I’m feeling a bit disappointed at the moment. OKCupid guy just canceled. Normally, I’d shrug this kind of thing off; it happened all the time to me in New York. But a few days ago I realized how great it would be to have a French boyfriend. (I actually have this reverse fantasy of being in a relationship with one and getting into fights, him yelling in French and me in English. Followed by post-argument sex, bien sûr.) That night I had met up with a girlfriend from college who has been living here with a Parisian boy for the past few years. Her French is now impeccable. Becoming fluent is one of my top goals for the year, and hearing her talk made me face the unfortunate reality that my French is good, but, um, not that good.
While at first I didn’t think too much of this date (I’ve done a lot of online dating — it’s always pretty casual), I ended up getting into quite a funk about it. To begin with, the same morning, I connected with a group of expats from my college (we’d never met, but yay for new friends!). After shopping at the Marché Biologique, we sat down for a coffee where the conversation turned to marriage, love, and pregnancy. A few were married to French men, and the discussion made me remember how different romantic feelings and customs are here.
“You know,” New Friend said, “Here, there’s none of this, like, dating other people until exclusive. Guys here almost all the time will just be going on one date at a time, or just dates with you. They’re way more serious.”
Huh. It hadn’t occurred to me that Mr. OKCupid wouldn’t be seeing other ladies. And now it seemed a distinct possibility, as I now remembered the French jazz musician I was casually seeing who decided he couldn’t have sex with me because he wasn’t in love with me. Looking back at Cupid’s letters, there was indeed a seriousness about them. He had contacted me, and even followed up when I had let my online activity dwindle for a few weeks. (I changed my location before I left to feel out the water.) His looks: typical French. He has a good job, speaks several languages, and seems to have his heart in the right place … things are going well in his life, he had written, but love was the missing piece.
It took a few emails with this boy to figure out a day to meet up. I had faked being “occupée” last weekend, figuring I’d leave Saturday open for partying (which didn’t happen—I put on some makeup at 10 p.m. and went for a walk only to jealously look at beautiful French girls laughing in bars). Good thing is that, thankfully, I’m already pretty booked with plans for next week! So we had decided on tonight. He had to drive his parents to the airport in the afternoon but would be free after 7:30, but couldn’t stay out too late because he was traveling at 5 a.m. the next day for work (SHEESH! Compliqué!).
After I got home from shopping and coffee with the college girls at about 2 p.m., I had an email from him saying he hoped very much to meet up tonight. Yippee! Yet, throughout the rest of the day, I had a mini freak-out. Generally, I’m super comfortable hanging out with strangers for a while as I’ve developed a repertoire of conversation starters as well as learned how to fake confidence. Yet, I realized probably none of my fallback convos would be relevant here in France. People hardly talk about work, so that’s out. My knowledge of French current events? Pitiful. And to come up with stuff in French no less?
Oy. I spent the afternoon nervously looking up words and writing down sentences. Est-ce que tu aimes la musique? Scratch, scratch. Everyone likes music, stupid. (Dorky Bridget Jones moments like these are typically me.) When 6 p.m. approached, I began to wonder if “the rules” are different in France. It was his job to call or text me, right? Then again, he had done a lot of the work … I could try to seem more interested to see what was up.
At 7:15 my phone rang, and I dived for it, my heart pounding so hard, it was vibrating my ribcage.
“H-h-aaalllo?” I said, awkwardly, torn simultaneously between hello? and the French allô?
“Hey, Leo!” It was my best friend calling from the States.
“Oh. Hi,” I said, the disappointment clear in my voice.
“Dude, what is wrong?” she asked.
I told her about the dilemma. Consensus: do nothing. So I did. At 8 p.m., a text form Mr. Cupid: “I’m only getting back into Paris now from the airport, and I’m so sorry, but I have to get up so early. I really hope we could have dinner together on Thursday.”
Everyone deserves second chances, so Thursday it is.