The Men of Paris

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.

Here we are, stuck in traffic. Can you pick out the man I spotted?

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.

The one on the left – he’s my guy.


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.

Oh, sigh.

Robert Doisneau photographed the implications of that sigh.


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.


9 thoughts on “The Men of Paris

  1. Oh lordy – what a memory you brought back .. 1969 (or maybe early 1970 … does it matter?) Waikiki – Edgewater Hotel (I worked there) – Trattoria … owned by a beautiful Italiano (but he is not of whom I speak …) I was 18, just recently married … and this incredibly georgous dark and mysterious olive skinned, long curly haired classical guitarist from Milano who played in the bar asked me to go out with him … (but I’m married! said I … it’s ok! says he … no no no …. thank you but no ..) I was so stunned I could barely respond … I never did go out with him, but OH the fantasies!

  2. I continue to enjoy your writing, Georgia. Alison Tyler has also written about her adventures with European men. Seems they ARE more romantically oriented.

    But interesting that the author of “Eat, Pray, Love” didn’t find any “Love” during her months in Europe. But that may have been a result of still getting over her previous relationship.

  3. I too have lived and worked in Paris and traveled extensively throughout Europe. I must say, I observed a huge difference between the actions and attitudes of American and Parisian men and women. The differences ranged from the way they dressed to the way they interacted, both in the work place and in social settings.

    Flirtation was not only accepted, it was an art form. Looks were exchanged, subtle touches were passed and sexual energy flowed freely. Acts and actions witnessed in the offices and the streets of Paris would have been considered criminal in the States.

    I came to the conclusion that Parisian women could be flirtatious because the men knew it was just part of the game of life. Women held control, they could dress for work as if they were headed out for an evening of fun and not be considered loose. They could flirt and if the men wanted something more the word NO held meaning.

    It was a wonderful time and it gave me new meaning to the phrase “viva la differance” I wish Americans could lighten up enough to enjoy the “game”

    I really enjoyed this post Georgia.


  4. At this point in my life I certainly would enjoy a little innocent flirtation. Being ignored is all I have been getting from men and it’s not because I am invisible. I am in great shape and always dress to impress. I do believe that American men are focused on flirting with women much younger than they. I wonder if European men spend any time at all “seducing” women who fall within that invisible age?

    • Hi Mary: I spent two weeks poking around France with a friend when I was in my mid-50’S. During that time, I experienced some delightul flirtations. One ended with the gentleman so engrossed in the game that he fell off the end of a moving walkway at the Gare du Lyon.

      That never happens here. Something in the relations between men and women in this country freezes us. Is it fear? Judging by Big Fan’s comment, men are missing out in this as much as women.

      Even in my youth, I rarely experienced real flirtation in America. Sure, I was used to the turned head as I passed a man on the street, but never the kind of interaction I experienced in Europe. If a stranger spoke to me, it was to say something outrageously stupid, like, “Baby, I could fuck you like you’ve never been fucked before.” That always left me feeling slimed, rather than flattered.

      I agree with E. Mae. It’s time to get a plane ticket to Paris.

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