After 20 years of happily ever after, my husband awoke one morning in our Paris apartment a changed man, a man in a midlife crisis. Family? Non, merci! He wanted to work endless hours, have a wife without children, hang with 30-year olds. We already had two kids and I was the other side of 40. In six weeks I went from that lady at dinner parties with an adoring husband whispering, “You are the most beautiful woman in the room” to single mom-dom.
Which is how I found myself dating online in Paris. My friends in the US had warned me that online dating is a nightmare. Men want young girls, or mothers to help them with their kids, or just a one-night stand. One-night stands sounded pretty good to me; after two decades of marriage, I suspected it would do me good to play the field. So I checked out my online options.
In Paris, there are several popular sites. AttractiveWorld sounded attractive. A site for only good-looking people, at least I’d be able to look at the guy, but I was raw and afraid of rejection. Family suggested JDate. There is a French version, but I wasn’t looking for a father for future children and didn’t want to limit myself. Adopte a Mec (Adopt a Dude in English) sounded great: young, fun, and with a great sense of humor. I checked it out and decided, however, it was perhaps a bit too young for me. Gleeden, a site for married women looking for extra curricular activities, was not the right slipper for this Cinderella either. Which left me with Meetic, the most popular site in France.
Now that I had my site, it was time for a few rules, especially safety rules. So I invented a few to make me feel like I was taking care of myself.
1. I wouldn’t mention where I lived. Even after the first date, they didn’t need my address.
2. No first date until I had called them on their home number. This could be a problem if they’re totally mobile, but I liked the idea of ringing and making sure there wasn’t a madame to answer.
3. The first meeting was always in a café that I knew well, but far from my home, while it was still light outside.
4. I used a photo taken just for the site. It is possible to use images in a Google search, making it possible for predators to know much more about you than you’d like.
Very optimistic, n’est-ce pas? I had rules for dating before I had a date! Profile uploaded, I was ready to wait, but actually didn’t have wait long. It turns out Anglo-Saxon ladies are a much-sought-after exotic on the Parisian dating scene. Frenchmen like our smiles and upfront ways. And the whole age thing is very different here. I had 28 year olds begging for some chat time. Their logic is that divorcées with a home and children won’t be putting pressure on them for a home and children. The relationship can start out being just about fun and sex. Finally, I learned that no one ever uses a real, recent photo of themselves. I did, and I think it explains why just about every man I met asked for a second date.
Which brings us to the dating. The first weekend that my girls were off with their Dad, I decided it was time to meet some of the men I’d been chatting with. I organized a few coffee dates, nine to be exact; one for the morning, one for the afternoon, and one for the early evening on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I met a scientist from the Pasteur Institute who was absolutely fascinating, but stoned out of his gourd and five years younger than he had claimed. I met a congressman who had been a doctor before joining politics and still couldn’t figure out how his last girlfriend had gotten pregnant, making him the 55-year old dad of an infant.
I didn’t meet the American expat from Neuilly who called saying he’d be there an hour early, asking if I minded joining him so we’d have more time together… And oh, by the way, he’d brought along his 7-year old daughter and 5-year old son. I met a fun British guy who became a friend. There was an Eastern European Mafioso who showed up in a huge, black Mercedes, his biceps larger than my thighs, followed by a communist who hated anyone with money and was horrified by my Burberry trench. I also received a call asking that we change our meeting place from a café to a room at the Holiday Inn, Place de la République. Then, Sunday morning, at the Café des Editieurs near Odeon, I met my Mr. French and my online dating days were over.
I know many expat women living in Paris who have met their match online. And I know even more who have used it as a way to meet people before coming on holidays. Perhaps they’ve heard that the locals say the best way to learn French is from the pillow!
- Everything you wanted to know about the Parisian male. Charming or cheesy? You decide.
- For when you’ve met your Mr. French: where to find luxury lingerie on Paris’ Left Bank.
- Another use for online dating or signing up for Tinder in Paris… improve your French!
Written by Sylvia Sabes for the HiP Paris Blog. Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, London, Provence, or Tuscany? Check out Haven in Paris.