Two weeks had rolled by since my first date with a handsome Frenchman who had given me a hair-raising ride home through Paris in his Porsche. And who I had since dubbed, thanks to his towering frame, “Mr Big”. Enough time for me to experience other much less interesting dates, that left me wondering: what's all the bloody hype about French men?
Between language difficulties, uninvited embraces and plain dickheads, I’d become a tad jaded with the online dating world of OK Cupid. Having become the butt of jokes amongst my girlfriends and myself, I had disparagingly renamed it OK Stupid.
Apparently a dating site wasn’t the source of any quality men for the big fat juicy love story I felt ready for. I thought that would happen organically, you know, in real life.
Mr Big sent me a text message one afternoon :
"Tu voudrais un verre à la Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels ?"
Would I like to meet him for a glass of wine at a swanky wine cellar in my hood?
"Avec plaisir !"
Hell yeah! I accepted with eagerness and trepidation. Eagerness because I did indeed find this 6’4” Frenchman compelling, and trepidation because I was afraid of just how much.
My attitude towards Mr Big needed to be a whole lot more blasé. I didn't want him to think he had me dans la poche (in his pocket).
So I didn't bother showering. Or washing my hair. I messily slapped on a little makeup and the first super-short, slinky black dress and stilettos that fell out of my wardrobe. Good, I thought smugly. My outfit was nothing like the demure, knee-length dress and sandals I wore on our first date.
I wanted to tantalise and derail the bugger ... the way he did me.
Goddammit, why did this man unhinge me?
I realised I felt powerless around this man and was trying to gain back some equilibrium.
Tottering unsteadily along the cobblestones of my rue to the wine cellar, I deliberately arrived five minutes late. My eyes groped in the dimly lit space searching for him, sensing everyone evaluating me like the obviously non-French looking woman I was.
Goddammit again, he wasn’t there yet.
"Bonsoir, je suis arrivée chercher un homme."
I told the maître d’ in my clumsy French that I had come to find a man, and immediately realised my error. Hashtag cringe.
He smirkingly placed me at a tiny table in the centre of the wine cellar, in full view of everyone. My worst feng shui nightmare. Nowhere to hide my stiletto-tipped legs and nervousness, both of which were as conspicuous as the Eiffel bloody Tower.
Where the hell was he?
A few minutes later, he entered. Striding towards me with tree-length legs, he casually plopped down in an armchair opposite me, giving me the impression that he was - unlike me - genuinely blasé about our second date. Dressed in corporate wear, he was in stark contrast to my comparatively unkempt visage.
Byron Bay bogan girl meets polished Parisian gentleman.
“On va vous prendre une burrata, et une bouteille de vin corse, s’il vous plaît.”
With casual confidence, he ordered a plate of soft Italian cheese, bread and a bottle of Corsican wine. Never having tried (or even heard of) either before in my life, I became intimidated.
He devoured 99% of the burrata and bread because, as on our first date, I was too nervous to eat. I made sure I drank my fair share of wine though to fortify my shot nerves.
Talking over the next couple of hours, I discovered some intriguing aspects about him, like how after spending years working in IT, he felt he could consider transferring his skill set into law.
Between his ability to move fluidly between intellectual careers, supreme levels of confidence, masterful articulation of the English language (better than many native English speakers) and obviously quick mind, I began to think there was something different about this man.
He was a man who could see bigger pictures, devise and apply formulas to life, and think outside the box.
And he was fast becoming not just intriguing to me, but fascinating.
I started asking a whole bunch of questions that arose instinctively. Not at all appropriate for a second date, but my mouth was on auto pilot.
Before I could finish asking each question, he answered. Definitively, decisively. Like he was reading my mind.
“Would you say you have relatively low levels of tolerance for people who are bor…”
Do you find it hard to stop thinking and analys…”
Do you usually prefer to work or be alo…”
And then something occurred to me :
“Have you ever been tested for your I…”
“Yes. Last year, at MENSA. And yes, I passed.”
DING, DING, DING! And that was it. I knew what this man was. Complex, compelling … and bloody brilliant.
And I was fast falling under his spell.
He suggested a walk. We wandered through the charming streets of St-Germain-des-Prés and found ourselves by the Seine. Très romantique, except that my heels weren't made for ancient cobblestones. Anticipating a broken ankle, I looked down at each tiny step I took, contemplating how best to propose walking elsewhere before I slipped and ruined not just my heels but an ankle too.
In the space of a nanosecond, I felt my entire body suddenly whirled around and pinned tightly against his chest, smelling faintly of expensive French fragrance.
His mouth was pressed to mine in a big insistent confident juicy kiss as only a real Frenchman would know how to execute.
Très romantique, non?
Well it would've been, except for my ridiculous response.
Stumbling in my heels and also in my mind, I tittered like a timid teenager, unable to think straight.
He must have found my shy skittishness amusing because he mimicked the silly sounds I made, making me feel like an inexperienced girl from the ass-end of the world instead of a confident, self-assured Frenchwoman that I assumed he was used to.
Sensing my awkwardness, he gallantly suggested walking me back home. I gratefully accepted.
At my door, I was in no better psychological state. What had happened to the capable, strong 40-something year old woman who was me? Why was I reduced to blithering behaviour around him?
For the second time that night, this fascinating Frenchman attempted to kiss this awkward Aussie girl. Holding me fast, he lifted me up to his height, to meet his lips. The tips of my stilettos no longer touched the ground and my feet dangled in the air. My tiny skirt slid up to my underwear. I felt his enjoyment of the whole situation.
"Oh .. ha ha .. I'm sorry .. my skirt .. um .. aaahh .. "
I sputtered and squawked yet again, nervous giggles suddenly disintegrating into breathless whimpers like a graceless git.
He clearly did not want to say bonne nuit and end the night, yet was gentleman enough to recognise that I was out of control of myself. Putting me back down to earth, he held me tenderly to him in a surprisingly gentle gesture. He cradled my head to his chest like a child, until my breathing finally returned to normal.
"Bonne nuit, Barbara."
He watched me walk safely through my building entrance until the heavy door closed behind me. I climbed the five flights of stairs to my apartment and looked out of my window to the street below. Was he still there, smoking a cigarette and searching upwards for my face at my window? But no, Mr Big had disappeared into the inky midnight of Paris.
It would be almost a month until I saw him again. And this time, I was ready for him.