At the age of 53, I re-entered the dating world. France is full of beautiful men of a certain age, a surprising lot of them are available, and they are ready to mingle. They’re fabulous–it’s like they’re training for the World’s Most Interesting Man competition, with all those trim beards, open collar dress shirts, and seductive compliments. For brevity, I will heretofore refer to the French Silver Fox as FSF.
As I date and mingle with these guys, I’ve learned a lot of useful things, both about the FSF and about myself.
They are useful around the house. Don’t let that suave exterior fool you. After two dates, the FSF’s true dad-nature comes out. Many of them list bricolage (DIY) on their Tinder profile, and it’s accurate. They can assemble Ikea furniture with their main droite tied behind their back. They will show up with that hard-to-find lightbulb. They’ll re-set the clock on your microwave while the coffee perks, jimmy the toilet so it doesn’t run, hang a ceiling lamp, patch your bike tire.
Sexual allure is great, but if you really want to get my heart racing, fix my printer.
What did I learn about myself? American Breakfast. I spent the past twenty years sending my kids off to school with a hot breakfast, and that has given me a surprisingly bankable skill in dating FSFs. These guys adore American breakfasts, any meal of the day. They think the food is unique, exotique. Make them some blueberry pancakes or avocado toast. Scramble them an egg. Put out the coffee and juice. Throw in a side of bacon and this girl is getting lucky tonight.
I learned how to flirt. I am not a natural-born flirt. Maybe it’s my Puritan upbringing. Maybe it’s because I’m an Enneagram 5, or a Myers-Briggs INFJ. Flirting is just too layered for me. What am I supposed to do, approach a guy at a party and shout Look at my boobs! Sashay up to the suave intellectual in the bookstore’s philosophy section and compliment the elbow patches on his sleeves?
This all changed when I moved to France. My rusty high school French rendered me technically competent but not street-smart. However, a lot of French idioms are sex-related, so par accident I flirt with people all the time, just by saying dumb stuff. When I said je suis chaude instead of j’ai chaud, I had declared myself hot to trot, not sweaty because of the weather. When I thought I was telling a guy he looked good in his profile pic, I actually told him he’d probably be good in bed. Tu a l’air bon. The list goes on. I just keep talking, and suddenly FSFs are smiling and leaning in.
I’ve learned about wine. Back in California, I brought home bottles of Kendall Jackson chardonnay from the grocery store and ordered red or white in restaurants. It was fine. But after two years of dating FSFs, I know things.
I know that Brouilly is served cold. My favorite reds are Saint Emilion and Saint Joseph. Pouille fumé is my favorite white, although Quincy is easier on the budget. Don’t worry if your white smells like sulfur when you open it, it’ll simmer down in a few minutes and be crisp and dry. Muscat from Beaume-de-Venise is lovely and sweet for an apéro. Bandol rosé is parfait on a hot summer afternoon.
I could have learned all this from a wine-tasting class or by letting the neighborhood caviste wax eloquent when I asked him which wine goes with roast chicken, but I learned most of it in conversation. My dates bring a bottle to my place when they come for dinner, or discuss pros and cons with me before ordering in a restaurant. It’s much more personal.
Cheese. Ditto for cheese. In California, I used cheddar for most things, or string cheese for the kids’ snacks, or goat cheese rolled in cranberry bits when I had a party. We enjoyed the occasional cheese log. Now, I know that 18-month compté is the best for the crunchy salt content. Paired with a soft, ripe Brillat Savarin, the duo will change your life, the creamy goodness and firmer compte filling your mouth with joy. There are endless varieties of goat cheese, each with a different texture and usage. All roquefort is good, but Carles is my favorite. And don’t even think about serving cheese without bread. Bread is essential for the FSF. Carbs be damned.
Could I have learned this in a class or by quizzing my fromager? Yes. But my FSFs brought it home, cutting off delicate morcels for me, our eyes rolling in our heads a little with the deliciousness of it all. You don’t get that in a class.
Hobbies. Most FSFs have spent a lifetime learning about something and now they excel at it. Since starting my dating journey, I’ve learned about Normandy beaches, antique cars, Chet Atkins and Stevie Ray Vaughn, canoeing, Buddhism, French literature, sailing, European politics, new wave cinema, tennis, French and Belgian pop music, rugby, and Jean-Paul Belmondo.
Did any of this involve man-splaining, or mecsplication? Nah bitch. These are conversations, not lectures. Besides, it’s a two-way street. Men I’ve dated have learned about Scott Joplin, Larry McMurtry, America’s national parks, casseroles, yoga, cubism, and my Paris quartier. We’re all in this together.
Dating can be rough, mes amis. Keep it light, keep it friendly, and find out what makes that FSF tick. You just might learn something in your search for love.
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