self in time. I could only wave my hands. And gesture at my hair. And think of Kevin Kline saying to Meryl Streep in Sophie's Choice, "It's seersucker."

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Just quidding

Well, watch me disappear. I just discovered , and for an information junkie like me, it simply doesn't get any better. The online resource to beat all resources. I only knew it in its fat-book form.

What a delightful black hole of time -- the "personnalites" section alone can use up an entire morning. Time to go hibernate; I'm now a quidkid.
Locations of visitors to this page
Travel Blogs - Blog Catalog Blog Directory blog search directory Targeted Website Traffic - Webmasters helping webmasters develop high value relevant links. Promoting ethical web-marketing using the time trusted pillars of relevance and popularity.