A long time ago, in a land far, far away, I promised to
rant write about French dogs’ French poop on French sidewalks. This has been a ‘pet’ (get it?) peeve of mine ever since I arrived in the capital in wide-eyed teenage wonder at the Celine Dion-influenced age of 13 only to discover that Parisian sidewalks, far from serving pedestrians, are simply giant litterboxes for fully-clothed miniature dogs.
But since you must’ve surely, by this time, have gotten used to disappointments from the author of this blog, let me say that today I have no desire to talk about poop. I am feeling romantic today! I am feeling sentimental! It is the second day of summer, so it is perfect time to talk about the other French national career/hobby/sport/way of spending time when they are not working (most of the time). Today I will talk about flirting.
Flirting, some people claim, is intrinsically French. The word itself may have come from the Old French expression “conter fleurette’ which means to “drop sweet words, like flower petals” with the aim of winning a woman’s heart and hopefully also her body.
I am not sure modern flirting or street encounters have anything to do with this:
The second time I came to Paris, at the ripe age of 22, I encountered on the banks of the Seine a young man dressed all in white. An angel? No, he most definitely was not. How do I know that? He attempted to seduce me. Or steal my wallet. Or some other terribly wicked thing. I am not sure exactly what he had in mind, because I resisted his repeated attempts to ‘invite me out for a drink’ and finally got rid of his pesky presence. A few days later, at a metro station, I saw him again, and when recognition dawned on his features, I got into the metro and said from behind closing doors “Au revoir, Francois” – or whatever his name was. It probably wasn’t, actually, because based on the blank look on his face, he certainly didn’t remember he had claimed it was his name only a few days prior.
Since then, living in this country, I have had to build up my defences. The “I am from Romania” which one of acquaintances claimed always did the trick no longer worked. Nowadays, I have taken the high road of “I’m not from here, I don’t speak French” (I’ve been told by powers that be, that is my mother, that such lies are not only not evil, they are self-defence) or simply pretending I am tragically completely deaf.
That doesn’t always work. Once I left work to see one man standing just outside the entrance gate and peeing into the shrubs that surround the scurity booth. His friend glanced at me appreciatively as I pulled out the rental bike from the bike stand, then repeated his friend’s performance in the shrubs before he deemed it appropriate to invite me out for dinner. I explained I was one of those obnoxious monolingual Americans who had no clue what he was saying and asked him if it is acceptable in his country to ask a woman out immediately after urinating and WITHOUT EVEN WASHING YOUR HANDS FIRST.
Actually, I didn’t, I just told them I didn’t speak French, had a lovely boyfriend, and sped off on the velov (rental bike).
Velos seem unfortunately to be natural conversation starters. There must be something about speeding down Lyon’s hills that is, well, liberating, unifying and breathtakingly romantic.
If there is, I obviously don’t get it. If I am speeding down the hill on a bike that means:
a) The wind is in my hair, my feet are safely off poop-covered sidewalks, my earrings are jingling like chimes and I am enjoying myself.
b) I am late.
Either way, a youth standing on the aforementioned sidewalk and yelling out words of welcome is unlikely to grab my attention. A youth yelling out words of welcome while speeding past me on a bike may grab my fleeting attention (“He must think I am someone else.”) The same youth circling back to me 2 minutes later and yelling words of welcome through a megaphone, well, yes, that got my attention.
I attempted to bike by and put this disturbance behind me, as I was both enjoying myself and my earrings and late for a brunch date with a friend. However, I got stuck behind a bus in the center of town and megaphone-carrying man managed to catch up with me (I, as well as everybody else present on the street that Saturday afternoon, was well aware of his impending approach and his continued interest in me, as he announced, “You could have at least given me your phone number!” before he pulled up by my side).
After an innocent exchange of pleasantries behind the bus, and reiteration on my part that no, I did not want to give him my phone number, and no, I did not want to kiss him, he sped off… to rejoin the Gay Pride parade.
French flirting is…confusing.
If you want beautiful flowers, I strongly suggest Giverney as a safer alternative: