Finding myself a single woman in Paris after 20 years of happily-ever-after came as something of a shock. Having lived decades as a Madame, I was suddenly a Mademoiselle. It took months of deep mourning before I awoke and realized that I was in Paris, it was springtime, and I was free to explore my fantasy of dating a Parisian. He’d lived in my dreams for ages, suave with an intellectual flair. He definitely wore glasses and a scarf, his unruly brown hair would be lightly greased back. Miraculously, he’d be 100% nicotine-free. He’d occasionally trip over uneven cobblestone as he geeked out, contemplating an important question regarding Nietzsche, Hegel, or Sartre.
After a brief foray into the world of online dating, it was time to test the dream. Panic set in. What should I wear? What would I say? What had I gotten myself into? These men were used to dating elegant, size 0 Parisiennes. What were they going to think of me and my indelible California grin?
I turned to the source, my elegant and size 0 Parisienne friends, and fired off my questions. They took me by the hand, sat me down at the nearest café, and ordered a round of champagne.
What to wear? Nothing too sexy, they advised. Comfort is essential. Being relaxed in your favorite jeans will give you a hint of self-confidence that makes you irresistible. Keep your hair simple, your make-up to a minimum. And be sure to wear your prettiest, laciest underthings. Don’t panic. A guy you met online will not be seeing your sweet everythings on a first date. The secret is to have a secret. Mona Lisa, they assured me as the champagne flutes emptied, is definitely wearing silk and lace under her gown…how else would you explain that beguiling smile?
What to talk about? Not your problem! He maybe a Frenchman, but XY chromosomes are the same across the globe. He’s going to want you to listen. Which is fine for the first few minutes, then it’s your turn. You can follow his lead, or set things off on another tangent inspired by his chat, turning the conversation into a seductive volley. Like your style, just keep it natural.
What to order? Not that complicated on a café date, but les mesdames were all very clear that I needed to stay sober. A glass of wine? Ok, if he has expressed an interest in a glass himself. But not two glasses, and certainly nothing as extravagant as champagne. Being Parisienne is all about being in control; those nonchalant hair-dos take hours to perfect. Stay sober and you keep the control.
What my Parisiennes hadn’t warned me about was the dance. Frenchmen still open the door for ladies, and it is also on him to ask for a table. This means there is a little two-step that goes on when entering a restaurant. He opens the door, you take two steps in then cha-cha two steps back as he enters one. He then cha-chas two steps forward and announces your arrival to the host(ess). Cha-cha-cha.
One final note. About the note, aka l’addition, the check, the bill; a French gentleman pays for the first date. Once you’ve become an item, you can negotiate finances, but for the first date, never forget it’s his treat.
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.