The American Enchantress of Paris
The full moon yesterday generated an awful lot of high spirited energy in Paris.
Parler Paris Après Midi, our monthly coffee gathering (although I opted for a “Pastis”* in place of a café crème), drew a lively mix of old friends and new faces (who quickly became new friends). Zora, the personality-plus waitress at “La Pierre du Marais” brought up a slice of “Tarte aux pommes” with a lit candle to honor my birthday celebration, then not long after, Pascal, the waiter, came up to the gathering carrying a huge chocolate mousse cake, plates and forks for everyone to enjoy…a surprise thanks to Florence Richburg, our newest staff member. (Read all about it, and see photos, by clicking on /parlerparis/apresmidi.html)
*Pastis is an anise-flavored liqueur and apéritif typically containing 40–45% alcohol by volume, created when absinthe was banned in France in 1915, and the major absinthe producers (then Pernod Fils and Ricard, who have since merged as Pernod Ricard) reformulated their drink without the banned wormwood component with a heavier focus on the aniseed flavor using more star anise, sugar and a lower alcohol content.
All while we were having a raucous time getting to know everyone, down the street on rue de Bretagne, the bookstore “Comme un Roman” was preparing for author Salman Rushdie’s visit to speak and sign copies of his newest book, “Enchanteresse de Florence,” a translation from the English version, “The Enchantress of Florence.” Funny that “Florence” was again at the center of activity!
Rushdie’s story involves a tall, young, blond European traveler calling himself the “Mughal of Love,” who tells a tale about a mysterious woman, a great beauty believed to possess powers of enchantment and sorcery, and her impossible journey to the far-off city of Florence….a story of a woman attempting to command her own destiny in a man’s world. Random House, its publisher, professes it to be “Vivid, gripping, irreverent, bawdy, profoundly moving, and completely absorbing, The Enchantress of Florence is a dazzling book full of wonders by one of the world’s most important living writers.”
Our own Florence fits a similar tale…but as a newcomer to France attempting to command her own destiny in a French man’s world. Newly arrived in Paris, having moved here on exactly the same day as me, September 4th, however, 14 years later, she, like many single women I’ve known, is experiencing the male-female Franco-Anglo cultural clash as the men she meets are quickly responding to her bright, toothy smile. She’s learning fast that smiling gets you into trouble — that it’s a code meaning something very different in France than it does in the U.S. of A. (Americans smile for no reason at all, other than to be friendly or show they are happy…but when a woman smiles at a man, it’s a signal that she’s interested…)
When she’s invited out for dinner by the older gentleman who seems so sweet, she thinks, “Why not? Being treated to dinner in Paris is quite nice, and he’s such a nice man.” So, she goes happily, but then can’t understand why suddenly he’s suddenly making demands on her to wear skirts and nylons rather than her usual comfortable slacks, or why his mood turns sour when she politely thanks him and heads for home after such a lovely evening.
Being older and wiser (or at least more experienced), I’ve offered up my personal viewpoint and encouraged her to read Polly Platt’s newest book, “Love à la Française,” a tale of “What happens when Hervé meets Sally,” or in this case, when “Florence meets Pierre.” Polly Platt has ‘hit the nail on the head’ just as she has done in her past two books, to cross the cultural divides with an understanding of how American women can best enjoy their relationships with French Men.
At the recent Living and Investing in France Real Estate Conference, of which 70% of our attendees were single women, they all wanted to know if Paris was a good place to be as a single woman, to which I replied emphatically, “YES!” and vowed to explain in more detail at a later date.
The answer? I’ll leave it to your imagination and perhaps to another time, but I’ll tell you this: it’s not because of French men.
Every woman thinking of moving to France hoping to find a French husband (or lover) should read Love à la Française. To get your copy, visit /parlerparis/books/booksaboutfrance.html)
A la prochaine…
Editor, Parler Paris
(birthday drawing by Kathy Burke)
P.S. Many thanks to La Pierre du Marais, Chez Omar, all the friends and new acquaintances who helped celebrate my birthday contributing to the merriment of all!