Usually the first question I get asked is "so have you found yourself a French boyfriend yet?" I respond with that awkward smile and shake of the head as I furrow my eyebrows and say something like "meh, not really a fan of French men. I prefer English ones!"
I always thought having a boyfriend meant that you were 'exclusive'. Anything 'extra' was considered grossly inappropriate and you would quite easily get the reputation of being a 'whore' or 'slag' if you were caught cheating, or in some cases flirting, with another man. That was until I came to France. "Married, you say? Makes no difference to me!"
In the UK, girls are persuading men to make things 'official' or as I like to say - 'o-fish' - whereas here I've noticed that men are usually the ones desperate to tie the dating knot after a matter of seconds. In my experience thus far, a simple drink in a bar for a Frenchman means "you need to meet my Mother". OK, maybe that's a slight exaggeration but there's something very forward about French men when it comes to dating. And lest you absentmindedly forget to reply to a Frenchman's text within about 3 hours...you better start coming up with some fabulous excuses because your little games of "playing hard to get", "the chase", and "play 'em mean, keep 'em keen" don't go down so well with the French. It's all, or nothing.
British journalist Samantha Brick, who is married to a Frenchman, has this to say:
"If you are normally laid back about dating, prepare to change your ways. There is a reason that a 'crime of passion' was recognised as a legitimate form of defence in France's courts. The French thrive on jealously, passionate arguments, bold attestations of love. Even if that's not your style - you'd better get used to it. Sulking has zero impact and neither does 'the silent treatment' - if you have a point to make about a problem in your relationship then make it as loudly and as passionately as you can. Your French lover will worship you even more for it."
I realise I’ve been rather critical of French men thus far. I’m sure they’re not all so bad, but I enjoy telling tales so I will enlighten you:
An interesting encounter with a Frenchman on the night bus (first and last time I've ever taken it), resulted in him putting his slimey arm around me and 'accidentally' touching my breasts. He then asked if I'd be his girlfriend. Naturally, I said "no". He said "is it because I'm Muslim?" Actually, frog, it has something to do with the fact that you're perving on me in a night bus at 3am. And accusing me of bigotry is hardly going to make me declare my undying love for you.
A few months later I was proposed marriage by another Frenchman after getting off the metro. Let's just say that the conversation ended in him asking me when he'd be meeting my parents. My response: Never.
Another encounter was with a French guy at an office party who didn't actually work with me so I have no idea how and why he was there. He told me he was 25, that his mother was a French teacher and that he could help me with my French. Of course I jumped at the opportunity because I’d been speaking literally zero French. We met up a week later, and I noticed his hair was rather on the grey side. After some coaxing, he admitted he was in fact 35 but he’d lied to me before because he was worried I’d refuse him if I knew his real age. You bet your bottom dollar!
Anyway, he insisted on buying me lunch in a Thai restaurant which of course I accepted given that I was pissed off at him for lying about his age, and I never say no to free food. Before long he was proposing trips to New York, taking me to film launches and entertaining me on the red carpet. He kept trying to hold my arm and I kept pushing him away and gave him light slaps to ward him off. He just wanted to cling to me and be intimate and I told him it was offensive and we didn't do that in England with strange men. He was definitely strange.
French waiters are a new species altogether. The majority of them are cold and heartless, but you get the odd one who has nothing better to do than flirt outrageously. And when I say outrageously, I mean outrageously. There's definitely a difference between harmless flattery and creepy idolatry. I was in a restaurant with a male friend the other day for Easter Sunday and when it came to paying the bill, we both got out our bank cards. The waiter looked at my friend in horror when he realised that he wasn't paying for my meal. Of course I had to explain that we were "just friends", but the waiter remained persistent that my friend paid for me too, before I had to spell out that we were both students which meant we weren’t exactly rolling in cash. He was still flabbergasted so I said “well, if you’re really that concerned, why don’t YOU pay for my meal?” He took it upon himself to invite me over for a glass of champagne and dinner that same evening. I said I had to go to church. He then attempted to fit 'going to mass' into our plans, before I said “thanks, but no thanks”. Oh, and I’m not catholic either.
On Easter Monday, a girlfriend and I decided to spend all afternoon sitting in a café with a particularly ‘friendly’ waiter. When we first arrived he asked whether we wanted to have coffee, wine, food…a massage? And now you know why the French are known for their charm. After a few hours (we were there a long time!), the waiter came over with a pen and asked me if I have Facebook. He put the pen next to one of our many receipts and winked at me. I nervously giggled and looked at my phone.
Where are all the nice French men that I'm supposed to be falling madly in love with? Where's my Mr. Darcé?