The world of dating in Paris opened up to me last summer after I ended a relationship with my first French lover. “First” because although it ended, I wasn’t in the least put off exploring more. French men, that is.
Following a two-year male drought after leaving my Australian ex-husband, I had been thrilled to be hurled head first into many women’s fantasy – a french fling – which left me keen for more, s’il vous plaît.
So I signed up to a popular dating site and prepared for … I didn’t know what. But I wanted to know. What I wasn’t prepared for, though, were some markedly different styles of dating between Aussie 'blokes' and French 'gentlemen'.
I enjoyed two highly entertaining dates with André* - both involving apéros in swanky hotels in the swankiest parts of Paris, followed by equally swanky dinners. Conversation flowed easily, he was charming, educated and attractive … so far, so good.
Until one evening when he rang me completely out of the blue.
Anticipating a quiet night alone at home, I had showered, washed my hair and was slopping around my apartment, sans makeup, in very little, doing very little.
He was on his way to my place and would arrive in 15 minutes.
"Zis is OK with you?"
Arrive in fifteen minutes?! For what, exactly?! Had I forgotten about a date with him or something?? Merde !
“Ahhhh… bien sûr, André … pas de problème …”
This was not how I had anticipated a third date with a Frenchman would be. I was going to have to move fast. Very fast.
I yanked on some clothes, slapped on some makeup, blow-dried my hair and straightened my apartment. In 15 minutes flat.
I thought frantically about what I could offer him when he arrived. As a single woman not often at home, my fridge and pantry were embarrassingly bare. No time either to run to Marks & Spencer supermarket to buy something suitable for this refined and elegant Frenchman.
“I dérange you?”
he asked upon entering, seeing my flushed face and breathlessness. I stifled a snort of laughter at his use of dérange, the French word for ‘disturb’.
“Oh no, pas du tout !”
I replied, hastily snapping closed my laptop with one hand and zipping up my fly with the other.
“You have somezing to eet or drink, perhaps? I am very ‘ungry”.
I gingerly served him as prettily as possible some leftover, cheap rosé (big mistake; Frenchmen hate rosé), a slab of subpar Cantal cheese, a bunch of grapes, and (cringe) rice cakes.
He gallantly nibbled on a half a rice cake and three grapes, stoically stomached a sip of the rosé and sampled a morsel of cheese.
“Normally, I never eet zis type of cheese. Or drink rosé. It is more for zee ladies”.
The Aussie blokes I know - outdoorsy surfers, rugby players and tradesmen with lusty, no-frills appetites - would have gratefully devoured the lot. And asked for seconds.
I was beginning to understand that the more quality-focused French have higher standards and would rather starve than succumb to shoddy fare ... even if it is their own locally-produced cheese 'n wine.
Needless to say, I didn’t impress André very much that evening, which probably explains why I didn’t hear from him again.
Tant pis. But if rice cakes and cheap rosé aren’t your bag, baby, it doesn’t dérange me.
* Not this fancy French gentleman’s real name … it was much less banal.