I was in an uncertain place when I first came to Paris six and a half years ago for a study abroad summer program. Smarting from heartbreak and questioning how this trip would benefit me in any concrete, sustained way, my new friends exhorted me to mute the past. Use this opportunity to seek adventure, they said. That would pull me out of my funk.
They must have sensed something was brewing because I fortuitously met my husband at a party in my residence three days after I arrived. After what felt like an hour of chatting with his colleague at length about foreign perceptions of the French, the conversation shifted to relationships. He pointed out my husband from across the room as his single friend and offered to introduce us. Whatever reservations I may have felt about this trip were overcome in a nanosecond - his smile was controlled but warm. His features were striking, his demeanor reserved. Abundantly cliché to be sure but the sparks were instantaneous.
I knew little of French dating etiquette but I remained true to my social credo and made the first move. I engaged him, I asked to exchange phone numbers and, according to his recollection of our first encounters, I texted him shortly thereafter to plan a date. Even I was surprised by my heedless attitude. A stranger in an unfamiliar city- I could get kidnapped! Or far worse, I might fall in love only to be forced to return to the States and suffer continued heartbreak. Since we know how the story ends, I'll skip right to our first date since its unusual nature remains a potent reminder of the vastly different way in which the Americans and French approach dating.
The most important fact: it lasted eight hours. We began at Odéon, strolled around Saint-Germain, ambled through Luxembourg Gardens, nibbled on cheese on rue Montorgueil, smooched on rue Réamur, walked (hands entwined) to the 11th and exchanged stories until long after the summer sun had dipped beyond the horizon. This type of connection rarely blossomed for me after multiple dates with American men let alone after the first evening. And that says nothing of the first kiss as the automatic symbol of coupledom. No games, no ambivalence, no questioning what it all meant nor wondering if he would call. We were together and he would. Always.
But not all encounters play out this way, or at least that's what my friend Jennifer Fox Geraghty is hoping to illustrate with her short film series L'Amour (or Less) which features reenactments of actual dates between expats and natives. If the trailer is any indication of what's to come, we're in for a comically truthful depiction of dating.
For the web series to be produced in its entirety, however, Jennifer and her team need our help to fund it. You can show your support by donating (minimum $5) to her Kickstarter campain. I, for one, am eager to see if anyone else went from célibataire to en couple within the span of an afternoon. A little goes a long way so let's help make this happen!
For more information on the show, click HERE. To readers who found love in France - what was courtship like?
Photo: François Jorez