Digging through my desk recently I came across a long-forgotten folder of sketches I’d written when Alan and I were living in Paris in the mid 1980’s. Here’s one of them.
Contented marriage to a handsome American man hasn’t keep me from observing the beauty of Parisian men.
I started observing my first day in Paris, one of those rare bright February days when everyone strolls the boulevards to get reacquainted with the sun. The Champs-Elysees was packed. Our taxi was stuck in traffic. He jogged up to the corner from Avenue Franklin Roosevelt, hesitated a bit, then thread his way in front of us, through the honking jam of buses, cars and taxis. Light brown hair blown back from his face, except for the comma that fell over his forehead. Strong square jaw, high cheek bones and heavy-lidded eyes. He must be a movie star or at least a male model, I thought then. Now I know he was probably an architect, bank clerk or accountant. Handsome men aren’t that uncommon in Paris. I see at least one a day.
Yesterday I saw three. At the same time. Men so good looking I just wanted to stand and stare. These men were wearing military uniforms.
They stood at the entrance of the town hall, checking handbags for bombs. Because I had business in the building, I had to approach one to have my purse examined. I hesitated, undecided about which one to head toward. One of them made that decision for me, in the process demonstrating another of my favorite characteristics of Parisian men.
In only a few seconds, with a smile, a nod, a glance, no more than ten words spoken in a particular tone of voice, he let me know that he knew that he is handsome, that I am attractive, and that combined, these two facts make the world a wonderful place in which to live.
The Parisians stoke a woman’s ego with style and simplicity. Take the man I passed while strolling along rue de Courcelles one spring afternoon. The sun shone, the air was warm and the flowers were blooming, so I strode along feeling as if the whole world was mine.
You know how we like to make eye contact with everyone we pass on the street. Well, I made eye contact with this fellow in his early thirties. He had hair to his shoulders and wore tight, faded jeans and a loose white shirt. All very bohemian and terribly attractive. So I smiled. A friendly sort of thing to do.
He responded with a French sort of thing to do. He sighed. Just at the instant he passed me. Deeply. Long. The sort of sigh I hear from my husband Alan when no one else is around and no one else is going to be around for a good long time.
That one sound spoke of the possibilities provided by the time of year, the city, his maleness and my femaleness, and of the tragedy that those possibilities would never be realized.
Have you noticed that I’ve avoided one issue? Is it true that French men are wonderful lovers? Sorry, I can’t answer that one. I content myself with merely observing the flattering and flirtatious men around me.
And what about Parisian women? Do they match the qualities of the men they grow up with, live with and love? On that subject, I’m not a fair judge. Ask Alan.
Or better yet, come and find out yourself.
Dear women readers, have you had similar experiences with flirtatious European men? Perhaps you don’t find them that different from their American cousins. Share your thoughts.
This was written a long time ago. Dear male readers, do you find that superficial flirtations like these are welcomed, or even possible, in current American culture?
Speaking of flirtation, we haven’t heard from Chet, my suitor in Addled by a Drug, for quite some time. I think he might pay us a visit next week.